For me, behind the camera is way more interesting than what is happening in front of it. The models pose, and hundreds of images are taken, so it can be slow and drab. Behind the scenes, however, you have the stylists working on outfits, fixing hair and makeup. This all happens between the shoots and usually in a rush. If you have ever read Fruits, you will know what street fashion can be like. I have even heard of a street in Milan where people walk up and down, showing off their best styles. You can easily photograph these styles, in a sort of street photography way.
You will also capture portraits while having to be mindful of your environment and surroundings. And you can even stop people in the street for a quick pose.
Photographers have stopped in one location while photographing those who walk past. Here, the background stays the same, and only the people change. Offer to send the people a JPEG of themselves, which they can share with your details. They will be more willing to help you. One photo essay idea that I have always wanted to try is to photograph one landmark from many different vantage points. Think about it. Look at the Eiffel Tower, and how many collection of images have been taken of it.
All are from many different angles ranging from many different distances away. This is a great way to practise your positioning and composition through different perspectives. You can incorporate details and a down-up viewpoint, you can photograph it from above utilising a drone. And there are thousands of ways to capture it through streets and using reflections. The landmark is your study, and it will help you look at the light during different times of the day.
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A similar photo essay idea would be to take the images of the landmark from other people from the same vantage point. Unsplash is perfect for this.
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We live in a very different time than we did 50 years ago. Or even 20 years ago, as more and more fathers stay at home and look after the kids. A great photo essay example would be to capture these small families to show this as social commentary for the times we live in. These portraits and group photographs are a great way to practise and start building up a network of people. The first images are always going to be the most difficult to take.
But once you pick up speed, you will have images to show and persuade the next group. They can use a few of the images and share them, and they may even buy a few others from them. Families always need more photographs to hang on their wall. There are going to be many jobs and careers that people do that you have no idea about.
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A great way to understand what people get up to in their day-to-day is to follow them and photograph as you go. You may not be able to go put out a fire with them, but you never know. This is great practice for documentary images , capturing portraits and still life of all the equipment they use. Again, let them use the images for social media. Also, pass on the photo essay to the local council as they may be able to help with an exhibition, and spread your work too.
This might get you paid work in the future, as now you are a person who gets stuff done. One great way to support your community, and possibly even get some of your photographs published is to photograph inside a school. You may find it difficult at first, but lay down your intentions to those in charge. Offer to let them use and share the image as they see fit. You now have a team of people sharing and liking your images. They are giving you promotion all over Facebook and other social media channels.
Get into the classrooms, photograph the students and the teachers during their daily grind. Be as invisible as you can, but involve and integrate those interested when and where you can. There is a whole slew of things to photograph. Chemistry labs, teachers taking a break and even documenting the preparation of food for lunch. Think about all of the meals that characters in books have eaten. Some will be as fictitious as the names of the characters eating them. Think of the gruel in Oliver Twist.
If you need some help photographing food for your photo essay, read our post here. Cafenol is a film photography chemical that sits in place of the developer. The developer is what strips the film down to a negative after it has been exposed. A great photo essay idea would be to photograph a coffee shop, the staff, the patrons and the equipment and then using coffee that they serve as a film developer. How many times have you seen tourists photograph the same landmark?
Sometimes, even pretending to hold up or grab the landmark themselves. As the area in question has already been captured, why not go degrees in the opposite direction for your photo essay. You will be photographing the people, who are the artists rarely seen. These images will be somewhat comical as it is a social statement of our lives and our cultures.
One great photo essay would be to localise your efforts.
No matter where you live, you will have neighbours. This would be a great way to get into portrait photography. You will come across stay-at-home fathers, night-shift workers, grandmas with heirlooms, musicians and families. There is no telling what is behind these doors. It is a great way to work on your feet, and also meet those who make up your community. Still looking for inspiration for your photo essay? Why not check out our top 20 young photographers or photography websites of ! Great article, Craig!
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