Letting Your Pictures Speak for Themselves
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is one of the oldest clichés. If the statement holds true, shouldn’t a series of photos be worth a million words? Maybe, but not necessarily – a few carefully taken photos can convey incredible power and emotion, much more so than hundreds of careless snapshots.
In this digital age, we are all citizen journalists with the ability to instantly capture moments and memories through photo and video. This leads us to try to capture tons of photos in a matter of seconds just to get that one perfect shot. But finding the balance between shooting the moment and living in it is crucial to getting the whole story so that you can enjoy reliving it later.
Think about all the times a photo has been what drew you to an article, post, or story. This is the basic essence of photojournalism. As the primary memory keeper for my family, it’s necessary for me to have that eye-catching photography skill. Photojournalists generally have only one shot (no pun intended) to get your attention, so that picture has to be pretty powerful. Personally, I always think “this is going to be my favorite” when I’m taking pictures at an event. That thought provoked me to wonder why. Why does a photo make me feel that way?
Photos have the distinct ability to convey an emotion, a story, or a message. But too many photos can seem distracting, convoluted, or overwhelming. Consider the big picture when you’re taking that next shot. If you’re around a lot of people, try to be selective and shoot when you feel the mood is at its height. That’s the time I try to zero in on. That one photo may be my wife and me in front of a cool-looking building or mural, or it may be our dogs not doing the thing that we asked. Sometimes, it’s a photo of a street or object, and sometimes it’s just scenery. Regardless, when I look at that photo, I know that it’s important. It takes me to a moment that made me feel something and makes me experience it all over again.
Here are a few more tips on how to get that one shot that tells the whole story. If you’re shooting with a phone, there isn’t much to prepare with the exception of yourself. Being in the moment and knowing when to shoot is the most important part. If you’re shooting with a DSLR camera, however, try to spend a little time setting up to quickly grab photos. For big events, move around and explore the space – angles can be everything in telling the story. Also make sure that you know your depth of field. Some photos are more impactful close up, and others need some background for context. To me, these are really moment driven. Wonderfully emotional moments can be captured near or far, but make sure that wherever your subject is, they remain the focus.
I don’t want to miss out on life, but I do want to capture important moments so I can go back to them whenever I feel like it. It’s a difficult balance, but when telling a story, less is often more. Letting the viewer connect the dots can build a more unique story than what you’ve initially set out to tell. If I know that I’m going to want to capture certain moments, I like to keep myself prepared for that – I’ll grab opportune photos at opportune times to avoid being “that person with their phone in their hand” all night.
With this in mind, I can loosely build a structure for the story I want to tell. For example, if my friends and I are going to a concert, I might grab a few candid shots of us at dinner beforehand, some of the band playing, some of the venue, maybe a group shot afterwards, and if the night goes on - some of that, too. Then, in a few days, I can go back to those photos and organize them into a small photo album.
In today’s society, capturing photos is an ingrained part of the culture. During newsworthy moments, the entire crowd will have their phones out, and in fact it’s so prevalent that most weddings now start with a disclaimer to “please put your phones away.” The difference between photojournalism and photography is the context in which it is presented. Getting the perfect candid shot isn’t always easy, but when you do get it, it’s an instant classic.