Assignment 3: Interaction (due Feb. 21)

Capturing storytelling moments is at the very heart of photojournalism. Moments are what allow photographs to tell stories and connect with audiences. Timing and anticipation are perhaps the most important skills for a photojournalist to develop. This is your chance to start practicing!

The best way to develop these skills is to start noticing the kinds of brief, fleeting visual and cultural cues people display when interacting with their environments and with each other, understanding what they mean, then trying to capture those moments with your camera. You must become a student of observation even before you lift the camera to your eye.

Due on the website no later than 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21!

The Assignment:

Photograph one subject in three different scenarios that show the way people interact. Your subject can be a person, or an event, or some type of activity you think would be interesting to other people.

Turn in THREE pictures showing:

  1. One subject interacting with his or her environment
  2. Two people interacting with one another
  3. Three or more people interacting with one another 
  • Concentrate on capturing visual cues: facial expressions, gestures, body language, and actions.
  • All photos MUST be candid. No interference or coaching!
  • Each photo must be accompanied by a full AP Style captionReview the post or download the handout on AP Captions so you understand the information you need to gather from your subjects as well as the proper form for presentation.
  • Practice using the Shooter’s Mantra:
  1. Create a focal point
  2. Control your background
  3. Fill the frame
  4. Wait for the moment!
  • Your grade will take into account 1) technical quality (focus, exposure, etc.), 2) visual cues/storytelling moments, 3) execution of the Shooter’s Mantra, and 4) AP Style captions.
  • Again, your three selections are due on the website no later than 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Interaction Assignment TIPS 


Using the Shooter’s Mantra requires that you move around and explore your subjects from different angles and perspectives. Photography is not a static activity! You need to move around until you create a focal point in your frame. And you might have to move more to control your background and fill the frame. At a certain point, you might find the best place to be. THEN it’s okay to park yourself there and wait for the moment.

Be a witness, but put your subjects at ease

Be as unobtrusive as possible, but you shouldn’t try to ambush your subjects like a paparazzo. You’re not a spy or a voyeur. You’re a witness. Your goal is to capture REAL, honest interaction. Telephoto lenses help with this, but it’s not an option if you don’t have one. It might not even be the best perspective. When you approach subjects, try to exude an aura of trust. Your own body language and manner can make a difference.

You will have to interact with your subjects in order to get enough information for your captions. It is often best to begin shooting and gather information later. If they notice you and are distracted, try to keep shooting until they begin to ignore you and go back to their activities. It’s okay to explain what you are doing to your subjects and the people they interact with. Once you explain, simply ask them to ignore you as best they can. You can usually tell when subjects are playing to the camera. Don’t use these shots, however! Keep shooting until you feel like you are capturing honest moments.

You should be making arrangements to photograph subjects ahead of time so you can be where your subjects are when they are doing something of interest. Just make sure they are not doing something solely for the benefit of you and your camera.

Patience and persistence 

These are the most important attributes to have, if you want to capture storytelling moments. It takes time to put your subjects at ease. It takes time to understand what’s going on in front of you. It takes time to figure out what story you’re trying to tell with your photographs. It takes time to put yourself in the right position to tell that story.

Often, it helps to shoot a lot of pictures, even if you don’t intend to use them. This is how you visually explore your subjects. This is how you practice the Shooter’s mantra. Even if you think you’ve got a good shot, keep shooting! You might get something better. The best way to learn is to actually shoot pictures – a LOT of them!

Also, the assignment requires exactly three specific scenarios, but I encourage you to shoot more than three. For example, you might photograph someone teaching a class or making a speech, but over the course of the next two weeks, you might run across a better scenario which better illustrates a person interacting with his or her environment. Don’t settle for the minimum! Always see if you can shoot better pictures than the last ones you shot. The more you shoot, the better you’ll get.

Gather enough information for your captions

The assignment is to help you develop a sense of timing, but you still must be able to explain the nature of the interactions you capture. What are people doing? What are they talking about? Why might the audience care and how can you help them connect to and understand your subjects?

For example, student life is a common topic on a college campus. Your pictures may reflect some aspect of this, but you need to explain WHAT aspect. Are your subjects studying? Are they planning a night out?

You may have captured a great moment, but you need to explain – briefly – what the story is behind that moment in your caption. Make sure you talk to your subjects enough so you can explain the context of the moments you capture.

Shoot more than one subject

You have two weeks to shoot this assignment, but don’t wait until the last minute. You probably won’t be very successful. Remember that you have a 5-day limit to check out university camera kits. Think about checking one out twice in this span and shooting more than one subject. You only need to turn in three pictures from one subject, but the more you shoot, the better chance of producing something more substantial and the more you’ll learn. Also, you never know when you might run across something interesting, so carry your cameras with you wherever you go.

Contact me if you have any questions, and don’t wait to start just because you have two weeks to get it done!


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