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Tips for Taking Great Newspaper Photos

Updated on May 6, 2016
Stacey Foster profile image

Stacey has been a journalist for nearly a decade, working most recently as the associate editor of the Miramichi Leader in New Brunswick.

Healthcare workers protest budget cuts outside the Legislature in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Healthcare workers protest budget cuts outside the Legislature in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Photographs sell papers. When walking by a news stand, the front page photo is the first thing a consumer sees; a good photograph will cause the reader to pause, pick up a newspaper, and read the headline. It will draw them into the story and cause them to dig deeper.

At one time, many newspapers had healthy budgets that allowed writers to write, while giving photographers a chance to capture the moment. However, over the years that dynamic has changed in many newsrooms. With fewer staff photographers on hand, reporters are often sent out, camera in hand, expected to return to the office with something worthy of the front page.

In fact, many journalists are expected to collect the entire package when covering a story, often returning to the office with a notebook of quotes, video to edit and photos to download.

Most have no formal photography training, and at times, their photos reflect this.

But with a few helpful tips, a willingness to practice and learning how to develop an eye for photography, any writer can take award-winning photographs worthy of the front page.


Taking community photos

Even a day out at the park can produce a front-page photo that catches the eye.
Even a day out at the park can produce a front-page photo that catches the eye.

Not every photograph has to scream hard news; sometimes the best photos capture everyday events. Take advantage of a slow news day and focus on the people in your town - take a drive, find a park or community barbecue and get creative, capturing a subject using interesting angles and using colour that will make a splash on the front page.

Impromptu stand alone photos also give novice photographers a chance to experiment and connect with community members. Even if your obligations don't allow you to step out of the office during a regular work day, carry a camera with you when you're off the clock - the best community photos are often unplanned events.

Focus on Focus

A Scout displays a bracelet to promote Good Turn Week, a time when the organization gives back to the community.
A Scout displays a bracelet to promote Good Turn Week, a time when the organization gives back to the community.

Sometimes, it's difficult to produce a thought-provoking photograph to help tell a story. In the example above, the setting was a gym, the lighting was poor and there were no props besides the subject and his small bracelet. By changing the focus, you take a seemingly dull photograph and bring it up a notch, making it more likely for a newspaper to play the story in a more prominent position.

What type of front page photograph do you prefer as a reader?

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Focus on timing

Volunteers use duct tape as they prepare to suspend a car in the air during a festival in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
Volunteers use duct tape as they prepare to suspend a car in the air during a festival in Miramichi, New Brunswick.
After several minutes, the duct tape fails and the car crashes to the ground.
After several minutes, the duct tape fails and the car crashes to the ground.

When covering a story or event, it can take time to get the photo you need to make an impact. That's why it's important to be patient. Even though a deadline is looming, sometimes five minutes can make or break a story. Editors are much more forgiving of you cutting it close if you come back to the newsroom with an excellent photo.


Don't be afraid to get dirty

If a photo just isn't working the way you hoped it would, sometimes changing your perspective, by getting on the ground, or by standing on a chair or by moving the subject 90 degrees, is all it takes to come up with an unusual and eye-catching perspective.

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      Suzanne Michaels 4 weeks ago

      Hi Stacey - Good information, great suggestions - and valid!

      Thank you so much :)))