Book Review “How To Shoot A Reportage” by Enzo Dal Verme

Milan/Paris-based photographer and writer Enzo Dal Verme has written a new photography manual titled,
“How To Shoot A Reportage” – Brutally practical tips and tricks”.

Reportage has various meanings but relates to a journalistic reporting of events or telling a story in pictures and words.

In “How to Shoot a Reportage”, Enzo reveals some of his shooting tricks for an inside look at the world of reportages and travel photojournalism.

Enzo takes you through starting with an idea and how to develop the inspiration for photographing and writing.

He includes researching and preparing for the trip, getting all the appropriate permits, what to take and then onto the more technical aspects of the photography.

The photography aspect covers what to shoot and what not to shoot, getting the releases and publishing.

The author covers what to do from arriving at the site, workflow to maximize productivity, and meeting and socialising with the locals and how to interview people.

Sections on camera controls are relevant for all photography but with a twist to emphasise the photojournalism and how to allow for print requirements.

He also covers post production, what you need to do to get it into shape and how to present it to magazines for potential sales or present it on the Internet.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in producing a reportage.

Is now available 
as an e-book and soon in print at
http://www.enzodalverme.com/blog/2010/12/how-to-shoot-a-reportage-the-manual/

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A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

The Internet is a wonderful thing. The amount of information available on almost anything is often too much to analyse. Part of the reason for this is anyone can contribute.

Average people can now contribute to encyclopaedias without any qualifications or possibly real experience in the subject. This can be good in contributing to the overall wealth of knowledge but it can also lead to some strange versions of truth.

Forums are an example of the random nature of opinion. Mr Average can join a forum on brain surgery and offer an opinion on a method to do a procedure using tweezers. It gets commented, tagged and linked to a few times and suddenly it’s the new truth.

I frequent quite a few forums on photography and even on the ones for professionals many of the comments are advocating methods that I have never seen any professional use.

Common questions are on preferred camera brands or is x better than y. These sort of posts lead to a string of responses and often heated discussion.

At the end of the day, your choice of equipment is a mixture of personal preference and commercial reality. Professionals use products that meet the needs of the client and provide the best return on investment.

Reliability and support are key ingredients here. Canon and Nikon have Professional Services groups that provide rapid turnaround on repairs and other services.

Most professionals have been around since film days and regard a full frame camera as entry level for most work and for studio work need a medium format camera.

For sport (or even to catch a fast moving eyelid) a high frame rate may be preferred. This may require a slightly smaller sensor, however the quality of these high end cameras means minimal loss of image quality.

In conclusion, professionals as well as non professionals choose their equipment for a variety of reasons. So a forum question on “what is the best portrait lens” will get responses varying from 85 mm 1.2 at over $2000 down to the guy that shoots portraits with a Rebel and 18-55 kit lens. Best is what’s best for you.

(Bob conducts Studio Workshops in Sydney. Details at AspirationImages.com/workshops or click the Workshops link in the menu)

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Your Digital Legacy – Part 5. Storage and Backup.

For storage I have based mine on popular American commercial photographer Chase Jarvis’s solution. See
http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2010/06/workflow-and-backup-for-photo-video/

Chase uses Apple Xserve servers connected to a bank of Fibre Channel Hard Drives and TimeMachine to automatically backup, along with an off site storage system.

This is serious money and you may not need all of this stuff from the start, but it’s good to know it can all be done.

I use a Mac OS Mini Server and a 2 Terabyte Firewire drive, with a 2 TB USB connected backup. Unlike USB, you can daisy chain up 64 drives with Firewire. I also have a docking station where I can plug in a drive and make a copy that I can take off site once a month.

A warning on backup. Some people advocate RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives) as a backup solution. RAID is a redundancy solution. Redundancy means there is a spare drive that will keep the computer going without interruption if the main drive fails. It gives you time to replace the faulty drive without your machine stopping. However RAID provides absolutely zero backup.

Backup means a separate storage device that you can go back to if your main storage loses something. It is a snapshot taken in time of your data. If you have a backup taken yesterday and you delete a file accidentally today, then you can go back to the backup copy, find the file and restore it.

If you accidentally delete a file on a raid system, or it gets a power surge, or the software controlling the raid fails, the file is probably gone forever.

A backup should therefore ideally not be a live system, not powered up and not at the same site.

MORAL 5. Check and review your backup situation.

I hope you have found this series on Your Digital Legacy useful.

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Your Digital Legacy – Part 4. Computers – Get a Mac

Your image is just a data file, or a collection of zeroes and ones called BITS (BInary digiTS) of information stored in a computer memory. For a modern digital SLR camera shooting a 20Megapixel (20M) image there can be 240 million bits in a single image. Bits are arranged into 8 bit words called Bytes (B). Each image is therefore 30 Megabytes (30MB) in size.

Take 800 images (easily) a day at a wedding and you can see that your image storage requirements are going to grow rapidly.

In the film world if a silverfish or mouse nibbled at the corner of a photo it may still be readable, but in the digital file any corruptions and the whole image is possibly unreadable. You need to have reliable computer equipment and reliable storage of your files.

I use Apple Mac equipment. Others argue that PCs are just as good or better but they are mistaken. Having used PCs and Apple side by side for over twenty years I believe I can speak with experience. Most professional photographers I have seen are using Macs, so that tends to support the argument.

The Apple OSX operating system supports Raw files natively. You can open a Raw image file directly in operating system. Windows requires additional software to supply the necessary decoders and that can result in inconsistent quality. Hasselblad do not offer the same support for other cameras on its Phocus 2.5 software for the Windows platform as it does for Mac OS for this reason.

The Apple Mac is based on the Unix operating system, probably the most reliable system commercially available. It comes with built in automatic backup in the form of TimeMachine and it has FireWire 800Mb/S data transfer to peripherals.

It is also easy to connect with servers and the server licences do not have client fees. Operating systems and upgrades are comparatively cheap. The last upgrade from OS 10.5 to OS 10.6 cost $39 retail in a box, and you get the full version, not “Home” versions. Compare that to Windows 7 for around $400.

Cool stuff is the integration with wireless networking through Apple Air Port Wifi and other products. The display options for not just photos but movies and music through iPhone, iPad and Apple TV are all excellent.

MORAL 4. Get a Mac. It just works.

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Your Digital Legacy – Part 3. File Numbering

When I bought my first Canon digital camera in 2005 it was very disappointing. I used it a few times and went back to film. The camera gradually passed from person to person and became the tool for eBay snaps only. However some happy snaps of the family are still in the collection.

The images have a file numbering that consist of “IMG” + 4 digits for the image number. So the first image was IMG0001.

In 2007 I bought a Canon 350D and put the film camera aside. The first image I took with it was IMG0001.

I stored my images on the Mac and catalogued them. I was careful to put images in different folders by year and groups of image numbers. However without even being aware at the time I was creating a huge problem.

By 2009 I had clocked up 10000 images and the little counter went over from IMG9999 and the next image or so was IMG0001.

I took about another 700 images with the 350D before buying the 5DMk2 in 2009. The first image was IMG0001. (Actually _MG0001 if shooting in AdobeRGB)

Even though all of these duplicate number images were in different folders, when you start to edit them and import them into catalogue programs, the software only knows them by the file name, IMG0001. When I opened a thumbnail image and got a completely different image I knew I had a problem.

I then spent the next two weeks renumbering every image in my collection. All Raw, all JPG, all TIFF all PSD.

The solution is that you must make every image file uniquely numbered as soon as it is imported and before editing. There are a lot of programmes that can do batch changes to file names. I just used the Canon Digital Photo Professional programme that comes with the camera. You select the folder, “Select All” the images and hit the “Rename Tool”.

You can then specify how you want the image number changed. I went for the shooting date/time plus the existing image number. So IMG0001 shot on 10 November 2007 became 2007-11-10_IMG0001. If you are paranoid or know that you will using multiple cameras on the same day you can add the Hours, Minutes and Seconds or a text string like “5DM2”.

Because the images are now in reverse chronological order it’s very easy to sort them.

I also took the opportunity to rearrange the hierarchy of folders.

MORAL 3. Ensure an enduring unique file name for each image.

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Your Digital Legacy – Part 2. Catalogues

At the mere mention of an embarrassing moment a mother can disappear into a room and emerge within two minutes with a fifty-year-old photo of Johnny in the bath aged 3. Aunt Mary has even written on the back in pencil the day it was taken and where.

Compare that to finding the final edit of an image for a client that you took only two years ago on a hard drive of 40,000 images. The difference either way may be the structure of how you organise things.

In the film world, photography was expensive and cameras were difficult to use. Generally fewer photos were taken but yet there is a certain order in knowing that photos of Johnny at school are in the brown album on the top shelf.

In the digital world cameras are relatively cheap and taking photos is virtually free and easy, so it is easy for a keen photographer to shoot off thousands of photos in a year. However what you do to produce the same quality of images is certainly not free or easy and probably costs more than it did in the film days.

If you shoot say 10,000 images a year and produce different formats like Raw, JPG, TIFF and PSD files then how in ten years time are you going to manage your images?

You need to be able to search for images by date, the event that they were taken at, the type of image (landscape, nature, portrait etc), people (family, customers etc), keywords (urban, studio etc) and a rating so you can find the good ones.

Catalogue programmes such as Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture can be an efficient way to manage your images.

MORAL 2. Get an efficient catalogue system in place right from the start.

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Your Digital Legacy – Part 1. Paper Lasts

When King John signed the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215, copies were made and distributed throughout the land so that all could be made aware of the new legal order. Nearly 800 years later four of those original paper copies are still in existence.

Most families have photo albums of past generations around the place and it’s not uncommon to have photos dating back maybe a hundred years. Photos exist right back to the first Daguerreotype photographs taken in the 1830s.

In a digital world you need to store your images. This is probably the biggest single unsolved issue in digital photography. Unlike film though, a lot of people never actually print any of their images and keep them on computers or storage drives that only they know about.

One day when you are gone and someone is sorting through your things and they hold up that hard drive of your life’s work in photography, will they know what it is or the password to access it or will they be even able to plug it in to any computer that exists at the time.

Everyone knows what a photo album looks like and even if they didn’t, they could work it out in 10 seconds. Other than being lost through fire or a bitter relationship, an album could last forever. Your digital photography legacy however could become landfill.

MORAL 1. Print or make photo books of some of your best work.

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