The importance of a good photo

Today in lab we met with Kevin Remington, who is W&L’s campus photographer. He talked to us about photojournalism, specifically about photo essays. They should include five things:

  • the scene
  • a way to move from the scene into a more focused shot
  • a portrait of the subject
  • detail
  • action

Kevin with studentsA photo essay is different from typical journalistic style writing because not only do you get to spend time with the subject that you are covering, and really get a chance to get to know them, but you also get to plan out how you want the photos to look, whereas reporting is more reactive.

“The hardest part is explaining and then picking up the camera and doing it,” he said.

Kevin explained that you have to wait for the perfect shot, and sometimes this can take hours. You want to convey a certain message, and to get it exactly right, you have to be patient.

In class, we were divided into four groups and each assigned a photo essay topic to tackle. We only had a brief period of time, so it served as good practice for the real magazine. My group was assigned to cover Agnes Gilmore, who sits at the information desk in the Commons. She declined to be photographed, so we decided to cover Dick Grefe, the Senior Reference Librarian, instead.

Dick Grefe

Grefe, who books movies for W&L, in his office in the library.

I really enjoyed how this assignment gave us the opportunity to learn about him, and like Kevin said, it really gave us the opportunity to get to know him. I had no idea that he was such a movie buff, and he was shocked when I told him I had never seen the movie Once. My group was able to capture him in his element at the research help desk, but also in his office.

photo 2

Dick Grefe, research librarian in Leyburn

Other groups did their photo essays on Marquita Dunn, who works in Café 77, the Colonnade in the rain, and K.C. Schaefer, the director and merchandise manager of the University Store.

In terms of editing the pictures, Kevin said that as long as you aren’t changing the subject of the picture, he is not opposed to editing the photos. Brightening and darkening can help to focus on the center of the subject, but if you crop a photo too much, it could completely alter its message. He also talked about the rule of thirds and how he utilizes that in his photos. He said he likes to keep his subjects on the left side of the pictures because humans psychologically are prone to view that more positively because we read from left to right. He also said that killers in movies typically emerge from the right side of the screen, which is something I had never noticed.

“A smile and just interacting with your subject goes a long way,” he said, which I think is the best advice he gave us.

— Wyn Ponder

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