"Oh...so you mean that you take candids?"
When I describe my style as "photojournalistic," that's pretty much always the first thing that anyone says. And they're absolutely right. When I'm shooting a wedding or event (or, for that matter, just wandering the streets of New Orleans with my camera), my primary goal is to capture sincere, unscripted moments - to take the kind of photos that would make a stranger pause and say "We've never met, but I feel like I really know you." So yes, I do take a lot of candid photos. Heck, the opportunity to take candid photos is the main thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.
So, you may wonder - if it's that simple, why in the world does Willow feel the need to blog about this? Over the years, the concept of "candid photography" has picked up some unfortunate baggage. There's this idea that, to take a decent candid photo, all you have to do is wildly point your camera at everything you see, and then just start shooting away. In my experience, that couldn't be further from the truth. You see, all of the things that make for a great portrait - good lighting, proper composition, positioning that flatters the body - they don't stop being important just because the subject doesn't know that s/he's being photographed.
Whether they're posing for wedding formals or drunkenly doing the Macarena, there is one universal truth: everyone wants to look good in their photos. And that's one of the biggest challenges for a wedding photojournalist. To capture all of those fantastic, spontaneous moments, a photographer needs to have a good eye, fast reflexes, and sharply-honed instincts. But at a wedding or event, s/he also has to be able to calculate - at less that a moment's notice - all of the different elements necessary to make a compelling (yet flattering) photo. Ultimately, when I shoot your wedding or event, I'm still creating portraits - I'm just also dealing with the added challenge of subjects that I can't direct, who are moving in ways that I can't predict, and who will immediately stop whatever fabulous thing they're doing the second they notice me taking their picture. It's easy to luck out and get a few good shots while taking a "spray and pray" approach, but to consistently get great candid photos often takes years of practice.
To try and get around the mistaken idea that a "photojournalistic" event photographer is really just someone who takes snapshots, I recently started describing myself as an "creative photojournalist." Unfortunately, there's one major issue with my "new" style (well, two issues if you count the fact that it makes me sound rather pretentious) - it's redundant. Photojournalism is inherently creative. Sure, we're trying to convey a true story through our pictures, but like any good narrator, a photojournalist - particularly one who shoots weddings for a living - knows that how you tell the tale is often every bit as important as the narrative itself.
Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Want to contribute your mom's awesome zucchini bread recipe? Then please - leave a comment!