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Documentary Photography – Part 2

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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Documentary photography is difficult because you are going to capture the most important moments and if you miss that moment then it’s gone forever.

army men hiding on the roof

This is the second part of my article about documentary photography, you can read Documentary Photography – Part 1 by clicking on the link.

Documentary photography is difficult because you are going to capture the most important moments and if you miss that moment then it’s gone forever.

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Developing Your Idea

Developing the idea about the project is the critical and most important part. A photographer needs to clarify story, the project’s idea and concept and finding the best way to approach the target and it could be achieved by spending enough time and doing some research. It maximizes the quality of the final the work.

There are some questions you need to ask yourself which helps you to establish your concept and idea; what is your favorite topic? What is your message? How you want to illustrate the message?

Clarify Your Destination

The first tip is checking the events in your city. Pick the events which are interesting for you. Map is the best guide to your destination. Be aware of the event’s time and make sure that you get to the destination on time. It’s great to be on location earlier so you can check the environment and light.

men hiding for the riots

Do Not Be Shy

A documentary photographer must put shyness aside, but always be respectful to people who are around you. Do not panics to get close to people, sometimes a little smile make your approach easier. But if you are in dangerous areas and doing photography of a civil war or street battle then your safety comes first and what you need is a telephoto zoom lens. A telephoto zoom lens helps you to be in safe position while shooting the moments. This lens is really essential in documentary photography because it also helps you to keep your distance with the subject, therefore you can shoot people and get their natural behavior without letting them to see you with camera.

Some people are not comfortable with camera. Once I spent 3 hours before shooting walking around the location and give enough time to people to see me and accept me.Communication with people is important even if you can’t speak in their language. People show reaction to your body posture and the way of looking at them.

A soldier aiming his rifle

Environment vs. Photographer

I have found documentary photography as a difficult and challenging type of photography. If you are a product or fashion photographer then you work at studio. It means that light and equipments have been set so everything is under photographer’s control. But when you are shooting a street battle, nothing is in your control and you are the one who has found the ways to adapt your camera and yourself to environment and this is the toughest part.

Shooting Modes

People are walking, doing their jobs, fighting, dancing in the street, means that your subject moves so high shutter speed is critical. Depends on your subject’s speed, shutter speed would be different. In general 1/500 and up helps you to freeze the movements. But if you are in a vehicle and shooting a moving subject then set the camera’s shutter speed on 1/1500 and more. Now with this high shutter speed you also need a day light for a great shot. Sometimes sport photography mode can save your time in shooting as well but it doesn’t always work.

Be fast

When you start shooting, you and your camera will be one. At the same time, find your subject, think about the best composition and set your camera on the relevant mode and shoot. Sometimes all these works must take less than a second otherwise you miss that moment. Speed is essential in documentary Photography.

You can check some of my documentary photographs on my blog: http://nikignite.blog.com

Do you want to learn Photography?

Build your photography skills and learn to make the most of your camera with Web Courses Bangkok’s digital photography course. Whether you’re a hobbyist, trying to start a career in photography, or just want to learn how to use your new camera, this course is the perfect introduction to start you on that road. Use any contact form on our site and we will get back to you.

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