Where do I start. News Photography covers so many different events and scenarios that it is almost impossible to cover on a single page, indeed a great many pages have been devoted to news photography both on the internet and in the printed media.
Probably one of the best books available presently is the BPPA’s 5000 Days, a truly stunning work, especially when you consider that it’s images were collated and put together by working press photographers. If you haven’t seen it I suggest a look through your local bookseller, or have look at the website.
News photography is one of the most demanding of the disciplines that a press photographer will have to undertake. Not only do you never know what is going to happen or where, you can never tell what equipment you are going to need. Your approach may vary depending upon the event. In some cases just getting a picture is incredibly difficult, in others very simple. A Reuters photographer was given some very unjust criticism on an amateur photography forum recently for the quality of the photographs that appeared in the national news papers of a train crash, that occurred this winter. Being the first on the scene before the police sealed of the area, was in his favour, however; as I would in his situation, he got as close as he could and did some images of the scene, by available light, at very high ISO.
Most likely he returned to his car to fetch a longer lens and monopod, at which point he found himself being escorted to point behind the police cordon. The main thing is that he got his photographs, and the nationals all ran them. The criticism from the happy snapper brigade was along the line that he should have used a tripod and a longer lens. Retards, we don’t have the time, and until you get to the scene you don’t know what you are going to need.
I can absolutely guarantee that everyone who criticised, wouldn’t be able to hand hold a 70-200 +a 1.4 converter for a 1/15 second, yet alone drag 40 kilos of kit across a field. Rant over for now, anyway the world of the news photographer is never a predictable one, you can be shooting a court job at the Old Bailey (or similar one minute) and before you have wired the pictures be racing across town to a press conference for a gang-land murder, or even sadder the disappearance of a young girl.
Typically for a press conference you may need; two bodies, two flashguns, a 70-200, (a 1.4x extender or a 100-400mm in your pocket) a 16-35 or 28-70 on the second body, depending upon the layout of the room (and the size) at some of the big political press conferences you may need something even longer.
At courts you may need depending upon the court, the precincts of the court ( as photography is not permitted in the precincts) anything from a 16-35mm if you are going to monster the subject on the pavement outside the court building, usually acceptable in a high profile court case, or something like a 28-300 IS L or 35-350 USM L which will give you the option of a full length through to a tight head shot with out changing camera bodies. Otherwise you will have a short and a long, two flashguns and have to swap, not too much of a problem if you know what your subject looks like and which direction they are likely to come from.
Out the back of the court may be a different story, especially if the person you are after is getting a custodial sentence or is on remand. Some security officers are great and will hold a detainee outside the van, whilst they unlock the door, so that you can get a frame, some will help the detainees get away with their photograph taken.
I recently did a military court martial at Aldershot, of an alleged rapist, and the RMP’s take a back seat, and members from the offenders unit provide the security. The MOD like their judicial system to be shown that it is working and doing the right thing, however on this occasion the offenders colleagues tried to prevent photographs being taken, by sneaking the offender out the back door and putting up big sheets to obscure the view. Unfortunately I have done to many of these, so they stood little chance, so a call to the MOD media liaison meant that next day, they the had to take the sheets down, they still tried to sneak him out the back way, but I was ready.
Other, news events that need to be covered include Royalty events, from something as simple as a Royal visit, to the Queen Mothers death and funeral. At these events not only are the principle elements required, but also background images, showing (depending on the story) either people who are happy because they got to shake hands with some in-bred work shy figurehead of the state, or alternative are over the moon because one of the aforementioned has been stuck in a hole six foot deep.
Now please don’t go getting all righteous on my ass, just because I don’t love the royal family, not liking them doesn’t affect the way I go about my work, except that I am probably happier when I am not photographing them.
On the day that it was announced that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother had died, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, members of the public turning up to leave flowers, etc. I personally would have preferred that they didn’t, take the money and give it to a good cause thank you very much, from the time that it was announced that she had died to the point that she was finally buried was good for me, plenty of double shifts.
Another area of news work, is portraits of individuals in the news, either from “high society” generally pap work, or from business which usually feature nice expansive environment portraits, that the picture desk can’t work out what to do with so they crop into a tight head. Having covered a news story, you will invariably be asked (you shouldn’t actually need to be asked, you should do this automatically) to do a GV. In our business, the GV is the one constant. (except for the piss taking whenever two or three togs get together.
My approach to GV’s is not have an approach, to be honest there is little you can do for most GV’s, it is a straight record shot of a location, no need to wait till sunset, or wait until the light is in the right direction, just simply make sure that you get at least two different view points (not usually too difficult) and that no-one else is in the frame. If you are childish (like many of us) you will try and find a way of getting your own car in the image somewhere. Whilst the national togs don’t tend to do it, certainly quite a few agency chaps do on a regular basis. I have had my car parked on the pumps of a petrol station many times when I have had to do a GV of a garage, or in the street in front of an office block.
The great thing about news is that you never know what the next job will be or the equipment that you will require, you could one minute be doing a job on a 16-35mm and the next job dictates that a 400 with a 2x extender is needed. Standard equipment, as well as the usual photographic equipment laptops and postive mental attitude, some addition kit is required, I usually carry with me a set of step ladders, torches, gaffer tape, wellington boots, plastic bags, superglue leatherman tool, several swiss army knifes and a host of foul weather equipment, scarves, hats, casual bags (for descrete carrying of camera equipment) an overnight bag, suit, shirt and tie and smart shoes.