Documentary Photography: 6 Tips to Increase your Next Project

Documentary Digital photography: 6 Tips to Improve Your Following Project

tips to create amazing documentary images

Should you be looking to create stunning documentary photography, you’ve come to the appropriate place.

In this article, I explain everything you need to know to carry out a top-notch documentary project. I discuss setting up, idea selection, ways to maximize the quality of your images, and so much more – so that, by the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be ready to consider pro-level shots on your subject of choice.

Prepared to become a documentary photography professional? Then let’s dive right in!

1 . Start with a clear topic plus plan

Monk in a Saamlor tricycle taxi in Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you want to create amazing documentary pictures, I encourage you to map out your project in advance.

Don’t charge into a task on a whim; without objective or planning, you’re more likely to lose interest. You’ll struggle to keep momentum and fail to develop fresh ideas to keep your task alive.

Instead, carefully select a topic and outline your project goals. Here’s my simple step-by-step method for getting started:

First, create a topic list. Take note of ideas as they come to you. What would you most like to photograph? When writing your checklist, don’t restrict yourself. Write down whatever comes to mind, and give no thought to whether or not it’s useful. Let your list grow over the course of a week.

Next, review your list. Consider each documentary project idea, then delete the not practical ones. Which topics would you pursue every day or at least every week? Discard any topics that are inaccessible. If you like an idea yet acknowledge that it’d end up being difficult to carry out, add it to a list of future tasks.

Then concentrate on what excites you. Which usually idea is interesting sufficient to shoot on a regular basis? A genuine passion for your theme or even concept will keep you inspired! (By the way, don’t choose ideas that are too easy; being challenged is good for a person! )

Market Tricycle Taxi Ride documentary photography tips

Third, narrow down your own list to two or three ideas. Mull these over for any day or two just before picking the winner. Remember, you should select a topic that will excites you, challenges a person, and is practical. (If you can not choose, feel free to start out along with two projects. Then, when it’s too much of a commitment, stay with the one you’re enjoying more. )

4th, for each documentary project concept, create a rough schedule. You don’t have to stick with it – while you carry out the project, you might find yourself wishing to adjust it, and that’s completely alright – but it’s great to block out time for photography on a regular basis. Otherwise, you will probably find yourself procrastinating, and your task may eventually fizzle out there.

Finally, think about your ultimate plan for the particular images. In other words, once you’ve finished capturing your documentary photos, what will you do with all the files? Stories are to get sharing. Who will be interested in the tale you’re telling? What is the best medium or system to display your photos?

For instance, do you intend to submit a selection of your pictures to a newspaper or journal? Do you want to post weekly (or daily) on Instagram or even Flickr? Do you want to create a weblog dedicated to your project? All of these objectives are completely legitimate; it is up to you to decide what feels right!

Tricycle Detail

2 . Know your issue better than anyone

Once you’ve chosen a topic, you should research it like crazy . Consider your subject, analysis its current situation, plus understand its history. Even though you already know a lot about your topic, find out more. The goal is to inform a story , and the more you understand the story you are telling, the better your results will be.

In fact , while you research, you may even want to outline a narrative. What is going to be the beginning, middle, and end of your story? The more your knowledge of the topic, the more details you’ll be able to include. Of course , you don’t need to plan out every image – some of your documentary photos should be spontaneous! – however it helps to think about your ideal photos in general terms.

One more documentary digital photography tip: Look into other photographers who have carried out similar projects. See how they approached the subject. Draw inspiration from their pictures – and use the inspiration to take your project to brand new heights.

Tricycle Taxi Rest documentary photography tips

3. Take lots of pictures

Planning is essential, but don’t let it keep you back. My suggestion? As soon as you’ve decided on your project idea, get started shooting.

Then occurs research to guide your work.

If you’re a very deductive person, you may feel lured to delay shooting till you’ve finished your research. But this will slow you down, plus you may lose your initial excitement and momentum.

Instead, begin working with your own camera. As your story (and research) develops, you can steer your approach in the desired direction.

And take plenty of pictures! If you’re embarking on your first documentary photo project, you should shoot frequently and on a regular foundation. It’ll help maintain your energy, plus it’ll make it simpler to see the developing story.

Vary the pictures you take. Even if you work with a single camera and zoom lens, push yourself to create a diverse group of compositions . And if you have a number of lenses, try to capture both wider and telephoto shots every time you’re out.

Waiting for a Ride

You can also increase variation to your images by using an array of aperture , shutter speed , and ISO settings . For instance, you can use a fast shutter speed to capture tack-sharp action shots – however slow down your shutter to let the subjects blur.

Photograph in a mixture of lighting situations, too. Take some photos in the morning and others in the afternoon or at night. Work with natural light, then carry a flash and see whether you like the results.

As you build up a body of work, you’ll begin to identify the approaches plus photos you like the most. Regularly review your images, then place your favorites into an individual folder.

Taxi Rider in Chiang Mai, Thailand

4. Cultivate a partnership with your project

Long-term documentary photography demands repetition. You must visit the exact same locations, photograph the same matters, and meet the same people.

But although the scenes may seem similar from shoot to shoot, you can create fresh photos in each outing by leftover aware of your feelings. Pay attention to your entire day, and try to capture images that will express your current state of mind. It’ll make your story more personal and interesting.

Your view from the world is unique, and your pictures should reflect this. The concept may seem a little abstract, yet over time, if you make an effort to mix your topic and your feelings, your photos will become a lot more expressive of who you are.

Waiting for Customers documentary photography tips

And if you can find people who are part of your tale, interact with them and consider their photos! It’ll bring character to your narrative. Of course , you don’t have in order to capture posed photos, and a few photographers do prefer to keep their documentary pictures candid , but make sure to shoot at least a couple of images of any human being subjects.

When you start engaging with subjects, they might be uncertain of what you are doing or why. But as you revisit key places and photograph key individuals, your relationships will change. Some individuals will become accustomed to you and will become more relaxed in your presence. Other people may become irritated or weary. The photos you make of them will change, too.

Also, each time you return to a location, look around meticulously. Ask yourself: What’s changed because the last time I worked well in this area? Also, what did I miss the last period I was here? Over time, you will start to notice things you did not pick up on before. These details can add extra interest to your documentary project.

Poise of the Rider

5. Review your photos plus seek feedback

After each documentary getaway, carefully review your images on the computer. What do you like about them? So what do you dislike? How can they be improved? Use these questions to guide your own approach.

Furthermore, when doing your regular reviews, separate out the top ten or 20 percent of your photos. This will give you a clearer idea of your progress. Plus from time to time, review your best photos and look for gaps in your story. What’s missing? What are you photographing too much?

Even if you’re loving the outcomes of your project, ask a photographer friend or coach to look over your pictures and share their thoughts. They might point things out or even ask questions you hadn’t considered. Encourage honesty. Healthy responses can lead to a deeper, richer story.

By the way, working on a project allows you to call at your photography develop. Because you will be photographing the same concept or concept over a period of time, you’ll create similar varieties of photos for weeks or months. Take the opportunity to evaluate your older images and your newer images. Do you observe growth in your skills and style?

Cycle Taxi Shadow documentary photography tips

6. Let your documented photography project grow naturally

While it’s great to plan out your topic and even think about picture opportunities and narratives ahead of time, you should also learn to go with the flow. If you feel a more exciting story is emerging out of your project, run with it.

It’ll help keep you interested – and if the alternative story turns out to be a deceased end, just turn around and continue with your original program.

You may also find yourself discovering lots of stories as you shoot. While it probably won’t be feasible to take constant detours, be sure to keep a list of future projects and write down any and all ideas you experience. That way, once you’ve completed one project, you can instantly get started on another!

Documentary photography tips: final words

Ideally, you now feel ready to dive into documentary photography!

So start today. Begin writing your list of ideas. Don’t rush, but don’t let the thoughts stagnate. And once you’ve chosen a subject, get out with your camera and shoot!

At this point over to you:

What documentary pictures do you hope to take? What is going to be your next project? Talk about your thoughts in the comments below!



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Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan is a photographer, photography teacher, and writer with over 30 years associated with experience that he loves to present to others.

Check out his e-books and his website .

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