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Photojournalism Techniques for Amateurs:
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Move Quickly
After shooting an event, the next step is to submit your pictures to a publication or photo buyer. If you’re a free-lancer, try approaching a wire service like Associated Press or Reuters.

If you photograph something with national or international significance, then Kobré suggests going to a photo agency like Corbis, Getty, or Black Star.



If it’s news, time is of the essence, says Kobré. “The photos lose value as time goes by.” He adds that you shouldn’t be discouraged if other photographers are on the scene—you could be the one with the most intriguing images. Kobré also suggests returning to the scene the day after an event, to take follow-up pictures if the situation warrants it.

Equipment of the Working Pro
Kobré says that working photojournalists rely on a variety of lenses—ranging from wide-angle to telephoto—depending on the job. A wide-angle lens in the 24–28mm range with a film camera and a 17–24mm lens with a digital camera is often a popular choice. Kobré points out that photojournalists who shoot candids use wide-angle lenses, and move in close to their subjects for an intimate view. A 70–200mm zoom lens is also important to bring the action in close. He recommends fast lenses with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. You’ll be using them indoors and out with available light, often with ISO 800 film or the equivalent setting on a digital camera. Sports shooters need even longer telephoto lenses and a motor drive to capture the action.

Except at night, photojournalists try to avoid using direct flash, Kobré says. In some situations, a photographer needs to be unobtrusive; one reason to refrain from using flash. In other situations, the photojournalist may try to preserve the natural light. These are the times when fast lenses and film come into play. On occasions when flash is used, photographers try to mimic natural light by bouncing electronic flash off a wall or ceiling. As bounced light uses a lot of flash power, Kobré suggests shooting at maximum automatic aperture for the flash and checking your confirmation indicator to ensure that you’re getting enough output to illuminate the subject. For consistent results with bounced flash, the ceiling must be light-colored and not much higher than 12 feet from the subject. “The bounce technique can’t be used effectively in a facility with high ceilings like a gymnasium.” When shooting in a gym, auditorium, or at night when you can’t bounce the flash, you may have to use direct flash when you want to ensure getting a sharp image, rather than risking a blurred shot taken with available light at a shutter speed that’s too slow to stop the motion. A photojournalist must be able to get a clear, well-exposed picture in any circumstance, according to Kobré.

For photographers shooting with color film, Kobré recommends always having lots of it on hand—at least 10 rolls at all times, with the equivalent of media storage cards if you’re shooting digitally. “800-speed film has made shooting indoors possible with beautiful results, utilizing ambient light,” he notes. Outdoors, Kobré advises photographers to use ISO 200 film. Digital images can be transmitted anywhere you can find a phone connection from a laptop computer. Photojournalists are even sending messages via cell phones from their laptops. “For international coverage,” he says, “pictures can be sent via satellite telephone anywhere in the world.”

Another consideration is that cameras get beat up easily when shooting news stories—it’s a good idea to invest in one that can withstand abuse. With rapidly changing digital technology, says Kobré, keep in mind that you’ll probably buy a new camera every few years anyway. It’s also a good idea to travel light with your equipment. Carolyn Cole, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Los Angeles Times, says that she shoots with one camera body and two lenses when she’s traveling on foreign assignments.

That Magic Moment
Kobré stresses the importance of being aware of the subject and background simultaneously. Watch through your viewfinder and wait for that great moment when the subject and background work best together. He says that the secret of good composition is to watch the corners of the frame and decide quickly what to include in your image, and what to leave out—“A good photojournalist does all of this in an instant, on the fly.”

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