Say cheese – but please don’t smile

1 November 2010

Written by: Meghan Lodwick

One of the most difficult anomalies I’ve come across as a dewy eyed cadet involves not words, but photos. As my newspaper has a rather modest budget, the day I signed on as a reporter I also became a photographer. My training consisted of being handed a camera and shown how to turn it on and off.

I don’t mind, but there’s a problem in not knowing how to find the right shot to accompany your words. Some are self-explanatory; if children are performing some kind of quaint parade or talent contest you want shots of them looking cute. If there has been a disaster you want shots that reveal the extent of the damage.

The real annoyance comes from situations where people, not events, are the main feature. If you’re taking a shot of a crowd, rest assured someone will be mugging at the camera, shutting their eyes, giving you the forks and generally making life hard. If you’re trying to snatch a shot on the footy field, I find the people crashing into each other aren’t really concerned with facing the lens properly. Worst of all if you’re interviewing a young family who are going to be evicted from their flat or a lovely old couple who desperately want an electric wheelchair, you have to re-word the most painful phrase in all of photography: ‘can you please not smile?’

The problem being, if they smile it looks as though they’re feeling good about being evicted or not having necessary medical equipment and it defeats the purpose of the article.

There’s a belief that digital cameras have taken most of the mystery away from the art of photography, but I disagree. Despite having almost a hundred photographs published thus far, I know I’m just a point and clicker not a photographer. I’d love to have a photographer accompany me to stories, someone who knows how to cram 25 heads into one frame or keep rain flecks off the lens. I think there’s real skill in being able to find that one special shot.

Tell me, do you think anyone could be photographer with a decent enough camera? Is it as simple as point and click?

Alexandra Falls is a cadet journalist studying at La Trobe University. This was originally published at her blog The Country Town Cadet.