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The Threes of photojournalism
How do you get from just taking snapshots to being a photojournalist?
The way to get there is to get the two sets of threes embedded in your head: the three kinds of photos and the rule of thirds. Both are simple concepts, but as a photographer, if you think about them as you are shooting your pictures, those pictures will be more interesting and more journalistic.
The first of the set of threes is the three kinds of photos. This refers to the distances the photographer is from the subject:
Long range. Sometimes these are referred to as establishing shots. These pictures taken in a scene in its entirity. They give the viewer a good idea of the environment of the subject of the photograph, but they do not offer much information about the subject itself.
Establishing shots are the kind that most beginning photographers are the most comfortable in taking. They are the least intrusive and allow a photographers to work often without being seen or without anyone taking much note of their presence. Good establishing shots make other photographs more meaningful.
One important thing to keep in mind with establishing shots, however, is that no matter how good the camera is or how wide the angle of the lens that you are using, a camera is never as good as the human eye in seeing the scope of a scene. That is, the eyes always pick of more than the camera does. The camera is a limiting factor in viewing a subject; it is not expansive.
Midrange. These shots bring the photographer closer to the subject and give more specific information about the subject. But they still show the subject within a setting so that the viewer has some idea about the environment in which the subject if placed.
Many of the action shots in sports photography are midrange shots. They show the subject of the photograph with some of the surroundings so that they viewer can understand something of what is going on.
Good midrange photography requires the photographer to move, to change positions, and to shoot from a variety of angles. One of the marks of the rank beginner is that all of the photos are taken from the same spot and the same angle. Good photojournalists move around their subjects and try to find interesting angles and perspectives from which to shoot. They don’t mind getting on their knews or lying on their backs or getting on top of tables, chairs or ladders to take interesting and informative pictures.
Close-up. The best and most interesting pictures generally are close-up shots. These pictures bring the viewers face to face with the subject and allow them to get detail information about the subject. Good close-up pictures cut out all of the environmental information about the subject.
Close-up photography is what proves the worth of the photojournalist for the viewer. Photojournalists get near a subject when viewers cannot or are unwilling to go that close. These shots give viewers something of value, something they would not get otherwise.
Getting good close-up shots takes both skill and courage on the part of the photojournalist. While photographers always want to be as unobtrusive as possible, they must sometimes intervene on a scene to take the pictures they need. They risk calling attention to themselves, making their subjects self conscious, or irritating or angering those around them by pursuing close-up shots. But they have to take these risks and suffer the consequences.
The skill, value and commitment of a photojournalist can be measured directly by how close he or she is willing to get to the subject of a photograph.
Rule of thirds
The rule of thirds is a way in which photographers think about the composition of their photographs so that they are more interesting and informative. The rule of thirds helps direct the eye of the viewer in a natural way toward the important parts of the photo. The concept and the application of the rule of thirds are both fairly simple.
Look at a photograph and draw two vertical lines that divide the picture into three equal parts. Do the same thing horizontally, so that you have a tic-tac-toe pattern and the lines intersect in four places. (See the illustration.) Photographers try to put the picture’s center of interest at one of these four spots rather than centering it inside the photo itself.
Using these four points to place the subject gets photographers away from centering every picture. It also allows for a more natural place of the elements inside the composition and allows viewers to see things they might not otherwise see.
The rule of thirds is not meant to be an oppressive concept for photographers. Rather they learn to integrate it into their thinking and use it naturally. As you take more pictures – particularly of a wide variety of subjects – you will begin to see how the rule of third works and how you can use it to your advantage.
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