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Photographers Can Gain an Edge
Applying Photojournalism Techniques Adds New Angles
The windmill behind the subject is an example of juxtaposition in photography.
In trying to survive in this shrinking economy many wedding, commercial, advertising, fashion and glamour photographers employ a photojournalistic style in their images to separate them from their competitors, thus producing images that stand strong and often make bold statements. I’ve been fortunate enough to have over thirty years of photojournalism experience that often kicks in when producing photographs of various genres, though many photographers don’t have this background. If you’re a photographer without this experience, simply take the first step, study photojournalistic photos by looking through your favorite news magazines and local newspapers.Another great source to help photographers gain more insight into the photojournalism style of photography is to read The Picture: An Associated Press Guide to Good News Photography (Associated Press, 1989). While it’s an older book, it’s still available. It’s thin, concise, and lays it out like a dictionary. This book also covers publishing terms used to describe photojournalistic styles of photography that can help photographers understand unique posing and styling of their sets and subjects. Understanding these terms is beneficial for a photographer’s mindset when applying photojournalistic techniques.
As an example, a term that most photographers without photojournalism training rarely know is juxtaposition. In juxtaposition, a photojournalist tries to add a second element in the frame to help tell the story or sometimes just to add something funny or even serious. This second element normally compliments the main subject. In photojournalism, this is easily applied by keeping the main camera lens focus on the subject while adding another subject, sign, or element that is slightly out of focus, but in the image frame. One example might be a close-up image of a diamond-ring, as in product photography, but in the background, slightly out of focus, is a jeweler sporting special magnification glasses and meticulously working on another ring clamped in a jeweler’s vise.
Still another term used in photojournalism is the picture story. While most images tell a story themselves, sometimes a series of photos tells the story better. Often picture stories include an image close-up of the hands in the series of photos, like the traditional wedding photo of a couple’s hands displaying their new wedding rings. Normally, I approach all my photography sessions like a picture story and previsualize various poses and scenarios to accomplish the intended images. For example, when working with models, this often includes a full-length pose, a three-quarter pose cropped above the knees, bust-up shot, and a strong headshot.
Study Current Trends
Trends change daily when it comes to photography and the best way to stay on top of what’s in-style, head to your local bookstore and purchase magazines you’d like to have your photos published in. Gain insight and ideas to what photo editors are looking for today, not yesterday.
Photojournalists are often called to provide environmental portraits
of subjects that accompany a printed feature story
. These are typically stories that are not spot news
. Some are even called evergreen
stories, stories that can run in a publication practically anytime of the year. Whether evergreen or dated, feature stories about people or certain individuals focus on what they do, like an environmental portrait of a CEO of a major manufacturing corporation overseeing an assembly line. These types of stories include an environmental portrait of the subject of the story, similar to the CEO’s photo in a corporate prospectus, though not just a typical head and shoulders portrait, but a photo that helps illustrate what that person does—in their environment.
A great example of an environmental portrait is an astronaut in their special space suit standing next to a space shuttle or a similar NASA space vehicle. Still another example is a NASCAR driver standing next to, or working on, their racecar. If a photo was of a tattoo artist holding their ink instruments in action, this environmental portrait could accompany a feature story on the history of tattoos or the process of a famous tattoo artist doing their craft on a client.
Sometimes as photographers in general, we might utilize many photojournalism techniques. Wedding photographers are great examples. The photographer could capture an environmental portrait of the clergy performing the ceremony while shooting enough images to tell the picture story of the wedding event and then include a juxtaposed image of the groom removing the bride’s garter as the hopeful crowd of bachelors await in the background.
Regardless, if an image is an environmental portrait, a series of photos for a picture story, or just a juxtaposed image of two elements, photojournalists are trained to get the shot in any situation and to keep their eyes open while constantly looking for ways to tell stories through their images. In many genres of photography, like wedding, commercial, advertising, fashion and glamour, these skills are invaluable and well worth fostering as they will provide the photographer with that edge over their competitors by simply understanding a few photojournalistic terms and techniques.