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Shooting to tell a Story

Photography is an amazing way to tell a story and to shine a light on what matters to you. Visual imagery is emotive, real and helps an audience to understand the passion of the photographer. Shooting in a documentary or journalistic style is a great way to produce a strong and coherent body of work on a subject you are passionate about.  It can be a hard-hitting topic like a demonstration at town hall, or a light-hearted topic like your child’s first swim lesson. There’s no limit to subject matter.

As a beginner it may be a challenge to move away from the standard point and shoot photography that takes up much of your time. But getting out there and giving it a go is the first step to improving, and to telling your story.  

Here are some tips that’ll help you to be ready when you start to shoot what matters to you:

Get ready 
Be prepared with batteries fully charged (both primary and spares) and test them in-camera - this will also give you the opportunity to ensure all necessary gear is in good working order. Pack your bag with two things in mind - what equipment do I want to take and what equipment do I absolutely need.
And triple-check your camera settings before you leave.

Think through your story
What matters to you? What story do you want to tell? What shots will you need to capture to tell that story? Having a pre-determined idea of the story and shots will help you to tell the story effectively. Be patient as you may not get the shot straight away. The photographic style you choose can say a lot about the subject and the aim should be to always show the reality of the subject’s situation. The challenge is to capture the humanity in the scene and this comes from practice, patience and experience.>

You may need to do some homework before you start.  Check with the organisers of the event to see if there are any restricted subjects or areas and if you need a permit to shoot in a specific location. You may need to get permission from Council or a business owner. Your behaviour in meetings and in the lead up to the shoot may make a difference about what access you are granted – be professional and build credibility. If it's a public event held on public property then you should generally be fine to simply show up and shoot.  

Take note of locations, dates, times and names as you shoot because the photos will need to be given context with a few words attached to each image.  People need to know what they are seeing and their significance within the context of your shoot. Remind yourself often that you are shooting to tell a story. Ask yourself, what shots, information and context does an audience need to understand what matters to me?  

The equipment required is dependent on the story type. For some stories, being unobtrusive and ‘under-the-radar’ is essential, so therefore using a compact but high-quality camera is important.  Some suggestions are Fujifilm X100S, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Sony A7R . These are all compact cameras with serious sensors and high quality optics yet they are hard to notice and whisper quiet when shooting with them.

If there is no need for a low-profile then feel free to equip yourself with what you think you will need.  

Suggested equipment

  • Wide angle lenses
  • Large aperture lenses
  • Flash (like a 600EX or SB 910)
  • Gorilla Pod
  • Flash Triggers
  • Monopod


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