Photojournalism — the photography you use in newsmedi articles — plays by different rules artistic photography doesn't. You have to be respectful, cannot alter your photos and you need to be careful or show a bias.
Gathering Information. In any situation where you are gathering information from someone -- even if for a project that will only be seen in school -- it's good to exchange information with your subjects. HINT: When you take pictures of people, when you interview them, look at this process as a form of conversation; if you share information about yourself, they're more likely to share back. Tell them who you are associated with, why you are taking their photo, and where it might be published. Make sure they are OK with what you are doing.
- Permissions and identification. When you ask for permission and for personal information depends on the situation. Sometimes, if you see a great picture, just take it and then ask. It's a good rule, if you plan to publish any photo you might take (publish meaning that your photo would be printed or shown or posted to external (non-school) audiences) to ask permission ahead of time. Either way, make sure they are OK with the fact their picture will be made public.
- Generally if there are more than five people in a photograph, you won't have to identify each one. But, again, it's best to get the identification information while you are there.
- Make sure to ask for name, age, hometown and some way to contact them -- email or phone -- in case you have questions.
- HINT: Take a pad and pen with you always and hand the pen and pad to the subject to get them to write their information; that insures accuracy but make sure you can read their handwriting.
Staging. Traditionally, photojournalism should not be staged -- you are trying to capture scenes as they happen. You should not tell the subject to smile or stand a certain way or to pose for you. Photojournalism for an article should be a natural moment that is captured without outside interference. Because these photos are for news, they should reflect what is happening naturally. The only time you can stage a photo for photojournalism is when you do an environmental portrait — a photo where you can pose your subject with an environment or an object that represents their personality or profession.
- HINT: There are situations, though, when you DO want to pose someone, say for a profile and you can ask them to stop what they are doing or you can move them to better light or better framing. Your intention on this kind of shot is to try to show what they look like in a way that helps the viewer see inside them a bit. So if you are taking a portrait shot, try to put them in the element of the story that is important -- a farmer might be best photographed in a barn, or with animals, or in the field, etc.
Bias. In gathering information you should always be aware of your bias. And this doesn't necessarily mean just your political beliefs. You might really object to hunting, yet you are doing a story on someone who hunts. You need to take care that you are not photographing the subject in a way that casts the hunter in a bad light. If you don't like a certain politician or community leader you are photographing, it would be biased to take a picture of that person in a shadow or making a weird face or even frowning. You're capturing a moment in time, not showing your own opinion on it.
Editing. The photos you take have to be natural and true accounts of what you saw. You cannot digitally alter the photo dramatically in Photoshop. Changing the shape of someone's nose or editing out a sign in the background makes your photo untrue, and you can actually get in some trouble for it. You can adjust your lighting or picture quality or make the photo black and white to help make it more publication ready, but these adjustments must be minimal. HINT: The more pictures the better; don't be afraid to take lots and lots of pictures; this will help you when it comes time to edit because you'll have lots to choose from.
[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, Gabrielle MckItty]