When I left the news business and began shooting weddings, I quickly realized I had a built-in advantage over photographers whose background was mostly in portraiture.
Specifically, I knew how to cover fast-moving events without panicking or getting flustered.
Not Following a Script
Documenting an event with still pictures isn’t for everyone. Even experienced photographers who routinely take technically perfect, well-composed, sharp and well-exposed pictures don’t always cover events effectively.
Photographers accustomed to shooting within the predictable confines of a studio, or to calling the shots in their photo sessions, can easily lose their cool — not to mention their touch — in an environment they don’t control.
A wedding, even a well-planned one, has a tendency to not always follow the script. This plays to the strengths of newspaper photographers, who are accustomed to working alone, working fast and thinking on their feet.
For those interested in taking a photojournalist’s approach to shooting events, here are five tips from my experience:
A Newsman’s Tips for Covering Events
- Plan ahead. Get maps, look over the day’s schedule, consider the time constraints. Plan out the travel time at events spread out over multiple locations — even if those locations are within walking distance of one another. Consider the gear you need and how this will affect your mobility.
- Get establishing shots. At any large gathering, you should capture some images that give your audience an overall feel for the event and what kind of day it is, especially if you’re outdoors.
- Find the humanity in the sea of faces. In contrast with the establishing shot, it’s also important to get some tight closeups of people’s faces. Find faces that communicate the tone and emotions of the event.
- Seek out variety. You should look for variety in terms of shapes for your pictures, as well as the relative size of people in the frame. Also, be sure to get some detail shots with no people in them. The more variety you have, the easier to create interesting layouts later — whether for editorial publications, corporate brochures or wedding albums.
- Get the big picture. Early in my career, at the end of a closely contested basketball game, I actually photographed a tight shot of the ball going into the basket at the final buzzer. Logically that made sense, didn’t it? But visually and journalistically, it was a disaster. Without the player or players involved, there was no context. Don’t get so focused on an event’s minutia that you lose sight of the big picture.