Documentary photography style

I just read an interview with wedding photographer Jeff Ascough, and his shooting style: documentary style photography.

It really captured my interest. I have always loves shooting candids, trying to capture reactions to document an event. I love available light (not a big fan of flash guns), and try not to be intrusive.
I  never gave it any thought about what style that would me.

I’m going to quote some sections of the article that I found really thought provoking.

“Great light and composition are more important to me than anything else in a photograph. Cartier-Bresson, one of my heroes, always looked for the composition first and then waited for the decisive moment. He enjoyed the mathematics of composition. I’m the same. If I can combine great composition, great light, and something interesting within the image, I have the makings of a great picture. I always go for composition and light first.

I follow my clients, looking for the light within the environment they are in. In some cases they may never venture into the best light. That’s the way it goes-I won’t ever ask them to move into better light as I’m not there to interfere.

If the light was bad, I would capture the image with a wide angle and make the subjects very small in the frame, allowing the rest of the frame to tell the story. That way the client would get their processional image, which would look great, and you wouldn’t have to worry too much about the light on their faces.”

“The two things you have to consider when photographing in dim light are your focus and your shutter speed. Focus is fine as long as you can confirm it, and the camera has some help. To this end, I use a Canon EC-A microprism screen in all my cameras. It allows me to judge whether or not the subject is sharp in low light. It also allows me to manually focus if necessary. In really low light, I use a Canon STE2 Speedlite Transmitter on its own. This throws out a beam of light that helps the camera to focus. I don’t try to photograph subjects that are moving about in dim light. That is the domain of the flashgun. If I can get a shutter speed of 1/30th, I’m ok.”

Camera bag. Jeff uses an Urban Disguise 60 most of the time. I will look at getting an Urban Disguise 30, since I don’t need to carry a laptop with me. Will go into Henrys one day to see what these bads look like, and choose one.

“One of the differences that separates the talented pros from the rest in photography, is the photographer’s ability to see light direction and quality. Try to second-guess what is going to happen. It might sound weird, but I have almost a sixth sense when it comes to photographing. I can see the image in my mind’s eye before it happens. I suspect this is a result of many years of experience, though, rather than any special ability.”

“It’s important to be as unobtrusive while photographing weddings. That said, you can be unobtrusive while less than three feet from the subject. It’s all about how you behave when photographing. If you permanently have a camera up to your eye, firing off hundreds of images, the client is going to be very aware of you. Also, hiding in the shadows can be more intrusive than standing close to your subject, because odd behavior is noticeable. If you simply have the camera down at your side and just quietly observe, they will relax and start to ignore you.

Unobtrusiveness doesn’t mean you can’t be seen. That’s a mistake many people make. For many clients, unobtrusiveness means that you are letting them get on with their special day without making them stop for photographs.”

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