By Pat Kane -- My friend Kate was wondering when I’d do another photo blog, so for her – and the rest of you keen photogs – here you go…
A lot of my job is deskwork. More specifically, I have to help our art director illustrate stories through pics. In a lot of ways, it’s my job to bridge the gap between what a writer is trying to convey and what an art director deems print-worthy (and believe me, the writing department and the art department can have some heated debates over what pictures we run). Deciding what pictures are published is more of a science than you might think.
5 Criteria for a Great Photo
4) Makes a Statement
5) Evokes Emotion
Go through your pictures and see how they fit these criteria. A great photo will usually have all of these going for it. Look at 2008 World Press Photos of the year and you’ll get an idea of what kind of standards the big leaguers set:
Content? Check. Impact? Check. Makes a statement? Check. Evokes Emotion? Check. Quality? Um, it depends.
There is a huge debate (from the Up Here office and into the rest of the media) as how to measure quality. Several of the WPP winners' photos are out of focus or full of grain. Many art directors would scoff at these photos, others would call them brilliant. Depending on your personal style and the publication you’re shooting for, you want to carefully consider the five criteria before shooting an assignment: for example, I wouldn’t shoot a story for Vanity Fair the same way I shoot for Up Here. In fact, most photos in my portfolio have never seen the light of day because they don’t fit the overall style of the magazine.
If you are not a professional, you’ll want to approach your photography like you were on assignment anyway. Most people will whip out their camera where they are standing and press the shutter. Paul Nicklen, an Up Here contributor and World Press Photo winner says “get close, then get even closer.”
When you are out with your camera pretend you are shooting for a magazine or newspaper: watch action through your view-finder, try interesting angles and frame your subjects in different perspectives to catch candid moments (CONTENT); shoot when the light is flattering, set your camera to its highest settings and make sure your image is sharp (QUALITY); Look for eye contact or dramatic gestures (IMPACT); let your photo tell a story using light, colour or symbols (MAKES A STATEMENT); don’t be afraid to bring your camera where you think you shouldn’t, but be reasonable and courteous (EVOKES EMOTION).
Many of you have been sending me pictures from the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut for this year’s photo contest. For those of you who haven’t, go out into the field keeping in mind what makes a great photo. Study our magazine and other influential travel and nature publications.
Your assignment is to send me an award-winner by September 30th. Good luck and happy shooting!