Photography 101 — Photojournalism
Three tips for reporting with your camera
By John O’Connell
Everyone has a camera these days, from expensive DSLRs to cell phones with pretty OK lenses. Some of the cameras and all of the smart phones can send pictures on the spot. News is all around us, happening all the time. At any moment, you, too, can be a news reporter, a photojournalist, bearing witness to what’s happening.
Here are some tips for making good images that communicate the truth of what is going on, whether you’re doing it to send to media or just to record the special moments in your life. Remember that birthdays, christenings, confirmations, weddings, anniversaries, retirement parties, trips to the circus and ballgames, Eagle Scout Courts of Honor, graduations, baby showers, camping in the National Parks or travels to Toledo or Timbuktu are all news events in your family’s life that are worth sharing as they’re happening or right after.
1. Tell a story
Instead of just one snapshot, think series. Several photos taken as the action is happening provides context and reveals the progression of an event. Whether that event is the gradual building of a bridge, the process of putting up the Scout tent or the climbing of Mount Kilimanjaro, take several photos to inform better. Besides, making a dozen images over time gives you a better chance of getting that special one that captures The Moment that tells the most provocative or insightful instant of greatest impact.
2. Communicate Clearly
Your images can reveal tragedies, witness celebrations, share joys and miseries or illustrate your travel blogs or posts on social media. Think of yourself as a visual communicator and shoot with the viewer in mind. Make sure your pictures are filled with information and that each image has a clear, main subject. Don’t cram lots of miscellaneous subjects into one image so that your viewer is confused as to what you’re trying to show. Isolate the subject: using the angle at which you shoot, a wide f-stop like 1.8 to 3.5 or so to limit depth of field, contrasting colors or brightness, moving to a less cluttered background… make sure people looking at your pictures understand what the “news” is.
3. Be Evocative
News is reporting the facts. But when people are involved — and people are almost always involved (or the photo story may not be worth telling) — it’s just as important that your images reveal people’s reactions, responses and emotions to what’s going on. Say you want to take pictures of a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Of course you’ll make images of people walking, that’s what the event is about. Or is it? Isn’t it about the passion and feelings of the challenges and accomplishments of those who are walking? Isn’t this event about the struggling together to fight cancer that motivated the walkers to be there and arouses interest in the image? Well, you can take the picture of people walking, and should, but the images that communicate the “truth” of the experience could be two women hugging and crying, seeing each other after a year of continued remission; a smiling daughter walking arm-in-arm with her mother who’d beaten the illness, her eyes glistening with tears of determination. Seek those images, fill the frame with emotion, and tell the real story.