Friday, June 11, 2010

Covering non-photographic events

While working for newspapers, photographers shoot a variety of assignments ranging from spot news, general news, sports, feature and documentary. But, there’s nothing more dreaded than being assigned a why I love where I live, my favorite chef, a fine romance, check passing, ground breaking and of course, the school assignment. To the news photographer these are commonly know as “non-photographic events”, but they have to be covered and it’s up to us to capture a story-telling photo.

Most are pretty boring event to cover, so if only teachers would plan ahead and contact the newspaper’s education beat reporter and inform them of an ongoing class project. That would actually make better pictures than kids standing next or pointing to a finished science project. The same goes for ground breakings, instead of having to capture pictures of local officials moving dirt with a shovel, how about stopping by ever so often at the construction site to make pictures of workers. I tried to train our reporters on what makes a visual assignment or not. From time to time I had to tell them, that this is one assignment where 5,000 words is a lot better than one crappy photo.

Once I received an assignment to cover Presidential Candidates at The Islander Middle School . Eight graders were taking part of a social studies class using Story path, an educational program in which they create an election campaign, with candidates, platforms and posters. Sounds pretty boring and why yes it was. I could have gotten a few shots of the candidates standing at a podium giving a speech, but for some reason I decided something there might make a good photo. Besides, if I returned to office after this assignment, there might be a worse one waiting. I have this thought, if you’re out of the office your working, you know out of sight, out of mind to the editors and another photographer would get handed a “last minute” assignment.

I’ve been following this one group from classroom to classroom when the candidate, dressed as Herbert Bobman, for the Peace Party, had her nose tweaked by a classmate. So, instead of handing in a speaking at a podium pictures, I stayed longer and the paper published a nice story telling feature.