Photo Tip of the Week: Bruce Postle's Top 5 Shooting Tips
In 1974 Postle photographed the Victorian Governor, Sir Rohan Delacombe. He asked the Governor if he could photograph him in the rear-view mirror of his state vehicle as it drove up to his official residence. The Governor asked, "Will it work?" and when Postle assured him it would he acceded to the request. Postle had time to shoot just two frames as the car made its way up the driveway.
Bruce Postle shot front-page news images for Melbourne's Age newspaper over four decades. He spoke to Robert Keeley about the techniques that have helped him over his long and successful career.
Bruce Postle, who worked on The Age newspaper from 1969 to 1996, won multiple awards and scored dozens of front pages for his creative, high-impact photography throughout his career. His work is featured in the September 2012 issue of Australian Photography + Digital.
Postle worked with a wide range of equipment, from a heavy-duty Speed Graphic old-style press camera when he started his career (following in the footsteps of his father who was also a newspaper photographer), through to the latest top-end digital SLRs in recent times. Throughout his working life he photographed everybody from people in pubs, to Prime Ministers lying in bed, and he was able to do so, he says, because he treated all his subjects respectfully. Rather than equipment, Postle says the real key to making good photographs was his attitude.
He says, "Assignments covered year in and year out should never be considered boring – rather they presented a challenge to find something different." He almost always did, even under the pressure of tight daily newspaper deadlines. Postle has compiled many images from his career into a beautiful hard-cover volume, featuring mostly his black and white images, which has been produced in a limited print run, some copies of which are still available.
For more information about Bruce Postle's book, contact him via email at email@example.com
Here are five tips which he used throughout his long and varied career, and which he says amateurs can also use to great effect.
01 CHECK THE BACKGROUND
Bad backgrounds ruin good pictures. This goes back to my dad's advice. You should always check the background to your subject first, before pressing the shutter.
American comedian Phyllis Diller on the escalator at Myer's Melbourne city department store. Postle was shopping with his wife when he saw this reflection. "The following Monday morning, as I was driving to work, I heard Phyllis Diller being interviewed on the radio. I drove around to the station, waited out front, and when she came out I introduced myself and told her what I wanted." She was surprised he took just two frames!
02 TAKE YOUR TIME
Be prepared to give all the
time you need to get a good picture. Give it some thought, and put some
time into your composition.
Losing a fight with a bushfire, 1981. Sixty years of work turned to ashes in
minutes. Jack Blackburn, 83, leaned on his shovel after a losing fight with
a bushfire at his property at Cranbourne South on the outskirts of
Melbourne in Victoria. Mr Blackburn, a horticulturalist, had put 60 years
of work and love into his gardens. 'You know, I knew every one of those
plants personally,' he told Postle. A shot like this requires sensitivity to
the person's circumstances.
03 WAIT FOR THE RIGHT LIGHT
Be patient, especially with landscape photography. Wait for the right light, even if you have to come back. Remember that sunrises and sunsets are often the best times for landscape photos.
Australian Olympic champion hammer thrower Gus Puopolo winds up for another
Australian championship during practice at Olympic Park. Postle used a motor drive and
a cable release which ran down the hammer shaft to get this image. He showed the
thrower how to fire it then stood back. Postle says he tried to repeat this picture again
years later at the Brisbane Commonwealth Games but the overseas competitor let the
shaft go and he picked up what was left of the camera about 20 metres away!
04 THINK MORE, SHOOT LESS
Don't shoot first and ask questions later! I think that approach should be re-considered. A lot of people don't think about what they're trying to achieve.
An anti-abortion protest which Postle shot in 1975. He got the protestors inside and next to the Queen Victoria portrait for a photo just before they were all kicked out!
05 BE CREATIVE
Digital cameras are so good the creative
aspect can disappear. "Try different things," says Postle. You can't waste
film with a digital SLR, so think about creative ideas either before you
arrive, or during your shoot.
The Rolling Stones seen during their first concert in Australia in 1965 at Brisbane City Hall, where they were the warm-up group for The ‘Big O' Roy Orbison. Captured on stage (from left to right) were Mick Jagger, Brian Jones (who died in 1969) and Keith Richards. Postle says, "I actually walked out on stage to take these photos, something you could not do today – they would lock you up and throw away the key!"
This is an excerpt from an article in the September 2012 issue of Australian Photography + Digital. Look for it in newsagents or subscribe here.