Documentary photography is all about telling stories. Although it is closely linked with capturing social and political events, shooting photographs in a documentary style can be applied in other aspects of life. Remember: the goal here is to tell a story.
But documentary photography is more than just picking up your camera to shoot. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult photography styles because you have absolutely no control over the environment you are in. You are merely an observer who wants to capture moments.
This means that you have to be quick. You have to be able to respond to different situations as fast as possible, otherwise you miss important moments. That said, here are a couple of documentary photography tips and tricks to create more meaningful shots:
Choose a subject
You want to tell a story, but whose is it? You probably don’t even need to go that far when choosing a subject. For instance, it could be any one of your grandparents. It could even be your neighbors or the stray cat family you always pass by on your way to work.
It doesn’t matter which one you choose. You can even document the life of a person with an intriguing job as a way to inform the public that certain lines of work exist.
No matter what you choose, make sure have a reason for wanting to document their life. Is it because you find their routine interesting? Or is it wanting to make people aware of a certain event?
Know about your subject
Documentary photography involves speaking with people and knowing more about them. Doing so allows you to anticipate which moments you’d like to capture.
Research is important in documentary photography, especially if you decide to photograph a different culture. You have to be sensitive to their culture. And information is not that hard to come by these days thanks to the internet.
A bit of research and learning isn’t just for when you travel abroad; it can also be used when choosing a subject from the local area. You need to know about their routine a bit about them so you know which shots to take.
Documentary photography is about learning not to be afraid of people. You have to speak with them and earn their trust. Yes, documentary photography isn’t just about capturing scenes as it is; you will also need to ask people if you can take pictures of them.
Learn how to be patient
Documentary photography doesn’t operate by your rules. You are telling the story of another person, another town, or another country. Observing will take time, and that is why you need to learn patience because you will definitely need it. Otherwise, there are other photography styles best suited for a fast-paced life.
Use different perspectives
Go for wide shots but don’t be afraid to get close. It also helps to focus on details to create variety in your shots.
Documentary photography is about telling a story; there must be a narrative. You won’t be the best at what you do after a single session but keeping at it will help you learn more tips and tricks which you can use for future projects.