Four W’s and the H
“Make sure your photos capture the Who, What, Why, Where, and How. Try to capture emotions, humans don’t forget easily something that made them feel a kind of way. Also, more importantly, stay true to yourself, to your vision and way of seeing; and keep refining it until the day you can’t click the shutter anymore,” said KC Nwakalor.
Nwakalor is a documentary photojournalist based in Abuja, Nigeria. His work focuses on socio-economic, health and environmental issues in West Africa and aims to humanise real issues. He has photographed during conflicts and given advice to photographers working during conflicts. “I feel no story is worth your life. I strongly advise people to tell stories when it is safe so that they do not become the story. If you must photograph conflict, make sure you get the right training”.
He also added that when taking photographs during conflicts, “make sure your motivations are not selfish but based on your genuine interest or concern on the ongoing issue”.
Using different angles
“Just as we speak with different voices, languages and share varying opinions, our storytelling is the same. You can tell a story in one picture or in three to twenty pictures. I consider my stories in threes: a wide shot, a medium-wide shot, and a close-up/portrait and then try to tell the same story from at least different angles,” said Charmaine Chitate, a photographer from Zimbabwe.
She added that “as photojournalists, we are tasked to amplify other people’s stories and it is important that we represent our subjects or themes appropriately and always remain true to their story”. Chitate who is a self-taught photographer said she has always second-guessed herself and her work but over the years she has grown to appreciate the ‘nagging little voice’ in her head and has playfully named it ‘Stella’.
Chitate said, “Stella’s constructive criticism helps prepare me for critique from those outside ‘my world’. I find it easier to take criticism for what it is, a way to improve my work and grow an audience of people who understand my work”. She encouraged aspiring photographers to never give up because of criticism and said that photographers should find their own ‘Stella’ who can help them improve their work.
“If the feedback states the picture isn’t good, then it may not be the one, however, you have the opportunity to do it again until your work tells the story you want it to tell,” she said.
Practice makes perfect
“The only way to be better is by shooting every day what’s around you, there is no shortcut,” said Amanuel Sileshi from Ethiopia and a photographer for AFP.
Sileshi said: “I always say photography is something you create relationships with your audience. As you are shooting photos you must always think, are you shooting the reality of what’s happening in the moment because there is no do-over”.
He added that “you don’t have to explain the story by text writing, the photograph has to speak 80% of your story first”. Sileshi said when he first started his career, it was difficult to be accepted as a photojournalist, “the industry is big as we know it and you need to have the groundwork”.
During the first year of Covid, he had access to Covid facilities and was allowed to take photos every day, adding that it was challenging to take photos through the personal protective equipment or to see clearly through the goggles.
Spending time with the subject and the environment
“Get to know the people, what they like doing, who is who in the community, what they eat, the music they listen to. Just spend time there without your camera and when they are comfortable with you, then you can start photographing them and you will definitely get amazing photographs,” said Benson Ibeabuchi, a photographer from Nigeria who has an intense interest in capturing and retelling stories from perspectives that are often overlooked.
Ibeabuchi took photographs during the #EndSars protests − a protest in October 2020 against police brutality in Nigeria. He said that taking photographs during the protest was challenging and gave advice on how to take photographs during a protest. “Try to be as invincible as possible but still be present at every given time, talk to the protesters, carry lightweight cameras and always be on the lookout in case something happens”.
Ibeabuchi said that in order to become a better photojournalist, you need to keep shooting.
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