College Photographer. Knox Alum. Young Photojournalist.

Flash in photojournalism


So on the first day of my internship I came head first into the realization that this topic needed a discussion.

Before I jump in let me give a quick few words about my internship so far as I finish up day three. I just completed my sixth assignment and things are going well.

The editing system at the Sentinel is a bit outdated, but I talked with the Online “guy” today and it looks like I will get to do some fun mobile journalism stuff.

I did street photography for most of Saturday and Sunday, and I should get a few of those shots up soon (once I get settled in my apartment).

So now back to the use of flash. Flash can be a great tool don’t get me wrong. Gods like Joe McNally and David Hobby use flash regularly and they produce great images. Unfortunately it can be outdone. When it is used in a situation where it becomes distracting to the participants and what they are doing it shouldn’t be used, unless absolutely necessary. Pump up the iso, drop the shutter speed, lower the f stop, before you pull that hunk of plastic out of your bag. Unless you are making a portrait or printing a poster, doing those techniques wont hurt the final image that much.

That being said, I did pull out my flash today, but the environment allowed for it. The room had no lights on, just some minor lights through blinds, and I knew the subject wasn’t going to be too distracted by the flash.

Also when some people might say the use of flash will remove a harsh shadow, only do that if the situation allows for it.

When overused it becomes another way to distort the situation, like the use of a fish eye lens or using Photoshop a bit too much.

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One response

  1. I think the usage of flash is more dependent on what the usage of the photograph is. When you mention Joe McNally and David Hobby, your not really talking about newspaper photography, your talking editorial/magazine/corporate photography. Both McNally and Hobby have in some respects utilized their skills with lighting to produce a “unique” look that works well in magazines, corporate and advertising campaigns. They have, for better or worse, moved away from the daily grind of photojournalism and towards a market that allows them to photograph in their own way.

    While I agree that at some point it becomes overwhelming, McNally and Hobby find ways to keep their photography unique, unique enough to have magazine publishers clamoring after their style.

    When you look at the work of David Burnett, who I would say is in the same caliber as McNally and Hobby, Burnett utilizes his own techniques to make his images stand out from everyone else’s. I would venture to say that Burnett is more interested in maintaining reality than both McNally and Hobby. Burnett’s intent is different than McNally’s and Hobby’s. I think his intent is to show reality as it is instead of alter it, with the exception of the photographs he shoots that utilize his tilt/shift lenses. I’m not sure how interested McNally or Hobby are in maintaining reality or if they are more interested in creating their own reality.

    I guess thinking through this, it becomes apparent that intent is ultimately what determines how the and why the photographer shoots the photographer in that particular way. If McNally and Hobby were photojournalists that shot for a daily newspaper they would undoubtedly shoot photos in a different manner, but both of them have moved into the editorial/magazine/corporate world, which allows for them to shoot their photos in whatever way they want. Burnett on the other hand, while working in the editorial/magazine/corporate market, he seems to be more interested in reality and utilizing what is in front of the camera already instead of feeling the need to create his own reality.

    On another note, I agree that only using flash when absolutely necessary in newspaper photojournalism is the way to go. It is hard to judge though, when using flash, how much the flash will actually bother the subject. I would say that using flash in newspaper photography is generally looked down upon.

    So yeah, that’s my 2 cents.

    June 26, 2011 at 1:18 am

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