Photojournalism - building a perfect portfolio (Part two)
This is the second part of a two part series on photojournalism. You can read part one here.
5) Photographing strangers
A question I often get asked is, “how do you approach strangers to take their portrait?” The short answer is, “It’s easy now, it never used to be”.
Like many portrait photographers, I pushed through my approaching-stranger-shyness whenever I spotted a character I was drawn to. Of course, it’s easier at a pre-arranged shoot like the akhara when they are expecting you. But even then, you need to connect to your subject to capture soulful portraits. People love looking at themselves on the back of the camera. It’s still one of the best icebreakers and once the person sees you take a good shot, they often relax.
Challenge yourself to approach someone interesting at a festival or in the street. If they are willing, but the background is killing the image, don’t be afraid to ask them to move slightly – it’s often the difference between an okay image or an amazing image.
You’ll spark up some interesting conversations too as you connect with locals. Most of all, enjoy yourself, and have fun with the people you meet on the road.
I would like to touch on model/property releases. If you want to use your images for future advertising, you will need a signed release. If they are for editorial use only, you don’t need one. There are many free templates available on the Internet. Here is a free from Getty Images I use (there are several languages available).
6) Go with the flow
Bringing your portfolio together during the time you’re away can be daunting – although it’s very gratifying, at times, it can also be hard work. In an akhara type situation the action is fast paced.
The wrestlers train meters away from onlookers, and the matches are over quickly as the powerful holds are so intense. In this situation if you are constantly reassessing the action you can flow with the movements. Be ready to move quickly if you are photographing a street festival or rally.
Running alongside participants will often result is some fun, vibrant imagery. Aim to freeze movement with a fast shutter speed of around 1/1000th second but be prepared to use a high ISO if the area is dimly lit (this allows your camera to see more light).
Conversely blurring movement with a shutter speed of around 15/30th second creates energy in your work and adds interesting elements to your portfolio.
Remember the quiet moments are as important as the vigorous ones. Be ready to photograph people as they finish their pursuits. These can be the reflective, storytelling images when peoples’ demeanours change as they relax.
Wherever you can, add details shots too. Close up images of equipment people use in their work, their cultural beliefs or during a ceremony. These images join the pieces together and help create an aesthetically pleasing flow to your narrative.
7. Creating your portfolio
You’ve arrived home with memory cards full to the brim with thousands of amazing images. Now the editing begins. What do you leave in, what do you take out?
I aim for around 40 edited images to showcase a story; an editor will then choose their selection based on publication space and requirements. Choose only the strongest storytelling photos to engage your viewers; being careful to not be repetitive.
A selection of portrait, detail, action shots (fast and slow) and images with shallow depth of field will showcase a stylised portfolio and take your viewer on a journey.
Ask your partner, close friend, and a neighbour for their honest opinion, as they are not connected emotionally. You may need to cull stand-out images because they interrupt the flow of your portfolio – and it will feel like you’re stabbing yourself in the foot; but the pain soon heals when people admire and compliment your work. Then you can begin to plan your next assignment.
About the author: Lynn Gail is an Australian based travel writer and photographer with a focus on culturally diverse subjects, ancient belief systems and off the grid destinations. Lynn is an award winning member of both the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers, and ASTW, the Australian Society of Travel Writers. You can see more of her work at lynngail.com.