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Putting life into a photograph...

I am tempted to write something about photojournalism because of my association with the newspaper industry for over 30 years. As an editor, part of my job - apart from editing the stories of reporters - was also to select photos (taken by the photographers) that were not only relevant to a story but those which " told a story" - emotions, actions, etc.

We are not talking about "studio photographers" - aim, shoot,and print! Or "say cheese" kind of photographer!

Maybe this article will be of some use to those who want to put life into their shots....you dont have to become a photojournalist but the approach taken by a photojournalist can surely help you become a better photographer...

So what is a photojournalist?

A journalist tells stories. A photographer takes pictures of nouns (people, places and things). A photojournalist takes the best of both and locks it into the most powerful medium available--a single frozen image.

Photojournalists capture "verbs."

Although photojournalists can take properly exposed and well composed photographs all day long, they hunt verbs. They hunt them, shoot them, and show them to their readers. Then, they hunt more.

A photojournalist has thousands of pairs of eyes looking over his shoulder constantly. The readers are insistent: "What are they doing?" "What did you see?" and "What happened?". The eyes always want to know what they missed. Readers cannot see what they missed with a noun. It works if the question is specific enough (what did the condemned building look like?), but normal answers require verbs.

To tell a story, a sentence needs a subject, a verb and a direct object. News photos need the same construction. Photojournalists tell stories with their images. Also, words are always used in conjunction with photojournalist's images.

The words below a photo are called a cutline (or photo caption,hmm...a kicker is something else!). I write the cutlines that go with most of my images. At many newspapers, photographers provide names and nothing else. They do not write the cutline because they sometimes cannot write a lead graph for a story. They also may not be able to photograph a sentence (sports being the exclusion, and there are plenty of supporting images to prove my point in this genre as well).

But, to be a photojournalist, you must understand the relationship between the image and these basic elements of language (all languages--worldwide).

The girl (must) hit (or miss) the ball. There are no other options.
The girl is easy to photograph. The ball is easy to photograph. The verb is the hard part.

As a servant of the citizens, it is the photojournalist's OBLIGATION to capture the entire sentence involved in EVERY event. There are no excuses. It is hit or missed. Some photographers don't care. They have a picture of the bat. "Hey, that's what tried to hit the ball." They just don't get it.

What makes a photojournalist different from a photographer?

Photographers take pictures of nouns (people, places and things). Photojournalists shoot action verbs ("kicks," "explodes," "cries," etc. ...). Photojournalists do shoot some nouns. These nouns can be standard photos of people (portraits), places (archeological sites or excavation work)and things (name it). However, the nouns we seek still must tell a story. This is where the reader may en-counter a "photo illustration."


Does this photo tell a story ? Look at the expression on the girl's face. She is a native alright...but is she trying to tell us:"Now, what's this?" or something more ?

Photo illustrations normally show something impossible to photograph (i.e. a particular anniversary date, an idea or opinion, etc. ...). A photo illustration is a visual representation of something that is either non-tangible, non-visual or has not yet happened. Most photo illustrations are very stylized and look similar to commercial advertising. Often, these images will have unusual lighting and a controlled environment....


Posted by danalasta 19:03 Archived in Malaysia Tagged photography

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Wonderful article, Dana! I've never heard of this philosophy described in this elegant way.

However, I don't agree with some points you've made. A studio photographer creates the story, a travel photographer must work with what is available. One of the skills a travel photographer must master is to put him/herself in a position to take the image.

by Q'

lovely piece. in a few words you've summed up a world of difference. now to apply what i've just read...

by didipusrex

This is the work which Im passionate about, and I'd rather die trying to get in than give up. Thanks for your inspiration.. my parents would hate you for it but so what..

by spamhead

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