Category Archives: Research and Reflection

Exercise: Standing back

For this exercise we are to use a telephoto lens and position ourselves far back from the action/subject, then note the advantages and disadvantages.

I actually used a telephoto lens for the previous two exercises:

Capturing the moment

Developing confidence

The benefits of using a telephoto lens:

I think the main advantage of using a telephoto lens while photographing people unaware is that it is so much less intrusive. I didn’t feel as uneasy as it can put a comfortable distance between the camera and the subject. So much so, that sometimes they are totally unaware of your presence.

Framing subjects is significantly easier with a telephoto lens, and you can avoid getting other people in the shot at times by using a tight zoom.

Something else I’m fond of is that when you’re significantly zoomed in it creates a shallow depth of field, which creates a blurry background – making the subject stand out more, and creating a pleasing aesthetic element.

The disadvantages:

People notice a big lens. While its more comfortable to step back from subjects, people are much more aware of cameras with big lenses. This can make them feel uneasy, and it can make the photographer feel as if they’ve been caught out trying to sneakily take peoples pictures.

Telephoto lenses are sometimes bulky and heavy. They require more effort when carrying around for a significant amount of time.

Telephoto lenses are often harder to hold still when zoomed in which can produce blurred shots. A way around this would be to use a tripod, but for street photography this would not seem like a suitable option, unless you were looking for a fixed position at a location. Sports games would be a good example of this.

A side issue with the disadvantage mentioned above is that you need a faster shutter speed to eliminate the possibility of camera shake.

Lastly the photographer can sometimes feel disengaged from the subject. The distance between both parties can often be evident in the image. If I had used a smaller lens it may have captured more of the action/environment/atmosphere making it feel like the viewer was in the action, rather than observing from a distance.



Paparazzi definition on Wikipedia:

Paparazzi are independent photographers who take pictures of high-profile people, such as athletes, entertainers, politicians, and other celebrities, typically while subjects go about their usual life routines. Paparazzi tend to make a living by selling their photographs to media outlets focusing on tabloid journalism and sensationalism (such as gossip magazines).

Much like the previous post on photojournalism, the paparazzi are aiming at capturing the perfect moment, and therefore work at a quick pace, and often revert to auto modes in order to have the best shot with the best settings (fiddling with aperture and shutter speeds would most likely be time consuming and add pressure.)

One of the more frowned upon areas of photography – the paparazzi are deemed as social vultures that often invade celebrities personal space, follow their cars, and generally try to get as close to their subjects as possible with many ending up being punched or knocked to the floor.

There seems to be a huge invasion of privacy when it comes to celebrities children being photographed, which in many cases results in the celebrity lashing out, perhaps rightly so….


Wikipedia’s definition of photojournalism:

‘Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography (e.g., documentary photography, social documentary photography, street photography or celebrity photography) by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media, and help communities connect with one other. Photojournalists must be well informed and knowledgeable about events happening right outside their door. They deliver news in a creative format that is not only informative, but also entertaining.’

Photojournalism is an area of photography that fascinates me, and one that I hope to one day have a career in. After reading the introductory sections of ‘People & Place’ I realised how applicable the information is to photojournalism. I find the ethical aspect very interesting, and that it needs to be an honest and impartial representation of a certain situation. The photographer is essentially photographing a moment in time, and that is all. I would assume for such fast paced environments they would probably have their cameras set to some form of auto or pre programmed setting so they can concentrate on their subjects and framing etc.

Here’s just a few thought provoking images when I searched for ‘examples of photojournalism photography’ – Included in these examples is possibly one of the most iconic images for The Vietnam War – a photograph of Phan Thi Kim Phuc (called ‘Napalm Girl’) photographed by Nick Ut.

Many of the examples are black and white – perhaps due to the date of the photograph, but also as black and white photography can have a deep thought provoking sense of drama and intrigue. That being said, there are more and more colour examples of photojournalism used today, perhaps as it is a truer representation of capturing the moment and not eliminating any details.

Exercise: Capturing the moment

Find a comfortable situation, possibly even the same location. For this exercise concentrate on bursts of activity, from which you try to capture a ‘best’ moment.

When you’ve finished shooting, review your images and pick out those that, for you, best capture a particular moment. Make notes in your learning log explaining your choice.

For this exercise I chose a Morris dance in the centre of town. It was a brief dance, lasting only a few minutes, if that. This meant that I’d have to be organised and work efficiently in taking my photos.

The setting meant I felt extremely comfortable. There were numerous people taking photographs, and the dance is a form of entertainment that welcomes photography. This meant I was very at ease. It also meant there was a crowd, so getting into an advantageous position was a little more difficult.

The brief itself can often make one think that they have to photograph some big action, for example, scoring a goal in football or something similar. I decided I wanted to capture much subtler moments, and had noticed that several of the dancers displayed their badges on different areas of their hats. I wanted to capture these badges as best I could, while the men got ready to perform their dance.

As well as the badges I wanted to at least try to incorporate the stick hitting – something synonymous with the traditional Morris Dance.

I focussed on 4 of the dancers, as trying to capture all of them was going to be too chaotic. They moved quickly and only for a short time period so minimising my subjects seemed like the right thing to do.

I set my camera to burst mode for the stick shots as to make sure I would capture the actual ‘hit’, but used regular single shot mode to capture the badges on their hats, shooting rapidly when their positioning was right.

Photographer – Martin Parr

My tutor introduced me to the work of Martin Parr – a well known photographer with a very unique style.

‘Martin Parr sensitises our subconscious – and once we’ve seen his photographs, we keep on discovering these images over and over again in our daily lives and recognising ourselves within them. The humour in these photographs makes us laugh at ourselves, with a sense of recognition and release.’ – Thomas Weski –

When researching Martin Parr I felt a slight similarity to a previous photographer that I researched – William Eggleston. (Please see previous post here)

Their use of colours and everyday objects are so captivating and inspiring, yet so simplistic and raw.

I love the contrasting elements in this image. The older people contrasted with the baby in the pram, the red paintwork against the blue/dark moody sky, the direction of the lady in the background and the direction of the peoples gaze.

The overspilling bin and rubbish on the floor really enforce the feeling of day to day life. The scene has not had anything removed from it, in order to make it more aesthetically pleasing. It’s raw and effective.

This image almost makes you laugh out loud. I love the fact that the woman’s face is almost completely obscured by her hand, camera and of course the pigeons. She’s the main focus of the image, yet we cannot see what she looks like.

This image reminded me very much of a shot taken by William Eggleston of the back of a lady’s head in a diner. Again the face is obscured which, for me, heightens my interest. The colour relationship is very harmonious with the yellow tones contrasting the green of the stall in front of the subject, while the blue and hint of red on her scarf work well together. Of course, i’m assuming the subject is a female, but cannot be sure….another element of surprise.

My favourite image of this small selection. The bright bobble hats add a gorgeous warmth of colour and interest, while also signifying time of year perhaps. The expression on the pigeons face is priceless. It looks angry (if birds can indeed look angry) which contrasts the joyful vibe of the people in the background. This is a sure example of capturing the right moment.

Sometimes I view an overly colourful scene as somewhat distracting and perhaps look for an angle with less colour, or contemplate perhaps converting to monochrome, but with both Parr and Eggleston’s photography I’ve learnt just how powerful a colourful shot can be.

Research – People & Place

Part 2 of this module highlights the importance of speed, positioning and framing when photographing people both aware and unaware. The need to be inconspicuous when photographing people unaware means that often photographers switch to auto mode and auto focus to allow for minimal complications and heightened efficiency/speed when shooting the perfect moment.

This reminded me of when I spent half a day outside St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington waiting for the arrival of Princess Charlotte. I was amongst a huge group of paparazzo all waiting for that perfect shot. The most valuable advice they gave me was to shoot in auto and not fiddle around with camera settings, or you risk missing that ‘perfect’ moment that you may have been waiting hours/days for. They also advised shooting the ‘exact’ moment in continuous mode, or at rapid speed as to make sure you’ve captured a good few seconds of your subject. One shot, and you could end up with closed eyes, or unwanted facial expressions.

I was amazed that the paparazzi and often photo journalists resort to auto mode, but it makes so much sense. What they concentrate on more is their positioning, angles, framing and focal range, while saving time on manually programming camera settings.

I often thought that to be a successful photographer you had to always shoot in manual mode, and never rely on auto mode. But knowing your settings is just a part of being a photographer, the other factors that set you apart from the rest is your creative eye, art of framing, capturing expressions and photographing the perfect moment while standing out from your fellow photographers.