Variety is the spice of life

Preparing for the assignment

When I am asked to cover an event I try to think of it like telling a story.  So there are 7 things I try to always have in my coverage.  What I discovered just this week that my friend Mark Sandlin, Director of Photography for Southern Living, uses this same list.  Actually this is the list all photojournalists have drilled into them.

Mark Sandlin, Director of Photography at Southern Living.

  1. Opener: Sets the scene for the story
  2. Decisive moment: The one moment that can by itself tell the story
  3. Details: Besides being like visual candy to the story, help often with transitions–especially in multimedia packages
  4. Sequences: give a little variety to a situation
  5. High overall shot: Gives a good perspective to how the elements all fit together
  6. Closer: Besides the classic shot of the cowboy riding off into the sunset there are other visual ways to help bring the story to a close
  7. Portraits: These photos are great for introducing the characters of the story

This is coverage of an annual meeting where the investors are brought in and the company gives them an overview of what they have done and where they are going.

One thing I am working really hard to do is make each photo have impact to draw the viewer in.  I use light, angles, composition and most important expressions of people to engage the viewer.  I wanted my photos to help this company communicate they are vibrant and viable in today’s market.

This photo is to show how the attendees could interact with the leadership team. I wanted to show them engaging in conversation, so I shot a few to finally capture not just a good expression, but use the environment to draw you in.  If you notice even the lady in the mural seems to be paying attention to the conversation in the foreground.
Details for me are a way to just have fun. I am looking for unique angles, color and light to help create impact and entertain the audience. 

A high angle is usually successful today because it is unique to our everyday lives.  Seldom are we tall enough to see this angle, so it looks different than you just walking around.  Even the lady in this mural is looking from above to see what is below.

The man to the far right is the CEO and while he will be on stage later in more formal roles, I like to show him more relaxed and approachable.  I am using the lines from the window to help draw you into the picture.  I want you to see the conversation first in the foreground and then you should drift to the background.  This just keeps you engaged.

While you can see everyone on the panel and I always shoot the obvious, it isn’t as compelling to me as some other angles below here.  But I always need to be sure everyone on the panel is well seen in one photo in case they need this.

As a panelist responds to the question you will find often that the rest of the panel may or may not be engaged. 

In this photo the CEO is the focus point and while the other panelist are not looking directly at him you can see from their expressions and slight turning of their heads to catch what he is saying as showing they are engaged.

PowerPoint presentations can be really difficult to capture the slide and the speaker in one photo. Thank goodness they had a spotlight on the speaker and had it balanced. The reason it was balanced it was being webcast live.  If you organize an event like this–always have a spot light on the speaker to make them not disappear into the dark.

While this isn’t a really close-up portrait, I think in this situation it is a nice portrait of him working.

As I mentioned before they were putting this live on the web and I have a photo that can help say that for them.

Another high overall shot to help tell another part of the story.

The decisive moment photo should be the one that used alone and not part of the package could tell the story.  Which of the ones above did you see that would work for you?

Did you notice the sequence of the panel?  Now the hard part is often a closer.  Sometimes you don’t have an ending.  This is because you want to communicate there was so much to see you want to leave the audience visually craving for more rather than wrapping it up to say well that is everything.

I suggest sitting down before you arrive to shoot a story and think through all that you have been told about the assignment and make a list.  Write down on a notepad that you will carry with you the outline of the 7 shots.  Under each one list a couple of options for each one.

As you shoot your story, check off the photos that you get.  Use your notepad to get names of people for the captions.

Once you have everything checked off on your list don’t stop shooting.  I continue to shoot more photos, but now I may be looking more and taking fewer shots.  I am cherry picking the moments that I think will be better moments than I already have.

I want to thank my friend Mark Sandlin for reminding me of what I do at every assignment so that I could share this with you.

By the way Mark said he wished he had said one more thing to those attending the class.  He wanted to say “if you haven’t made any mistakes, you are trying hard enough.”