A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: danalasta

Feeling guilty about photographing people?

Charm your way into the heart and mind of your subject...

The stoat charms its prey by performing a strange ritual outside a rabbit warren. With its gyration, writhing and twirls, it attracts a fascinated audience of rabbits who become bewitched by the show. While dancing,the stoat gets closer to its unwitting prey and then, without warning it ends its show and dispatches a member of the audience with a bite to the neck. What a deliberate and deadly ploy!

Now, what has the stoat got to do with photography, you may ask? Well, be like a stoat... bring out the acting skills in you... charm your subject, get closer, take your shots and move on... a deadly ploy, ugh? But wait...

A lot of travellers often feel guilty about photographing people(strange faces?) in a strange land... they take the picture and run. Why? I see people notice me and I drop the camera,hang out a while, make friendly gestures and get closer. Then I take some more pictures. The secret is you have to pull down the camera and keep eye contact. You have to become a person (yes, not a photographer!) behind the shutter box...digital or otherwise...

TIME IS probably the greatest gift you can give a photographic subject and the one thing you usually have the least of. Just as you wouldn't want someone to shove a camera in your face, your subject won't like it either.

So start to work slowly...Spend time...use friendly gestures (they are universal - you don't want to be caught in a chicken and duck situation, right?) to introduce yourself...comment on how they look, and reassure them that they will look just fine for the pictures you will be taking in a few minutes. Then sit down with the camera on your lap and just chat. It can take only five minutes or an hour, but it's your job to make them feel comfortable. Remember, you have invaded their space, and it's your job to help them help you..

As they become more comfortable with you, start to play with the camera while talking to them. . If they are unfamiliar with your camera, show them how it works. Let them take a picture (if you are using a digital, show them the image they have taken...oh - the digital, in this respect is a classic ice-breaker!). Have fun with it. Laughter is the best relaxant!

After a while people become used to the clicking and forget about it, opening up even more possibilities...

You can even coax them into telling a thing or two about their work, family life, etc which may produce the facial images you want. As they reminisce, their faces and bodies will emulate the emotions linked to the stories. An old farmer may stand up and dance around like a kid when he talks about the rice harvest festival. Or he may blush a little remembering the young woman who shared his life in the beginning. Look for those moments and listen. There will be tell tale signs..your subject is now the actor!(is he the stoat and you the rabbit now?)

The longer you spend with your subject, the more familiar you become and the more new things you see and learn about the subject.

And finally, don't treat things as if they are old-hat, dull and boring. Try looking at things from a new point of view just as you do with your writing. Who said you have to stand over a child to take his picture? Get down to his level. Who said all pictures must be made from the standing position? Lie down on the ground and aim your camera up. Climb a tree and aim down. Try new angles and positions to keep your work exciting and different...Produce photos with energy...aren't you the aspiring photojournalist?

The eye sees reality. The lens sees beyond reality to capture the truth!

Good Luck!

Posted by danalasta 19:41 Tagged photography Comments (1)


A picture is worth a thousand words...but only if it's got a really good caption or cutline

As a photographer and writer, I'm constantly challenged by my alter ego (now, which is it - the photographer or the writer in me?) to show my audience what I "see". I mentally struggle with photographic images, trying to find the right one to go along with my story, and with the words, to try to say the right thing to make my point.

Actually, it isn't about what I really see, but what I want my audience to see when I'm done and finished. This interpretation of showing what is not seen sums up much of what photography and writing is all about...

Words and images work together to provide maximum reader impact

Words tell their own story. They bring forth rhyme and reason, colour attitudes, and move people. Combining the power of the visual image with the verbal image can either enhance your story or overpower it. Finding that happy medium is the challenge facing every photo journalist.

And like words, a photograph tells a story. It can either tell the whole story or part of the story. It is up to the photo journalist to determine how much of the story is told by the image.

My Dear Watson, be a Sherlock Holmes...study the photos and look for the "hidden elements".

1. Does the photo communicate quicker, stronger, better or more eloquently than a simple sentence?
2. Does the photo have visual content, or stop short of elevating the story?
3. Does the photo go beyond the trite or the obvious?
4. Does the photo have enough impact to move the reader?
5. Is the photo mindless documentation?
6. Does the photo communicate effectively? A good photo should either move, excite, entertain, inform or help the reader understand the story.

The tree is struggling to fight all the odd to survive...

Whether you float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, you've to explain the action...in other words, translate the action (what you see and what the readers don't in the photo) into words...With the story of the tree, the words may tell of a recent forest fire or deforestation (you are aware and have the knowledge of it.

None of these images you have can tell a complete story, but together with words, they add to the entire content, enhancing your photo essay.

Avoid the known; explain the unknown.

You should avoid characterizing a picture as beautiful, dramatic, grisly or other such descriptive terms that should be evident in the photograph. If it's not evident in the photograph, your telling the reader won't make it happen. However, the caption or cutline should explain something about how the picture was taken if it shows something not normally observable by the human eye. For example, was a wide-angle lens used? Or time-lapse photography?

Reflect the image.

You should make sure that the words accurately reflect the photo. If a photo shows two or more people, you should count the number of identifiable people in the photo and check the number and sex of the people identified in the caption/cutline to make certain that they match. Where a photo shows two or more people, you should name them, starting from the left.

Right ingredients bring out the right taste and flavour...so it's with captions or cutlines

Well, there’s nothing very mysterious about the process of captioning.But, there are some things you need to know about it.

You must provide caption information that is as complete as possible for each and every picture.

What information goes in a caption?

The best captions answer two fundamental questions about the picture content: What (or Who) is it? Where is it?

The order of importance of those two questions may vary depending upon the circumstances of the photo(s). Shots made in a studio or certain closeup photos may not need to answer the Where? part (although, for biological purposes, the Where? can be important for natural history closeups even though surroundings may not be apparent).[For landscapes, scenics, cities, people or culture, and travel shots the Where? is essential].Certain historical pictures may also have to answer the question When? This may also be true for some photojournalism coverage.

Remember, the question to ask as you write a caption is, “Given the specifications, what can I say in the caption that will most likely pull in a reader?” This requires you to think like a reader (what would they immediately need or want to know?.

Think like a reader ? Hmmm...ask or remind yourself:

· What am I trying to say?
· What is the point of this photo?
· Does it add to the story?
· Does it subtract from the story?
· Is my point really evident?

Good luck.

Posted by danalasta 05:43 Tagged photography Comments (1)


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 Comments (3)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]