10 quick documentary photography tips

10 quick documentary photography tips - image Ben Birchall/Future

1 Tell a story
Use photography to tell a story. First you’ll need to choose a subject, which can be the hardest part of the process. Before you head off to far-reaching countries, try experimenting with story ideas closer to home. Whether it’s the drudgery of life in an office or the joy of working your own allotment, you’ll find there are plenty of interesting stories near by.

2 Do some research
Even if the story is close to your heart or home, you should still do some research. Plan what you want to say. Ask yourself if you want to tell the story in just one shot or whether the subject might beneit from a series of multiple pictures. A photo essay, for example, could help you to reveal more about your subject.

3 Choose your style
Think about the way you intend to shoot and how you want the final image to look and feel. Do you want the finished pictures to be in black and white or colour? Do you only want to use natural light to enhance the mood, or will hard flash light add to your story? A bit of planning will make your photos more coherent. Take a look at the best documentary category entries of Photographer of the Year 2010 for inspiration…

4 Be prepared
Once you’ve decided on an approach and style you’ll need to ensure you have the right gear to capture your shot. You probably won’t need to take your entire kit bag with you, so just select the tools you need. Be sure you’ve got the right focal lengths covered, and ask yourself if you might need a tripod. Are your camera batteries fully charged? Have you got spare batteries for your flashgun and plenty of memory cards? Don’t let a lack of preparation ruin a shoot.

5 Get permission
It’s a good idea to seek permission, especially if you’re photographing people going about their business. Explain what you’re doing and you’ll often get a hearty collaboration from your subject, but sneak around suspiciously and you’ll be given a wide berth or asked to leave. If you’re working on a long-term project you’ll need to build a healthy rapport to get results.

6 Don't rush
The best documentary pictures are often the result of a long-term project, so try not to rush in and attempt to capture all the shots in one go. If you do end up with limited time in one location, try to maximise the time you have. 

7 Get back-up
One of the most important tasks for a digital photographer is to ensure all your images are safe. As soon as you get back from your day’s shooting, download your images and make back-up copies on an external hard-drive or DVD. It’s a good idea to keep your back-ups in a different location to your main computer.

Process your images
Once your images are safe you can start to process them. If you shoot in RAW you can make most of your tweaks to colour, tone and contrast at the processing stage using smart software such as Adobe Camera Raw. For a documentary project it’s unlikely that you’ll want to manipulate your images heavily. Just make a few adjustments or try converting to black and white for added impact.

9 Think about presentation
Once you’ve finished your project, think about how you want to show it off. If you’ve made a series of images, perhaps you could have them printed and framed to be hung in an exhibition, or perhaps they would be better suited to being viewed in a book format. There are plenty of online printing services that can make great books of your pictures for a reasonable price.

10 Learn from the best photographers
Magnum Photos is a photo agency that was founded by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David “Chim” Seymour just after the Second World War. It’s since become one of the world’s most important photographic institutions. Check out the ‘In Motion’ section for slideshows of the members’ work, along with fascinating commentaries.

Read more: http://www.photoradar.com/techniques/technique/10-quick-documentary-photography-tips#ixzz1F9RIGhFn

Canon PowerShot G12


The good: Optical viewfinder; articulated LCD; built-in neutral-density filter; very good photo quality for its class.
The bad: Shot-to-shot performance still a little sluggish; some annoying controls.
The bottom line: Relatively unchanged from its predecessor, save the addition of 720p video, the Canon PowerShot G12 remains a very good, more-or-less compact model, designed to please photo enthusiasts.

Practically identical to its predecessor, the G11, the few updates to the Canon PowerShot G12 include 720/24p video capture--a much-needed boost over the outdated VGA movies--now with stereo audio and a Mini-HDMI connector. Like the S95, the G12 also adds an HDR scene mode that combines three shots. Unlike implementations that take advantage of fast BSI sensors, however, it requires the steadiness of a tripod, making it only marginally useful.
As you'd expect, the G12's image quality mirrors that of the G11's. It looks great at the lowest ISO sensitivities, with excellent color and exposure; you can start to see a slight bit of detail degradation starting at ISO 200 that becomes more overt (along with noisy) at ISO 400. ISO 800 is probably the highest usable setting under the most forgiving circumstances. Picky shooters really won't want to go beyond ISO 200.

Unlike the LX5, processing the G12's files as raw doesn't deliver an unambiguous advantage over the JPEGs. The artifacts and colors are a bit different, and you might be able to gain a little sharpness from the raw, but it doesn't gain you any shooting exposure advantages.
The G12 lens is quite sharp. Though it's not terrible, the G12 does display visible barrel distortion at its widest of 28mm as well as a bit of fringing on high-contrast edges, especially close the edges of the frame.
Unsurprisingly, the video looks better than the old VGA offering, and overall is pretty good for shooting short clips; it's certainly worth it compared to a typical mini camcorder. Plus, the articulated LCD, stereo mic, and mic jack add to its video flexibility. But it lacks the ability to zoom while recording, and there are no manual exposure controls save exposure compensation and the built-in neutral-density filter.
The G series' unremarkable performance hasn't changed significantly in generations either, and the field in general still lags behind the LX5. It powers on and shoots in about 2.1 seconds. In bright light, shot lag runs 0.4 second, and in dim light that increases to 0.6 second, shaving about 0.1 second off the G11's time. There's a relatively large 2.2-second gap between sequential JPEGs--2.5 seconds for raw--and adding flash recycle increases that to a ho-hum 2.9 seconds. While its continuous-shooting rate bumps up to 2fps from the G11's 1.1fps, that's still slow enough that you really don't want to count on it for burst shots. Especially if you're used to shooting with a dSLR, the G12 doesn't feel very fast. But part of that's perception; it's certainly zippy enough to catch animals a reasonable percent of the time. The articulated LCD remains big, bright, and useful, and in practice the optical viewfinder feels almost identical to the P7000's.
 Canon PowerShot G11Canon PowerShot G12Canon PowerShot S95Nikon Coolpix P7000Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
Sensor (effective resolution)10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD10-megapixel CCD
Sensitivity rangeISO 80 - ISO 3,200ISO 80 - ISO 3,200ISO 80 - ISO 3,200ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/6,400 (expanded)ISO 80 - ISO 3,200
28-105mm f2-4.9
Closest focus (inches)
Continuous shooting1.1fps
frames n/a
frames n/a
frames n/a
2.5 fps
JPEG/n/a raw
ViewfinderOpticalOpticalNoneOpticalOptional OVF or EVF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Meteringn/an/an/a256-segment matrixn/a
Shutter15-1/4000 sec15-1/4000 sec15-1/1600 sec60-1/4000 sec60-1/4000 sec
Hot shoeYesYesNoYesYes
LCD2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
2.8-inch articulated
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
461,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
460,000 dots
Image stabilizationOpticalOpticalOpticalOpticalOptical
Video (best quality)30fps VGA H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV
H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/30p AVCHD Lite
Zoom during video captureNoNoNoYesn/a
Manual iris and shutter in videoNoNoNoNoYes
Zoom while recordingNoNoNoYesn/a
Mic inputNoNoNoYesNo
Battery life (CIPA rating)390 shots390 shots220 shots350 shots400 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches)4.4 x 3.0 x 2.04.4 x 3.0 x 2.03.9 x 2.3 x 1.24.5 x 3.1 x 1.84.3 x 2.6 x 1.7
Weight (ounces)14.514.26.812.69.2
Mfr. Price$499.99$499.99$399.99$499.95$440
AvailabilityOctober 2009October 2010August 2010September 2010August 2010
It retains an almost identical design to the G11, including the usable optical viewfinder and large, easy-to-turn dials. A relatively functional design, I like it save a few caveats. In addition to giving the camera a retro feel, the dials on the G12 are, for the most part, practical and much faster to use than even direct-access buttons, which always require at least some navigation. Though a few ounces lighter than the G11, the G12 remains the heaviest camera in its class. Not the largest, though; that nod goes to the P7000.
On the top of the camera are an exposure compensation dial and an ISO sensitivity dial around the circumference of the mode dial. The latter offers the typical PASM and Auto options, as well as two custom settings slots and some scene program modes.
I've been complaining about the G series' controller, a four-way switch plus Set/Function button, for the past three generations. This makes it four: I love the scroll wheel, but find I tend to accidentally hit one of the Manual focus, macro, self-timer or flash switches when I'm trying to press the middle button. As for the wheel, I frequently press one of the switches while I'm scrolling as well. It's especially difficult to control in cold weather with numb fingers (why am I always testing this camera in winter?). Buttons above and below it control metering, focus area, display options and bring up the menu system. You can also assign a function to the programmable Shortcut button on the upper right, though it limits your choices to options without existing direct controls. Finally, there's a dial on the front below the shutter button. I don't really like the location because in a camera of this size it doesn't fall naturally under any of your fingers; the rear dial on the P7000 feels more natural for this type of configuration.
I'm a big fan of digital levels in cameras, and the G12's implementation is one of the more usable ones. When you hit the level area, the white indicator turns green and expands a bit, making it easy to see so you don't overshoot. Aside from that, the feature set is pretty typical for this type of camera. (For a complete rundown of the G12's features and operation, you can download a PDF version of the manual.)
The Canon PowerShot G12 remains a generally excellent camera that ends up lagging the LX5 overall mostly because of its relatively unchanged--and more sluggish--shot-to-shot performance. It delivers better JPEG photos than that model, but it's also less compact. Trade-offs abound.

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