Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A time to be artsy, and a time to be simple

I think many photographers who have never worked at a newspaper lean toward the excessively artistic when it comes to shooting and editing pictures. Newspaper photographers always have in the back of their heads to tell the story first, then add complexity or artistic flair to a picture. In our mind, artsy does no good if you don't tell the story.

In general I believe that's true, but from time to time the artsy genie won't stay in the bottle and insists on coming out. When that happens, I often have a dilemma. I know editors and page designers often look for the simple, basic photo. On the other hand, I now have this creative image I've probably fallen in love with for some reason or another. Maybe I found a unique angle. Perhaps I worked hard using a slow shutter speed to streak a background, or maybe invested some extra time to get just the right framing.

No matter what the reason may be I have to pick one of the two, or persuade an editor or page designer to pick the more unusual photo.

The two photos below of Mankato West runner Joey Booker, which are also in The Week in Pictures right now, illustrate what happens when the artsy genie's out of the bottle. Waiting for the race to start, I laid on my belly with my 300/2.8 to see if I can get a shot of Booker through the hurdles. I got lucky, and he took a moment to compose himself before the start of the 110-meter hurdles at the section track meet.

 Mankato West’s Joey Booker prepares for his 110-meter hurdles race during the Section 2AA track and field meet in St. Peter.

Of course, I saw a couple of problems with the photo right away. I couldn't see Booker's face, for starters, and he's pretty small in the frame. Of course, the unique angle, good moment and interesting framing had the genie screaming at me to put it in the paper.

During the race I shot the next photo. This is usually more of what the paper's looking for: Clear face, tight framing, little wasted space.

 Mankato West’s Joey Booker qualified for the state meet in the 110-meter hurdles with a qualifying time of 15.22 seconds.

While not a bad photo at all, I really hoped we would run the first picture. Under these circumstances I will often lobby our page designers to run one photo over another, but in this case I wasn't able to be in the office when they put the page together. I was surprised when I saw this:

Thanks to Shane Frederick, who was designing sports pages that night, for picking the more unusual photo to run. It's often hard to decide when to go out on a limb and listen to the artsy genie. Sometimes you just have to go for it!

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