PHOTOJOURNALISM


TRUE PHOTOJOURNALISM
 
First let me separate true PJ's from the wannabes. When you see the work of a Joe Buissink, or a Dennis Reggie you see the top of the pecking order in PJ. When you see some of the "PJ" stuff I have seen in the lab, it is the bottom of the termite mound. That’s the place where they store the eggs and such.  

In other words, it was a good idea minus the talent and discipline. PJ was credited earlier to a single photograph taken by Dennis Reggie of the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.  That photo, published around the world showed him kissing her hand. The other significance was the fact as news it was shown in black and white, thus opening the door for B&W back into weddings.   Many of the wedding pictures, are in Black and White and beautifully done.

Nothing wrong with B&W with a decent shot to begin with. It’s the poor composition that kills many of the B&W we see that gets turned in for printing. The Wedding couples may assume that B&W means PJ. If you are the shooter and want to mix a few B&W into the traditional shots, nothing’s wrong with this and you'll see a bright smile on the Brides face. 

Suddenly everyone was a pro… If the work was crap we got blamed for not spending two hours correcting a $0.19 cent print.  Poor camera cropping, underexposed, color shifts or blurs from fluorescents, the list is too long here to post. And this was in the infancy of digital printing, the SENA tubes were just coming out and Photoshop was up to number four or five. 

The idea behind PJ is to create the story.  It happens in views and angles and lighting from the way and in the way the events occur with the photographer remaining as indisposed as possible. The claim is in the story telling for a product that is more spontaneous and to those "in the know" more artistic. 

That is till the parents and other relatives look at the wedding album. It also claims the rebirth of the real candid’s. That argument still is going on. And the shooting is prolific. It seems that somehow good PJ requires more input.  I hear that it creates a need to take hundreds and hundreds of pictures”.   

 

THE INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF SHOTS NEEDED
It started more as a ploy with digital by escalating the amount of shots taken as an excuse to cut the competition.  I’m still trying to determine why a three-hour wedding on one DVD needs five thousand pictures.  It might be relying on the odds to make a good chance picture rather than the talent to see a good picture and capture it.   

Photojournalism, is almost impromptu photography. Its critics call it a fad and trendy. Many couples are content with the style that this informality generates as they themselves see things differently. They just may be informal people. Like any art form, things may be pushed too far, and the work becomes weird. Add a no-talent shooter and the weird becomes absurd. 

I read that the WPPI said a large majority of photographers offer this form of WP.  I believe there is a calling and a market for it but except for a few it has been the call of the wild...I think a good blend of the traditional and the PJ approach can make a good package. You cover all the bases that way. It's still open for conversation.

Another group defines Wedding Photojournalism as the documentation of an event without input, coaching, interfering or influencing the outcome of the photographs. We used to call this “candid or the casual shots” taken during the wedding in deference to the posed or setup shots. It will take another hundred years to sort out the small nit points of this last statement. I simply refer to it a purist bullshit.

Ask five photographers who do weddings “What is Photojournalistic Wedding Photography and be prepared for six answers”. In other words, already there are different interpretations of what PJ is. Bottom Line: Photo Journalism is a salient and important part of the Wedding Photographers process just like traditional wedding photography is.  The caveat is when done properly in the hands of a professional with creativity and artistic proficiency it adds excitement and a fresh look to story-telling. In the hands of an incompetent, it is a travesty. 

 

THE SECOND SHOOTER
The topic that blows me off the most on forums for photographers, is the ‘Second shooter” issue.  The whole concept of a second shooter only came about with PJ and somewhat of an increased and sometimes worthless, self-imposed workload.

 We went from 120-180 good shots on film to one who shoots 3500 images shot in an epic Cecil B. DeMille size program.  It's called selling overkill.  What is the value of 3500 worthless pictures.  If I went to someone’s house and sat through 3500 images of a wedding, I would probably leave right after I got a migraine headache, or some other form of illness.  

More bragging rights for the shooter on the forum than common sense would dictate you would hand a bride.  He's just impressing the boys with a hot trigger finger and many trips to the Canon or Nikon service center for shutter repairs.

In the pre-digital days when you sweated each wedding to know if you got image… a big wedding, called for a helper, AKA a schlep, a loader, an assistant, the hired help. This is what you get paid, that’s the end of discussion. You load, I shoot. In a year, I give you a shot at things.  First prove your loyalty and value to me. One of the differences was he worked full time for me.  Today some shooters at one wedding per month can’t afford paying someone for forty hours a week plus comp and overtime.  Some can’t afford to pay themselves.

I have found the higher end great shooters don't work alone.  They can’t.  On the higher end weddings ($$$$) a good second shooter is imperative.  They capture the emotion, while you capture the money shots, the traditional wedding shots from another angle, and then freelance the rest of the wedding for the story telling. You need both. You need to be able to do both with reliable help.  

In a target rich good economy, has he or she enjoyed a "good ride" because their community has a certain standard they rise to.  The higher you get, the more traditional things become.  Traditional can mean many things.  This is very true in Indian (India) Communities, but many traditional folks also hire the floater who can do the casuals or photojournalistic side of the story. 

The most important missing element for the second shooter is being briefed and participating in the reversals and the scoping of the facilities you will be shooting in. You already have met and have a basic opinion of the couple, or family, but the second shooter doesn't.

They feel comfortable knowing you’re their photographer but who is this second person.  I like teams, one male and one female shooter since some things can be done in the preparation phase and a Bride would be more comfortable with a female in the dressing rooms. This gets better pictures since the captures are generally more unguarded and the emotions more genuine, rather than a staged reality show. And another issue we will talk about is web design.

Number two is easy, different being the second shooter, the pressures not on you.  It’s easier doing it when you are doing it for nothing, no fee, no harm and again, again the pressures not on you.  So why the high failure rate in this business… it’s the pressure, it’s a lot different when it is on you. 

And since you accepted something for your trouble, whether it be money, cows, pigs and so forth, it’s now a LEGAL adventure and you are liable.  And it is totally unpredictable.  That’s the rub, when new you can’t see a disaster. When you do this for a fee regardless of the amount, you have entered a contract and you are bound.   

The excuse in court I only took money for the film don’t work anymore.  No film.

Mother-in-laws, aunts, do-gooders, TV wedding fans and followers and those who read People magazine can be hazardous to your health just like momma grizzlies, as most Mother-in-laws likely may have given the money for the event. 

The trick, not a trick really but the prime directive in this business is always being on your toes and ahead of the game.  And as the game gets bigger and more is involved, you must step up to the pump. 

I am a pilot, like flying a Learjet, you have to be one hundred-fifty  to two hundred forty miles ahead of what you are doing planning your descent, sometimes more.  In a Cessna 210, it is about thirty to forty miles and in a Cessna 150 about eight to 12 miles. We call it the closing descent rate, and you’re thinking must be out in front of the aircraft.  It is the same with a wedding.