PHOTOJOURNALISM



PHOTOJOURNALISM

Whereas Digital Photography has changed the "mechanical technique" of shooting Wedding Photography, Photo Journalism tries to change the style of Wedding Photography. So it appears there are two processes we can discuss and there are two approaches to the Wedding stylization. 

Traditional Coverage and Photojournalistic Coverage.  The Traditional Style includes all of the wedding images found in a traditional wedding album.  The usual Bride and Groom, wedding party, attendants, ushers, children, family and extended family as well as the traditional happenings at your wedding. These include but are not limited to the music and dancing, garter throwing, cake cutting, limo shots, soft romantic scenes around the reception, staircase pictures and so forth. 

The Photojournalistic style relates more to the portrayal and emotional look of the Wedding as a news event.  It is more story telling than anything else and when done by a professional, they can be stunning and capture the moment.  Oblique angle,  shadows and uncommon imagery.    Basically free pictures of the affair which means many of the pictures will be just as they happened, no posing or setting up of the participants.   It also can be very romantically portrayed using techniques in lighting and blurs, effects created by Photoshop. 


It can backfire.  Big time.  Many of those professing Photojournalistic qualities never worked for a paper, or even did any kind of this work before.  They will simply offer two to three thousand boring out of focus, unencumbered photos with little or no quality in the hopes that if you throw enough of something against the wall something will stick.  
We call it the KAA-KAA Theorem and owning a full scale pro lab brought us many of these overnight rising stars with some of the worst crap we ever saw.   

I chased politics, this was Congressman Bill Young, longest representative in Washington and a better man than the jerks and morons we have there now.  I spent twenty years seeing the good things he did for our Tampa Bay area.  So photography in the PHOTOJOURNALIST world was a shoe-in and easy for me.

In essence, the first type may be carefully orchestrated to produce a traditional Wedding Album following the boundaries set forth by millions of Weddings beforehand. The PJ style provides a more freeware version of the wedding and may get more personal.  It is the photographers job to establish the clients wants and needs.  I like it down the middle. Get the money shots in the bag, then play reporter. You'll sell twice as many pictures with a minimum of effort. 

DIGITAL VS. FILM THAT STARTED PJ SHOOTING
Film really doesn’t play as a factor anymore financially or technique wise, frankly it’s quite dead in the industry.   However it was film that created initially the PJ approach to weddings.  Black and White has returned as an add-on and some shots do lend well to a little Photoshop.   Combine natural, soft and a little artistic impression and you hold the viewer's eye for quite a while, sufficient enough to allow black and white and it's inherent detail to capture their attention. 

So Wedding Photojournalism brought to us by film, evolved to digital with more control and totally created a new tool.   But Digital brought us something more important.  The instant confirmation of the picture and then it’s manipulation in the computer.  

It also covers a slew of errors for those who can't work light and color.  That was probably the most attractive part of digital.  Again PJ is a STYLE and B&W is a another way to deliver the goods, or technique. It's not just clicking on a plug-in in Photoshop and making Black and White pictures.   

Bad shots are still bad shots but they might have some hope in them after  PJ denotes a STYLE. And requires a lot more talent of the photographer to see and capture intimate and unique moments that tell the story. After all good pictures tell a story.  In the old days the standard was to take about 120 carefully composed and candid shots at the wedding.

You got to know them by heart and in the proper sequence. Most photographers actually had this down to a science using 2 1/4 equipment. Literally down to the last remaining frame on the roll. PJ when combined with unlimited digital changes things.


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.  

Some of this work I have seen are really, really, bad and not a credit to the profession. Most looked like they had just tried to copy some of the work that the PRO's had done but were missing a part of the equation.  Perhaps it was “ Balance, the composition, exposure, the subject matter, the angle, and the beauty of the subject”.  We simply called their work crap.

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 in 1996 of the late John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Besette Kennedy. 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. 

Nothing wrong with B&W with a decent shot to begin with. Its 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 Photojournalism  . If you are the shooter and want to mix a few B&W into the traditional shots, nothings wrong with this and you’ll see a bright smile on the brides face. But clarify this up front or you’ll be living in Photoshop.

I’m retired, with 450 good weddings under the belt.   I coach I teach and I truly believe If it's happened, I've seen it.   At 76, now I teach others how to do it, I'm getting to old to run with the yearlings.  I care too much about the how some of the competition is killing those who have vested lives in this game and really do share the passion and do a good job.  

And a year later you never hear from the newbies, or see of them again, but the damage is done. Just cut out the Wedding section of your Yellow pages and save it till next year. In some places a 25% change is normal in an area.

I related it to the whole process of automation. You know when you own a lab that does do both amateur and professional work you see a fair amount by the other guys.

We did E6, C41, R4 to 30 inches, B&W and Chroma work, Direct slide to print, and now we do a lot of slide conversions      (thousands) to digital with our own elite in house scanners.  You get to see trends that passersby’s often miss. I saw the good and the bad the PROS and the SCHMOS.   We started seeing less Pro Work and more from some new names. 

And the new names were handing out CD-ROMS and the Brides were coming in with them to get prints made. This was after the famous Reggie shot of Kennedy which put photojournalism in the Wedding arena.  Suddenly everyone was a pro…  Oh boy!  Talk about the onus on our store. 

If the work was crap we got blamed for not spending two hours correcting a 19 cent print.  Poor camera cropping, underexposed, color shifts 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 MARTINEZ CASE
One of the worst was so bad, I called it 1600 of 1600 bad.  About 75% available light, and blurred. The flash shots were worse. Not one formal shot, just plenty of backs of bra shots and boot laces and shoe shots, bad ones at that.   

NOTE:  The next shot I see with the rings displayed on patent leather shoes for the men and her lily white sneakers like some of the taller Brides hide under the dress, I will personally go out and dump a trash can on the photographers head.  Have them bring along a set of white satin pumps, for the shot.

Listen I know the difference between blurred and soft focus, really garbage work and creativity. This was $1500 dollars worth of nothing. The crime, a really beautiful bride and family, they were gorgeous. Mother and daughter were more like sisters.  There were some great opportunities there and blown.  They just wouldn't print, and not even close to our color space,  horrendous color shifts from fluorescents, other mixed lighting, and chandeliers.  

Other than that poor, ridiculous composition and out of focus, left little if anything to work with.  So we tried to go B&W to calm the bride down, by killing the color shifts and converting the files.  They just wouldn't print, and not even close to our color space, horrendous color shifts from fluorescents and OUT of FOCUS.  

PLAN A FAILED:  Not exactly the response I was looking for.   It was the first time I watched a mother and daughter cry so hard, I honestly thought I needed to get the paramedics. Hysterics and chest holding.   I know Spanish women are very passionate, I have dated quite a few and I love their passion.   But this rodeo was getting out of hand. I mean bad, REALLY BAD stopped up our whole lab operation, no work getting done. 

After that I said "What the hell am I getting into?   This is between him and her and I’m getting all the grief.  Yes, some of us do care about others and we try to help. Some times we win and sometimes we get crapped on. I knew after that this guy wasn't sending me any more work because I intended to tell him not to.  Three strikes and you're out, his work earned team side out.

PLAN B FAILED:  Like I said we couldn’t win. I offered to drive them over to a friend’s lab to run a few test prints, that was the ever popular B plan, get them out of my store, and the work turned out worse at his.  He flat said the work was KAA-KAA.   Some times we win and sometimes we get crapped on. 

PLAN C COURT:  It came down to them going after him in court, and I might add this was not a BRIDEZILLA,  just a kid whose big day was shattered by a wannabe who took 1500 dollars from them.   We got a small claims court summons a few weeks later.  It came down to them going after him in court, and I might add this was not a BRIDEZILLA,  just a kid whose big day was shattered by a wannabe. It settled out of small claims. 

I was glad when he returned their money, he settled quick when he got the summons.  It was good she had legal counsel in her family, a bonus player,  an Assistant DA.  I really think the saved his own life because the father and the groom came into the store soon after talking a lot about baseball and bats.  

We referred them to 2nd Chance Weddings,  a company we quickly put together as we were picking up work from those who were not happy and asked who did we know who was good at photography.   We did not solicit, they had to ask us for help because we had deals with a lot of pros.  We used a lot of green screen and an incredible catalog of backdrops, rented a few Tuxes, we did the shooting for the green screen and made them a beautiful album for $1500.00.  


STORY TELLERS
The idea behind PJ is to create the story And 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 candids. 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”.   

Flat bullshit, the incredible amount of shots needed is KAA-KAA theology.  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. It really depends if a shooter has an eye.   Soon we’ll all be shooting digital motion pictures and make prints from them.  It’s all about  good composition 101. 

Thus it appears big counts are just another part of the selling game. What it does do is bump the price of wedding and in some areas have doubled the price. As with any process there are those who can perform and do it right and those that don't and hope to get by.  Unfortunately the uninformed bride and consultants measure the cost of a wedding photographer by how may shots he or she will take. 


FAD OR FRENZY AND TRENDY
Photojournalism, is almost impromptu photography. It's 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 guess I don’t drink enough to be that artistic.  

I like the work done by competent shooters and artists and Im glad the trend still exists reading  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 with the exception of 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. 

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 artisticness it adds excitement and a fresh look to story telling. In the hands of an incompetent, it is a travesty. 

TIP: With digital today we can go far beyond just B&W as a form of expression. Here is a simple two-stroke shot in Photoshop from one of the wedding shots as shown above. Sometimes a wedding shot shows too much. Abstraction, a technique used can sometimes be very powerful in communicating a message. 

Purpose: I make it for the Bride and Groom to send little cards to those who didn't attend but would appreciate hearing the good news. Like former friends and acquaintances. Technique: In Photoshop using duplicate layers keep increasing the contrast reducing the colors in hue saturation till you get what you like. 

Using a beige 80 lb. rough stock we print these four up on simple 8.5 x 11 paper. They can then fold them and write a small handwritten message inside. Cost was negligible and certainly appreciated by some of those who got the note. In some stationery stores small envelopes with matching cardstock is available for this project.


THE SECOND SHOOTER
I have found the high 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 the old film days, I used medium format for all of the church and formals with as much light as I could carry since film was very slow, and then switched to 35 mm for the PJ stuff.  It puts the money in the bank and gets you the best of both worlds.  This was the controversial argument in the 35mm vs. medium format wars, followed by the film vs. digital wars.  I have always done both till one choice became totally dominant.  Medium format lost to 35mm and film lost to digital.

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 more unguarded and the emotions more genuine, rather than a staged reality show. And another issue we will talk about is web design.


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