When I finished my MA in Journalism more than five years ago and set off enthusiastically into my first job in The Evening Echo in Cork (Ireland), I was lucky to be going into a job that matched my training (and some), but since then every single job has brought with it more duties and extended roles.
Now, instead of being the journalist and
features writer, I am in The Avondhu in Mitchelstown where I source and
write the stories, decide where they will go in the paper, secure
advertising if appropriate, take pictures, sub-edit, proof read and
I also liaise with clients and customers to build professional relationships.
of the biggest shocks of the extra duties that I was given when I first
came to The Avondhu almost four years ago was that I was handed a very
professional and daunting look camera and after I was given some
perfunctory tips, it was a case of point, shoot and make sure you get
people's names for captions.
When I look back on my first pictures, I
don't cringe, but I do say a silent 'thank God' that my writing was
good enough to prop up my very poor photography skills.
One of the
main problems was that I was a trained journalist, but I also had to
take photographs - now I still consider myself a journalist first and a
photographer second, but I love taking pictures now and I truly
appreciate what they can add to my stories.
My interest in photography has developed so much that I will now catch myself saying things like 'hold on, let me get my phone' so that I can freeze a perfect moment in time or capture that once in a lifetime flicker of an eye.
In light of all of this
and to get to my point, I thought I would share a few tips that might
help people, who like me had to take on something like this without any
formal training or for people who want to use pictures to enhance their
own writing and works.
TIPS AND HINTS;
- When taking scenery
shots, use the third rule, which gives the image nice symmetry and makes
it more aesthetically pleasing. Basically, make sure that each element
takes up a third of the shot.
- If you are taking a picture of between one and
four people, take it like a portrait and go full length, but make sure
that the background is quite plain or that it enhances the picture (a
nice scenic view or a blank canvas like a wooden door or painted wall
all work well as backdrops and that is worth remembering - it is a
backdrop, so don't let the scenery out do the subjects), otherwise take
it landscape and just take in their head, shoulders and a little bit of
- For larger group pictures, avoid pictures that have everyone in the same position looking quite static and almost bored. Instead, make it more interesting by getting them to form a semi-circle or soften the shot by getting the people at each end to turn in slightly towards the others.
- To capture a relaxed and natural picture, tell a joke
first and get them to relax - if you can capture that natural and often
goofy smile, your picture will tell its own story.
- Avoid staging
pictures in front of windows, large glass doors or under bright lights,
as it will distort your subjects' faces.
- For children, get them to
look at the lens and tell them a little story about a fairy living in
the camera - it will capture their imagination and also get them to stay
still for the half a minute that you might need. A double click
function also works well here, as the camera will take four or five
shots for every image and it eliminates the problems of children
blinking, poking each other or gazing off into the distance. If you are not doing this professionally, but only taking pictures of little cousins or nieces or nephews, it is unlikely you would have things like toys, props and other accessories that professionals would have on hand for these shoots.
if you are not a naturally organised person, get into the habit of
creating folders on your computer and categorise these into the year,
month and event using keywords that you will later associate with the
photoshoot. This will not only help with archiving, but it will also
make referencing very easy. I also format my SD card each week after I
have saved the pictures onto my desktop and I keep a spare card in my
camera bag. On that note, I also keep a spare notebook, spare batteries
for my flash and spare pens (I should keep a pencil too, as a pen won't work if I'm outside in the rain) in the bag as well.
- With a fancy and
advanced camera, it is easy to get bogged down by detail and get carried
away worrying about the tiny features that you will probably never
need to rely on. My advice here is to get comfortable with the equipment
and then just set everything to Auto and let the camera do all of the
thinking until you are more savvy with it.
- Finally, please don't
just point and shoot - if you do, your pictures will reflect that. Take
time with the pictures and give them the effort and attention that they