Getting creative

Oftentimes, when you are given an assignment, it is for an event that you may find boring. Wether it is a city council meeting, or a local shop opening it can be difficult to find creative shots that not only tell a story, but be interesting enough for a story. The easiest way for a new photojournalist to get those shots is to get creative.

Getting creative is something that gets tossed around a lot in any visual medium.  But too often there is a push to constantly think “outside the box”. To push the boundaries of what has been done, to do something drastically different then what people have done for years. The problem with this is, often times in attempting to do something radically different you end up with a product that is just….bad.

There are conventions for a reason. Things work, and we know they work because they have been successful for years. So I recommend instead, “thinking inside the box”. This doesn’t mean that as a photographer you need to take the same photo that everyone else is doing, however it does mean think about the objective of a photo.

If the story for the photo is about inappropriate media content in schools, think about how you visually want to display that. Look at what others have done to represent this topic for inspiration. Look at a lot of peoples work, ask others what they think of visually when they hear a your topic. Get input from others, then work off of what you’ve learned.

Now that you have an idea of what visually conveys the idea you want now you can get creative within those boundaries. You have created your own little box to work in. This box will provide the guidelines for your shots

The difference between photojournalism and photography is  that photojournalism has a purpose. It has a story to tell, and working within the box can and will help you to take incredible photos.

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Don’t give up

So you have taken the first step, you have taken photos you think are good enough for a paper to use. But you are told it isn’t good enough. It can be very discouraging but you need to make sure that you keep at it.

Often times getting feedback from editors or those who are in charge of the paper can help you to better understand what was wrong with the images you submitted. This can be a difficult time as no one really enjoys getting critiques but it will be invaluable to get critique from those who are in the industry to better improve your work.

If they had another photographer who was able to get a better photo of the same event learn from that. Move more, be more involved and get angles that are unique to capture the feel of an event.

If they say that you didn’t capture the story feeling, retry. You don’t need to resubmit but practicing even when there is not a paycheck will make you better.

 

 

Website woes

Make a website. It is as simple as that, as a photojournalist professional you need an online portfolio that you can show potential employers as well as showcase your abilities. It is very simple to make a website these days. For a small amount of money you can make a wordpressblog that doesn’t have “.wordpress.com” at the end of it. It is a super easy format you to showcase your abilities as well as the variety of photos you have taken. Having an online presence can and will make you more credible when it comes time for potential employers to hire you.

Having a website is one of the most important things that you can do today as a creative professional. It showcases the variety of abilities you have. A website will also allow those who wish to use your images to contact you allowing you to find some additional work.

Learn from others

I do hate to break it to you but it is increasingly less likely that you will take a photo that has never been taken before. Wether it is composition or subject matter there are few things that haven’t been taken photos of. So learn from what others have done. There are people who have been taking successful photos for years, and they are successful for a reason.

Study what they do, and mimic it. They are successful for a reason. For instance there is a reason that people take portraits in similar ways, they look best when shot like a pyramid. Just because the Mona Lisa is in a similar composition doesn’t mean that you can’t mimic it. Use the methods others use because they are successful for a reason.

Find a photojournalist that you admire, look at their work and see if there are ways that you can recreate their shots. Learn what they have done, and make your own work similar to theirs. Learn from experts, if they make a podcast listen to it, if they make tutorials watch it. Learn from what they have to offer and make your own work better.

People: Your best asset

As we have mentioned before your greatest helpmate in photojournalism is people. If you are anything like me it can be difficult to go and talk to people, and then take their photos. The only real way to get better at this is by simply doing it. Practice makes perfect and if you practice talking to people and photographing them you will become better at doing that when it is more difficult.

One of the best exercises for this is to get out of your comfort zone. Making sure that you walk around people, interview them for a few minutes and then snap a portrait. These things will help you to be better accustomed to doing these things in more intense situations, such as crime scenes.

The photographer that does Humans of New York is a prime example of someone who is doing a great job of this.  Check out some of their work by clicking the above link.

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Real people doing real things

I hate to break it to you but photojournalism is not a controlled environment most of the time. Your job as a photographer is to take something real and capture it for people who can’t be there.

In the case of natural disasters for instance, taking a photo of someone  who is attempting to escape a flood of water has far more power then just photos of water. Look at this gallery and you will see what I mean.

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While the photos with no people are not bad, they don’t have the same sort of impact as photos where there are people. The difference is in how you connect with people, and the emotion that is felt in the photo. These things are very important in photojournalism. The point of your photos is to connect people to the story and improve the stories being told in the text.

Thats why you should almost always focus on people in the situations you photograph. Making them the focus increases the amount of interaction you can get from your photos. We as a species focus on other humans, and if you can capture them in your photos you will have success and help tell the story of those you capture.

How to handle protests

When you are at a protest it is important to remember that you need to stay safe. Most protests are peaceful and putting a camera near someones face is not something they normally will be mad about. For most protests media attention is something very desirable.

Get close to the action. You are there to capture the feeling and nothing can show the feeling as much as people doing real things, in particular how they are feeling during a protest.

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You can see in this photo some of the emotions that these protesters are feeling, and seeing that will help you to better showcase the feeling of the event

Next bring plenty of memory for these photos. The last thing you want is to run out of space and miss an incredible shot. For instance if these photographers had not enough memory they would not have got these great shots.

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This is the kind of volatile experiences that can create incredible photos. If you are unprepared for this kind of event you can lose opportunities to record great moments.

Finally stay safe! While most protests are very peaceful, and never descend into violence there is always a possibility that it could. Take precautions, wear your press badge where it is easily seen. Make sure you are not wearing anything that could be seen as a badge, or patch so you don’t look like a protester. Keep an eye on other journalists there, and make sure you stay in their eye line as well. These all will help you to find success in these intense situations.

How to interview

Photojournalism is not always just taking photos, although that is definitely the biggest part of it. However sometimes you have to do some interviews on the scene. Knowing how to interview is very important as it can lead you to better understand someone, and help them be wiling to share information. There are a few tips that can be very helpful in our interview attempts.

man-person-photographer-photographyFirst, you need to put the camera down and talk to them.

If they feel that you are just waiting to ambush them with a photo they will probably be less likely to give you real answers to questions. They may instead choose to just give you short one or two sentence answers that dont help you understand what they are trying to convey.

Second listen.

W have all had conversations with people before where it feels like you are talking to a wall. They are not listening and you can tell. Now most people will stop talking to someone who is not listening. So as a journalist you need to make sure that you are not only asking good questions but that give you the answers you need but that you are also not missing opportunities for clarification.

RECORD

Recording interviews is very important. If you are quoting someone, and you are writing down everything they say, it can seem as though you arnt listening and everything that I mentioned above will happen. If you record your conversation you can accurately quote them, as well as ensure that you are listening to them.

Handling uncomfortable situations

Due to the nature of photojournalism you may occasionally be asked to take photos of something that makes you feel uncomfortable. For instance the other day there was a lot of police officers near my home. I had to go and try to find out what happened to see if it was news worthy. When I got there I saw the officers arresting a young man. I knew I needed to take pictures, because even if I didn’t end up using those photos, the possibility that I might need them was too great. It ended up that  I didn’t need the photos, but I have them, just incase the story grows.

This was an uncomfortable situation for me, as I am unwilling most of the time to invade someones privacy, so taking a photo of a mans face as he was arrested made me feel less then stellar. While respecting someones privacy is important getting a photo of an event is equally important.  If you can do both then attempt to do just that.

The person who taught me about photojournalism, one of her first experiences with this dilemma was when she was covering a car crash. It was between a civilian and a police officers vehicle, and there were people who were injured, as well as the fact that both cars were totaled. This meant that she had to utilize her rights, she stood on the sidewalk and captured some photos of the cars, strewn across the asphalt. This was hard for her as there were injuries for the drivers, but she balanced her need for photos, and telling the story with their privacy as victims.

Can I be here? Know your rights.

One of the biggest issues that new photojournalists can face is where they are legally allowed to be when taking photographs. When I first started photojournalism, I was always worried about taking a photo of someone being arrested, or of a car crash, any place where I might have to interact with police officers scared me. And it wasn’t that I was scared of the police, but because I was worried that I might take a photo of something I was not allowed to photograph.

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So first thing is first, if you are on public land you can take photographs. If at anytime you are worried about where you are at, double check that you are on a public sidewalk, street, or land. If you are one one of these you are guaranteed safety as a photographer. If the public is allowed to be there and take photos with their phones, then you should also be able to be there.

firefighter-extinguish-fire-extinction-48125If for instance you were at a car crash, you can take photos of the crash from the sidewalks, and not receive any legal issues.

If you are in these public areas and can see things with your camera even on private property you are able to photograph that as well. It may be less ethical, but it is not illegal.

Additionally police officers do not have the right to delete your photos or ask you to delete your photos at any time.  Know your rights, and make sure that you stay with in the law to get the photo!

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