Starting Documentary Photography
Documentary photography is a powerful genre of photography that aims to capture real-life situations, events or people in a truthful and objective manner. The aim of documentary photographers is to tell a story or convey a message about the world we live in. Unlike other forms of photography, the aim of documentary photography is not to create aesthetically pleasing or beautiful images, but to present and highlight the reality of a particular subject. Documentary photography can cover a wide range of subjects including social issues, politics, culture, history, etc, but can also be used to tell simple stories in our lives like weddings, our holidays and trips abroads or our daily lives such as our commute to work or garden over the course of the year. Whatever the scale of the project, you will need to start somewhere and here are some simple tips.
Plan and Research
Before you start shooting, take time to research your subject matter, location and the people you will be photographing. Understand the context of the story you want to tell, and the narrative you want to convey. Make a shot list, and plan out the sequence of photos that you need to capture to tell your story. another great way to get a feel for a subject is to leave the camera to one side and just soak in the experince of a story, this will give you a clear idea of the story you wish to tell with images, before taking up or returning to the event. It is worth remebering that the best projects take weeks, months or even years to get a powerful and coherant story in images so take your time and even work on serveral projects at once between visits.
Use Natural Light:
Natural light is one of the most powerful tools in documentary photography. It can create a mood, provide depth, and add a layer of authenticity to your images. Whenever possible, use natural light to capture your subjects. Avoid using flash as it can be distracting and can disrupt the moment you are trying to capture.While flash is often used in Documentry Photography if not used with a high degree of skill the images can be a little jarring for the viewer, however there are no hard and fast rules on what is and not acceptable in this genre of photography.
Be Patient and Observant: Patience is key when shooting documentary photography. Sometimes it takes time to capture the perfect moment or to build a rapport with your subjects. Be observant and wait for the right moment to capture a particular expression, gesture or action. The more time you spend with your subjects, the more likely you are to capture a unique and compelling image.
Get close to your subjects to capture their emotions and expressions. This will add intimacy and depth to your images. Getting close also allows you to capture details that would otherwise be missed from a distance.
Use Semi-Automatic Modes:
Documentary photography is all about capturing the unexpected moments that tell a story. Keep your eyes open and be ready to capture the moments that happen naturally. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles, compositions and techniques to capture the mood and feeling of the moment.The key to capturing these fleeting moments is to use the semi-automatic modes such as Shutter Priorty (S)(TV)(SP) and Apeture Priority (A)(AV)(AP) modes on your camera, these modes allow you to react much more quickly to unfolding stories and action as it happens so you are not left fiddling around with settings and end up missing the shot. Our 5 Week Level 2 Photography Course is ideal for learning how to use these modes effecively.