My Afternoon with LSJ’s Julia Nagy

Julia Nagy has worked for the Lansing State Journal since March of 2016 as a full time photojournalist. Even better, she is still finishing her final year at Michigan State University. I was lucky enough on Thursday, September 15th, to shadow Julia during a practice for a local rugby team, Crisis Rugby, that she was doing a photo story on. Julia’s story is focusing on the intensity of the sport of rugby. Crisis rugby is a local men’s league with 20 members and is in its third season. It was a honor to shoot them because not only did I get to learn how to photograph sports and Julia taught me a lot when it comes to being a photojournalist.

Julia was great to observe, she communicates so well with her subjects. By that I mean she does even act as those the players are subjects in a photo-story, she treats them as people (like you should). She told me about the time she went out with the players and got drinks after her first day shoot with them, this helped her gain trust and know the players on a more personal level. It was great, because Julia had made such a good impact and connection with the team, they accepted me right away and had no issue with me being there photographing them alongside her. Julia said “the whole reason I do this is for the story telling. It is more important to me to have a reason and have a story.” This was one of the many things Julia told me that made me think a lot about what kind of photojournalist I would like to be.

Shooting rugby was a challenge. I have not really shot sport before, expect for the time I shadowed my girl, Mon Mon with CMLife at a CMU Basketball game. I do not have a huge passion for sports photography, I think that is because I never really have applied myself to it. There were a lot of things I learned this day and stuff I guess I never realized.

A few tips from Julia on shooting sports:

  • Know/Learn about the sport before you shoot
  • Put yourself in a certain spot on the field so you know what you can get
  • Do NOT sit on the ground when shooting; kneel or squat so that you can get up quick
  • Never make assumptions about what is going to happen, there is no pattern when it comes to sports

I made some of these mistakes and Julia was great, she always noticed right away and the minute something happened, she would walk with me and teach me new things. One of the main things that Julia taught me was the sports action means to go for the peak moments. The moment where the player catches the ball or the celebratory team hug. This is actually something I have learned I struggle a bit with. Or a lot with. I shot the CMU Football game two days after my job shadow and what Julia told me still stuck, you have to mind the moments and you need to know the sport, so that you can know what moments to look for. This is something I will continue to apply to my constant growth as a photographer.

I also learned that when shooting sports, events, features, and mainly photo-stories, you MUST shoot a variety of photos. This doesn’t mean shoot a lot, because it could be a lot of the same or similar photo. Julia says variety should be based on the angles, length (wide, medium, and close), and type of shot. She shoots from the ground, up above, in close, etc. I always try to do this when shooting events and in-studio work, I never realized how to do that with sports, because I originally thought every sport was the same (until I started actually photographing sports). I asked Julia questions and she always had advice, a tip or an answer. One of the most impactful things she told me was:

“Master moments. Work on light. Work on composition. Work on one goal at a time. Use light as a story telling element. Practice. You are always going to keep growing and doing new things.”

She told me this after I asked her how she was able to expose her photos for dramatic lighting. Julia was honest, she told me that this was something she was just starting to learn how to do and she isn’t a master yet (even though she looked pretty skilled to me). This is something that clicked with me, made me realize what kind of photographer I want to be and I want to be one that lives up to my fullest potential. Julia is right, when you photograph is all practicing.

I learned that as a photographer I tried to learn how to do multiple things at once, it made it difficult to master each element. You have to go slow, learning how to be a good photographer isn’t a race. Take your time. Go at your own pace. There is so much you can learn by asking questions, applying yourself, and even practicing. Like Julia told me, work on one goal at a time. This is something I know I will never forget, I even wrote it down in my phone so I can always look back on it. Your professors tell you these things all the time, what to focus on, how to take great photos, but knowing that it is okay to struggle and work on it till you feel confident, is the best thing to learn.

When I would show my photos to Julia, she gave me a verity of feedback. Some photos she liked, others like the one with the close up of the hands and the rugby ball she told me things that could make it better (like if I was more tight so it was ONLY the hands). Then she told me something great (honestly I feel like everything she told me had amazing insight), she talked about how it is hard to judge other people’s work and that you shouldn’t take everyone’s views to heart or too seriously. REMEMBER, photography is subjective, people will like your work or they will hate it. You shouldn’t have a photographer who loves shooting high contrast, black and white images and one that loves to focus on bright intense colors critique each other’s portfolio because their tastes our on opposite ends on the spectrum. This is something that made me more relaxed with turning in assignments, yes I want to do well and impress my professors, but I don’t want to lose my photography to that.

The last thing that made a lasting impact on me from this job shadow was that you have to fight for what really matters. When it comes to working in a newsroom and shooting stories. Fight for your work, fight for your passion, fight for why your story matters. This is something Julia said that literally stopped me in my tracks. I remember a professor at CMU telling me, I wasn’t a photographer yet and it brought me to tears. Working with Julia built a small start of confidence in me. I started to realize that I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER. I am growing. I am learning. Never let people tell you, you aren’t something or can’t achieve something, fight, and prove them wrong, ALWAYS.

I LOVED MY JOB SHADOW! I loved getting to know Julia on a personal level. I enjoyed meeting with her and learning about each other at Lansing State Journal before we went out shooting. Yes, it wasn’t photographing anything big, like a college football game or the Detroit Tigers (shout out to my home girl for her amazing opportunity though). This job shadow taught me a lot, opened my eyes to multiple things when it comes to photographers, and I learned so much. This was an amazing experience for me and I wouldn’t have wanted to change it for anything else. Julia Nagy was everything I could ask for in a mentor and I already know I can reach out to her again about other stories to get her advice and opinions on my work. Sadly, the LSJ does not do internships, but I know that with the connection I made, I can hopefully get an internship somewhere. This was my afternoon with Julia Nagy and the Lansing State Journal.

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