Each picture tells a story. Or maybe not.
I know for sure that almost every photo has a good story behind it.
When I started working in the daily newspapers two decades ago in this crazy business, we photographers often covered events together.
Sometimes, when I was interviewing, the photographer danced around the object that was taking the pictures. When answering questions, respondents often did not know whether to smile at the camera or talk to me. Sometimes it was hard for them to focus on my questions.
After a couple of minutes everyone was usually relaxing and we were getting both good art and accurate answers.
I learned early on not to get between the camera and the object. I tried very hard not to let my picture appear in the newspaper.
At a recent West Goshen township meeting, the township video camera filmed me as I sat in the front row. To my great regret, the local news station broadcast the video. Yes, the camera sometimes adds 15 pounds. For the next meeting I sat in the second row.
I no longer work with a photographer, but shoot mostly on my mobile phone. And although I’m not pictured on the front page, I regularly get high from turning on my red Prius in photos.
We call these staged and gorgeous pictures of politicians’ heads “photos”. Nuf said!
We hear it all the time. With a certain photo or title we are trying to sell paper. Guilty on charges. Of course we are. Yes, we want you to read and review our work.
That big picture on the first page is called the centerpiece. With the exception of the story at the top, people most often take paper for this photo. I spend a little more time compiling and showing if I know in advance that my photo will be posted in this location.
Only since the 1970s have color photographs appeared in newspapers. I remember my Uncle Tom, who was involved in this business, proudly showing me the first color photograph that appeared on the front page of the Wilmington News Journal. Yes, it was a little fuzzy, but the color definitely changed things.
And to think that my grandfather, who also worked at the Daily Local News, had never seen a color photograph in print, is intriguing.
You get a bonus on our website dailylocal.com. We often post four or five photos that do not appear in print.
Sports photographers can have two cameras focused in different places. The basketball photographer sitting under the basket will focus on the nearest basket with one camera and the other camera pre-focuses on the grid at the other end of the court. This is a very difficult job, which I do not want. Our sports photographers at Local, especially Pete Bannon, do a great job.
I picked up a camera before grabbing a pen while working at the West Chester East High School newspaper, The Pegasus.
For years I worked at home in a converted dark bathroom. I can still happily remember the smell of the developer, stop and fix. I bought the film a hundred feet at a time and rolled up my own!
Now with digital cameras we can almost instantly look and see if we’ve caught the action, but in the 70s we had to wait until we showed the film and then squint at the 35mm negatives.
I so enjoyed watching the images gradually, magically appear on a sheet of photo paper under a red safe light in a dark room.
We played with the Quaker Oats Box-pinhole camera. We stayed put and left the small “lens” open for 30 seconds or so to expose a sheet of photo paper. These were more “positives” than “negatives” and all black was white and all white was black. And since the “camera body” was curved, the image turned out twisted. What a fun it was.
Photographers capture the moment, often about 1/125 of a second.
Photos can lie. I still have an old black-and-white photo of me slalom skiing, leaning low into the water, and the water rising high above my head. Now it doesn’t matter that I fell trying to pull it off, because just for the moment filmed, I looked like a professional water skier.
If you can illuminate properly, rock stars are easy to photograph because they are always posing. The joy and happiness on the faces of the elementary school chorus is wonderful.
Richard Hansley, my editor at Highlands Today, in Sebring, Florida, gave us all wise advice about photography for the newspaper.
Take it two steps further than you think and pay attention to what’s in the background, he said.
I can’t tell you how many perhaps wonderful photos have been ruined by poor lighting. When the sun is up to photographers behind, the camera often captures in the frame the shadow from the camera and the hand – and sometimes even the shadow from the entire elongated body of the photograph. And no one likes to see someone squint when the subject is facing the sun.
Hensley also said we need to study good photos to determine where the photographer was standing.
I learned to work with light the hard way, the method of trial and error. Never shoot out the window.
At a recent political fundraiser, we met with a candidate in a dark bar. I told the filming officer that no one would be able to see the faces in the photos because the windows were fiddling with the meter on the camera. He ignored me. Probably, there were many disappointed fans who did not see their own or the candidate’s face in the photos. We live and learn.
So what is the difference between professionals and amateur photographers? It’s simple. Professionals take more photos.
I once took eight pictures of a beauty queen using a flash. And you guessed it, she blinked the first seven, and only then did I get my money on the eighth.
It’s amazing how much the subjects change their expression in just a couple of seconds. Smiles can fade and then reappear in the blink of an eye.
Sometimes a story is just to fill a space. We call photography without history “independent,” and many times it speaks much more than those words.
Yes, a photo often costs thousands of words.
Now the bird will fly!
Bill Rhett is a weekly columnist and Chester County resident. This is the selfie you are looking at at the top of this column. It is best to contact him at email@example.com