13.5.14

What 3 years of photojournalism have taught me / Part 1


Images through Instagram

A few days ago I handed in my final major project. Now I’m officially done with uni, apart from our upcoming exhibition in June and graduation in July. This got me thinking about the last three years, what I’ve learnt and what I could pass on to you that you might get value out of.

To start with, let me quickly clarify and distinguish between photojournalism and documentary photography (which my course both involves). I often see people, especially in the wedding photography industry, talk about their style as photojournalistic - what they really mean is documentary. Photojournalism is, simply said, press photography. I captures news events, and other short-term situations, whereas documentary photography is about long-term projects, telling a story, and getting to know a subject over a period of time. Both photojournalism and documentary photography document something, which is why photojournalism is part of documentary photography, but documentary photography isn’t photojournalism.

Another important and most basic thing I’ve learnt is that you need to know your craft - the basics of photography. You need to know your camera, how to use it in manual mode, and everything else it can do. It’s also important to work with different visual techniques, such as composition, and get to a point where you feel comfortable taking pictures. This seems to be so simple and obvious, but is easy to overlook. You might feel like jumping ahead to the next step of figuring out a personal style, finding a specific area of photography to focus on, or making money with photography. But that would be like building a house without a base.

Now you need to get out there and practise. It’s the only way to learn the basics and improve. One thing that my photojournalism course made me realise, which made a huge difference, is to not just photograph pretty flowers and butterflies, but to get out there into the world and photograph the hard stuff. I went to protests, news events, film premieres, and more protests. And that might not sound like much fun to you - sure, it might not be, but it can be. I definitely don’t want to be a press photographer now, but I had a whole lot of fun taking photos at protests and really getting in there. Photographing demonstrations is exciting, exhilarating, and fun if you go with friends or other photographers. And it’s been a huge learning curve for me. I seriously believe that without going to protests and other events, I wouldn’t have learnt what I know now even half as fast. If you want to improve quickly, do something challenging!

Also get feedback on your photos. We had regular crits at uni, where everyone showed their photos of what they had worked on over the weekend or the last week. We talked about the positive and negative aspects, and provided helpful and constructive feedback. It’s important to share your work and to get others’ opinions on it, even if it might be tough. Not knowing where you are at or where you’re going will make it hard to know the areas that you have to improve in - and if you don’t know that, it’s hard to improve and become great at photography.

I hope this information has been helpful to start with - there is a lot more that I want to share with you, but I hope you do use these few simple but important points to get started with if you want to become a better photographer.
Let me know if you have any questions, or can relate to any of the points I made.


19 comments:

  1. The first photo is so beautiful!
    Thanks for the tips they are very useful. I agree with you, the best way to improve your photography skills is to practice.
    I have to admit that what I enjoy the most is photographing flowers and other pretty things, but the truth is that you can get some impressive shots from other domains such as protests as you say.
    Feedback is important too, but it really needs to be constructive criticism. A few years ago I took a Digital Photography course and I felt the teacher was too "soft". I'd have appreciated him telling me what my photos lack and how to improve them.

    http://memoriesofthepacific.blogspot.com.es/

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cristina. I think photographing flowers is perfectly fine, I enjoy that as well - I just believe that photographing protests etc. has helped to grow my eye, and improved my photography skills, which I can then apply when I photograph flowers :)

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  2. A really interesting post Helena, it's so nice of you to share you experiences. It's good to hear about the things you've learned. I'm very much an amateur when it comes to photography, but I so want to improve. I always enjoy reading your posts and learning.

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    1. Thank you, CJ! I enjoyed sharing these insights, and do hope they are helpful for you!

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  3. Ah congrats Helena, it must feel so nice to be all done! Hoping I'll get the chance to have a peek at your exhibition :)

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    1. Thanks Sarah! I'd love to see you at the exhibition, would be great to catch up sometime as well :)

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    2. Agreed! Maybe we can meet for a coffee date in the next week or two? x

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    3. Sounds good - I'm away for the next couple of weeks, but definitely soon once I'm back! x

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    4. great, just let me know when you're around! x

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  4. I enjoyed reading this breakdown of your professional education career. I can see how photographing protests and demonstrations would be challenging but would help you learn so quickly! I would love to hear more about the details of your training. It's great to hear this from you. =]

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    1. Thank you, Kate! I'll definitely share more, thanks for showing your interest! :) And I do hope it's helpful.

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  5. looks like you have learnt loads, sometimes I wish I took photography course! I agree, practising with a camera is the way to go

    Katrina Sophia Blog

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Katrina!

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  6. Congratulations on finishing, Helena. What a great feeling that is! I'm hoping to make it to your exhibition in June x

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    1. Thanks, Jo! Would be great to see you there - I'll have to put together a proper invitation as well. :) x

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  7. Hello Helena!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience on Photojournalism with all of us! It is a topic that I am really interested to look into for my University course as well as the future career prospects. I can learn so much from you and I appreciate it a lot.

    I am looking forward to Part II and more Parts to come! ;D

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    1. Thank you Amanda for your interest! I love sharing my experience with you, and am glad if it helps :) Part 2 is now up on the blog by the way.

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