By David Cornwell, SU class of 1983
We as photojournalists have a large responsibility when it comes to the quality of photography within the military. With our extended training we must strive to improve the quality of photography overall.
In the past years I’ve seen over and over again a lack of confidence on the part of young shooters – as if they felt they really were not capable of making strong images that communicate. I see this attitude stemming largely from improper critique of their work by co-workers, supervisors, and PJ’s.
The following are some guidelines I use to provide meaningful feedback on images and hopefully spur the photographer on, to go out again and properly produce the image that is successful in telling the story.
Always Encourage And Respect
The Eye That Made The Image
Although the eye may be untrained; or poorly trained in what to look for, it is the uniqueness of our vision that gives photography its power. Were your images great from day one or did you have an inspirational teacher or two along the way?
Promote Photographic Literacy
If you can’t figure out why the photographer made the image, ask. Then ask, “How could we simplify this image so that the viewer can see what you saw in your mind’s eye?” Note the word “We”. Show examples of photographs that work and talk about why they work.
Break An Image Down And Give Meaningful Feedback
Individual areas might be focus, exposure, print quality, use of light, and invoking expression or emotion. When you break the image down you can better pinpoint areas that need training and highlight the quality areas also. Remember you should always point out the strong points in the image and not just the weak ones.
Determine The Level Of Proficiency
Photography is a process. You can’t expect someone who has trouble figuring out basic exposure, to be able to fully concentrate on great expressions from their subject. By being aware of their proficiency level, you can better help them. As each step becomes second nature to the photographer, they will be able to concentrate on the next area that needs improvement.
Talk Image Responsibility
We are the producers and directors of every image we make. We each have a responsibility for all the elements in the picture. This means, every image must be evaluated in the viewfinder before it’s captured on film. Usually if an element doesn’t add to the picture, but detracts from it, then it should be eliminated from the frame. Make them aware of this responsibility.
Encourage And Challenge The Photographer
Provide them encouragement by highlighting their strong points and helping them believe in their work. Challenge them by giving them assignments requiring consistent exposure, use of multiple flash, use of existing light, a portrait of a stranger… whatever seems appropriate in the areas where they are weak. Help them set goals for themselves when it comes to their photography, while providing them your support and encouragement in attaining these goals.
We as photojournalists have a large responsibility when it comes to the quality of photography within the military. With our extended training we must strive to improve the quality of photography overall. We must support, educate, and help those we meet along the way. We must do this by sharing our knowledge whenever requested or needed and do so in a positive manner. -DC-