Making your photos matter

In an increasingly visual world, the images you share can have a real impact on the people around you. Our Head of Photography, Alan Barton, explains. 

Aug 19, 2019 | Feature

-It’s World Photography Day on 19 August and the event’s focus (no pun intended) is on inspiring positive global change and connecting people through photography.

 

Founded in 2009 by the Australian photographer Korske Ara, the date was chosen because it was when the patent for the daguerreotype (an early method of photography) was issued in 1839. To create an image, a sheet of silver-plated copper was polished to a mirror finish, treated with fumes that made its surface light-sensitive and then exposed in a camera. A process far removed from our modern, digital world.

Photography has evolved

Looking back over my career, it’s interesting to note how technology has changed the practice of photography. Once I’d typically have to leave football matches only 10 minutes after kick-off to drive to an office and develop a black and white print, which then took seven minutes to send to a London newspaper office. Now, I can find myself sitting in a field sending full-colour, hi-res photographs to anywhere on the planet from my laptop!

Telling the story of everyday lives

Photography is now less of a technical thing and more a medium for communication. Just look at Flickr and Instagram and consider how much time is spent scrolling through images on trains, in homes and in business break-out areas. The creators of these images are not trying to show off their skills – they’re using photographs to tell the story of their everyday lives. They’re promoting the positive aspects of their businesses and creating connections with family, friends and clients alike.

From snaps to images that pop

But how well do these images communicate? Many people have more than one Instagram account; one for family, one to promote their business and perhaps one for a hobby. Yet I still see so much photography that is little more than a snap. It’s not that the quality of the image is poor, but that the content isn’t strong enough to deliver even a simple message. 

Here’s how to avoid that…

 Creating impactful images

 

1. Know your subject

As obvious as this sounds, I have arrived at a client shoot expecting to photograph a new factory, only to find that it is a ‘planned’ new factory. Very different scenario.

2. Choose your message

This goes hand in hand with the above, but also helps to distil exactly where to aim your camera. For example, at a horse race, are you telling the story of racegoer fashion, the winning moment or the oldest employee at the course? And what style should it be? Documentary, lifestyle, posed portrait? The best choice is the one that most effectively delivers your message.

3. Make it simple

Less really is more. You’re looking for simple and precise communication, so don’t over-clutter your pictures.

4. Make a plan

Formulate your ideas and check out where you’re going to take your shot. Nip onto Google Street View to have a look round. Check the weather forecast – where will the sun be? Are your batteries charged? There’s nothing worse than driving away from a shoot, thinking ‘I wish I’d done X,Y or Z’.

5. Make it real

As I was recently told at a client’s shoot – we like to see real people, people we can relate to, people who we know and people who inspire us.

 

So, happy snapping this World Photography Day, or should that be storytelling?

Alan Barton, Head of Photography at W&P

 

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