Danny Gawlowski, photo and video editor at The Seattle Times, leads a team of 15 photographers and one other dedicated video editor. The Seattle Times proves you can produce strong visuals with a small staff. We chatted with Gawlowski when he came to Columbia’s Journalism School to attend a panel on the State of Video.
The following are excerpts from our conversation.
Columbia Visuals: Can you walk us through how The Seattle Times structures its shooting and editing?
Danny Gawlowski: I don’t think it’s worth the photographers’ time to edit their own stuff. I think that our video editors are just so much more efficient and skilled and I also think, for anyone, it’s really helpful to have an outside editor look at your work. For us and our workflow: typically a photographer goes out and gathers the material, then it gets handed over to an editor that will make a cut and then bring the photographer and the reporter back and work on it together through the rest of the way. But typically a video editor can be a lot more efficient and a bit more impartial and see things the photographer didn’t see.
CV: What are some of the mistakes you find people new to shooting video, particularly with DSLRs, make?
DG: The thought process of still photography and video are actually very different. In still photography, you’re always hunting for that moment and you’re always on the move and you’re always looking for it, whereas in video you’re setting up your shot and allowing that to come to you.
I think that a still photographer who starts shooting video is often moving the camera too much, changing the angle too much and always chasing the moment. You can do that with a still photo because you only have to capture the moment for 1/125 sec. But in video, we look at the extended moment, if you are constantly chasing the moment, you will miss it -always. I don’t need you to just catch the moment; I need you to catch the run-up to it and what happens after it. I need at least a good four-second chunk. My biggest advice to still photographers becoming videographers is to get their hands off the camera.
CV: What advice would you give to someone who is accustomed to shooting photos and not shooting video?
DG: When people head into it, they don’t understand how much visuals they need to support a piece. If you have a really great narrative but you can’t support it, you’re going to have to chop that narrative to make it work. So, when we are looking for the visuals, we’re looking for the wide, the medium and the tight. But I also like to say super tight. And that’s really how we see the world; we tend to focus on something. Having all those details and have a good variety is really going to make the editing process a lot smoother.
One of the things that make you a better videographer is having the opportunity to edit your own work. If you’ve edited your own work a couple of times, you’ll understand how you paint yourself into a corner if you don’t quite have the shots that you need.
CV: What would you say to people starting out in photography or video?
DG: You’ll probably really screw up and that’ s ok. There is something you learn from that process, about collecting the material then going into the edit room, that helps you understand how many times you messed up. The first interview you’ll ever give, you be saying “Oh,” “Ok,” and that’s fine. I can tell you a million times to be silent during an interview, but that will not have the same effect as you listening to a really great interview you did and how you messed it up. But that lesson you’ll learn in time, and you’ll get it.
Students should-and creative types should-give themselves the permission to fail because those failures are not really failures, those are huge educational opportunities that we need. We all need to fail sometimes. And the truth is if we’re not failing, we’re not pushing ourselves hard enough.
And if you haven’t done so, check out “Video Now: The Forms, Cost, and Effect of Video Journalism,” sponsored by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the Knight Foundationand produced by Duy Linh Tu, Professor and Head of Digital Media at the Journalism School.