Here's one I shot yesterday just outside Waco's City Hall.
Question: What's the best sort of camera to use for photojournalism?
Answer: Professional lenses.
That's right, the glass that's attached to the camera is far more important than the light-tight box we commonly call a "camera." While professionals should utilize professional cameras (and I do), that's not the most important piece of photographic equipment in a photographer's bag. A sharp, fast lens (or lenses) makes all the difference in professional photography.
I'm often asked about my particular style of wedding photography. To put it succinctly, I'm a photojournalist. That means a few different things on a few different levels, so let me explain a bit ...
Educationally speaking, I have a Bachelor of Arts in journalism -- with a concentration in photojournalism -- from Baylor University. I've worked on staff for several different newspapers, and I've done extensive freelance work for various publications and entities since my graduation in 1999.
Practically, being a photojournalist means I cover events and occasions as they naturally unfold. I don't attempt to control or manipulate the shooting environment in any way. I'm there to simply document what happens with high quality, story-telling photographs.
With wedding photography in particular, the old style of photography focused primarily on formal, posed photographs. While formal photos are desirous for any complete wedding album, wedding photojournalism focuses on shooting documentary style photographs that capture the nuances of the event while telling a compelling visual story of the wedding day. Of course, formal photos are taken, but they are not the heart of the wedding photography coverage.
In the end, it's all about capturing lasting images. And capturing lasting, narrative images is what being a wedding photojournalist is all about.
This picture is indicative of why I love wedding photojournalism. The groom and ring boy were running a pre-ceremony errand and they were both sharing the same umbrella. I knew it was a cool shot so I fired off about six or seven frames, and this is the image that popped out at me.
Sure, you could easily set this sort of shot up, but real life is much more fun than that!
The cardinal rule for photographers is to take your camera everywhere -- especially if your children are involved!
Here's a cool shot of my daughter last weekend. She was riding a little tractor pull ride at Dewberry Farm near Houston. (That's my wife right behind her.)
Visit Custom Cakes By Laura. She's the best in the business.
I had to embed myself with the musicians to get this photo. The key elements in this photograph are repeating patterns with a tight, strong center of interest.
In the world of professional photography, Nikon and Canon are the two toughest kids on the block. Nearly every professional photojournalist uses one of those two systems.
Invariably, the question arises: Which system is better? While I put my money into Nikon systems, I must say that you can't go wrong with either one.
While Nikon has been in the professional SLR business for decades, Canon is relatively new to the party (arriving with their pro models in the late 80s and early 90s). Both systems technologies are similar and both systems have first class optics to choose from.
Truth be told, I chose Nikon because back when I was taking Photography classes in high school, and devouring all of the latest photography magazines, Nikon was at the top of its game with nearly every professional photojournalist using Nikon systems. Over the next 10 years, though, Canon made huge inroads and is now arguably the dominant player sales-wise.
While other camera manufacturers exist, producing world class cameras and lenses (e.g. Leica), Nikon and Canon keep battling it out for the lion's share of the market.
My money's with Nikon ... but you can't go wrong with either one.
Sometimes, when you're trying to capture a photojournalistic moment, there can be certain ... well ... distractions:
The Bride and Groom are leaving, and this kid's in the way!
Doesn't he know I have a job to do? :-)
This is where cameras with fast autofocus and fast frame rates really come in handy -- shooting through the "noise" while you're simultaneously cleaning up the frame, looking for that Decisive Moment
Eventually an image breaks through, full of joyous emotion
Sometimes the best images aren't technically -- or compositionally -- perfect. (For example, some photographers might argue that the basket in the last frame is a distraction.) But the reality is when the moment is right, and the emotion is captured, most of the distractions tend to fade away ... all that's left is the enduring image, forever.
Here are a few photos from an assignment I covered this past weekend: Focus 2007. Focus is an annual conference geared toward Christian college students and it's sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Musician Charlie Hall led worship
Truett Theological Seminary professor, Mike Stroope, delivered the messages
College students mailed Bibles to prisoners overseas
For most amateurs, the Holy Grail of big time photography is a serious, SLR camera. And it's no wonder because with amateur point-and-shoot photography the camera is pretty much everything; therefore, it's no surprise when the seasoned point-and-shooter decides to move up in the photography world, he or she inevitably starts drooling over the latest Digital Rebel.
Additionally, the average consumer can easily think that the better the SLR camera, the better the photographer they'll become. That mentality could lead them to spend as much as $2,000 or even $3,000 on a top-of-the-line professional SLR.
I would submit, though, that that mentality is erroneous.
Essentially, a camera is a light-tight box, and what really matters is the sort of glass you're attaching to that box. Sure, professional cameras (and I use them) offer durability and some features that less expensive models don't offer, but the heart of image making has always been, and always will be, the lens.
For photojournalists, speed matters. And when a photographer is talking about lens speed, he's talking about how much light the lens allows into the light-tight box. The more light, the better; the more light, the faster.
Typical entry level lens options (standard on all SLR cameras, and even some pro SLRs) offer something like a variable aperture of 3.5-5.6. That means that at its widest setting, the lens has a maximum f-stop of 3.5, and at its longest zoom range it has a maximum f-stop of 5.6 (the smaller the number, the wider/faster the lens). While 3.5 is not pathetically slow, 5.6 is pathetically slow. In order to get a decent, well-balanced photograph in a semi-dark church, you'd really want to go with something much faster than 5.6.
Enter the 2.8 lens.
Two-point-eight lenses have been a staple of professional photojournalism for years. In most cases, only the pro models come with a 2.8 maximum aperture and, therefore, the lens is built rugged and sharp -- two distinctions pros demand.
The only sort of lenses I carry in my bag are 2.8 lenses. They're the sharpest tools in a photojournalist's tool chest.
This shot has become one of my all time favorites, and really it was just a matter of staying alert.
The mood was slow and romantic as the bride and groom began to dance. I fired off a few frames, capturing this moment just before the groom moved his mouth away from the bride's forehead.
Unfortunately, the lighting wasn't great. It was night time under a canopy with artificial lights. To compensate for the poor lighting, I bounced my non-diffused flash into the white canopy ceiling.
The result was nice, well-balanced light that even lit up the background enough to keep it from appearing that they were dancing in a sea of darkness.
I was happy with the final product.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, the father of photojournalism, coined the phrase, "The Decisive Moment."
The Decisive Moment is all about recognizing photographic opportunities and seizing those moments by capturing them with the camera.
Recognizing opportunities and seizing moments takes an attuned compositional eye and technical competence in order to use photographic equipment -- cameras, lenses and flashes -- to capture fleeting images with both beauty and clarity.
Photowaco.com is a husband and wife team specializing in wedding photojournalism, editorial photography, documentary photography, portraits, and event photography.
Eric, the lead photographer for Photowaco.com, has been shooting professionally for more than 11 years. He graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a concentration in photojournalism. He's worked on staff for three Central Texas newspapers and he's been a regular contributer for two Houston-based newspapers as well as numerous other publications, individuals and organizations.
Our hope is that this blog will allow you to learn more about Eric's unique style of photography as well as his theories and ideas on specific photographic situations, assignments, and compositions.
Welcome to The Decisive Moment.