Reporting tips: photographers and photographs

What’s that? You’re a reporter and photographs don’t concern you? Think again. However great your story is, however many hundreds of words you write, nine times out of 10 a photograph is going to make it better. And the best of those photographs will be taken by the photographers in your newsroom (and not by you on whatever digital the newsroom can afford). Here’s a quick guide to ensuring you get the best pictures to accompany your work. This is just from a newsdesk’s point of view, so photographers, if you’ve got something to add leave it in the comments below.

Treat photographers well
This is such a basic rule, but it’s so ignored in newsrooms. Photographers are just as essential to the work of a newspaper as reporters. In fact, they’re probably slightly more essential, since no one will read a paper devoid of images. Bear that in mind, and make sure you don’t make unnecessary demands, are rude or dismissive, and say thank you.

Give a good brief
A photographer turning up to a job blind won’t get photos as good as those done by a photographer turning up informed. Photographers don’t need to know every word you’re writing, but do give them all the information they need to take a photograph that is relevant to your story. 

Think about how many pictures you’ll use
Following on from the point above, if you need a page of pictures, ask for a page of pictures. If you need just a couple, ask for a couple. Don’t just assume the photographer will know. It’s frustrating for you if you were expecting the photographer to come back with eight pictures and they’ve only come back with one, and frustrating for them if they submit 20 pictures to you and you only ever intended to use one. 

Share your ideas 
Photographers are the experts when it comes to visuals, but if you’ve got an idea in mind don’t be afraid to share it. Discuss any ideas for visuals to accompany a story with the photographer, and chances are they’ll be able to work with that and come up with something even better incorporating your ideas.

Think about stock pics
There are certain people you’re going to need to use photographs of often – police officers, councillors etc. Plan in advance and ask for a range of stock pics of these people. Ask photographers to get pictures of people behind their desk, on the phone, at the computer, outside their office building, by a police car (if they’re in the police) etc. In the long run this saves the photographer from having to keep going back to get pictures of these people, prevents the paper from having to use the same picture every time, and also saves time for the person who is in the picture, as you’ll only have to take up their time once.

Don’t expect miracles
Sometimes it rains, or the subject isn’t comfortable being photographed, or something else goes wrong. In the same way jobs will change on photographers despite the best intentions of reporters when they’re booking something, photographers won’t always be able to get the photographs you want because circumstances dictate it to be so. 

If you feel you’re not getting the photographs you want, take a look at yourself and check whether you’re doing all the right things when booking a job (see all the points above). If you are and the photos are still not what you want, sit down and talk to the photographer and see if there’s a better way the two of you can do things. In a similar way, if you see something you really like that the photographer has done, let them know. Everyone likes to know they’re appreciated now and then.

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