Images are always new, unusual, interesting, significant about people. It is obvious that new, unusual, interesting, and significant things about people can be communicated by words too. Not all stories will be ideal for pictures. Some will be told more easily in words as compared to picture documents, while other stories may be told with one picture more easily and more clearly than in articulating many words.
There is an old saying in English that “one picture is worth a thousand words”. That can be true, but only if it is the kind of story which is suitable to be told by a picture, and only if it is a good picture. We shall look in a moment at what makes a good news picture. Pictures can sometimes tell the news just by themselves, with a caption to say who the people are and where the event is taking place. At other times, the picture may go with a story, to work as a team with the words.
In either case, a news picture must always leave the reader knowing more than he did before. It must carry information.
Only a very gifted writer can use words in a way that lets the reader visualize exactly what a scene is like. A picture can let the reader see what a person, or a place, or a building, or an event looks like. In societies that do not have television, newspaper photographs are probably the only way that most people can know what these things look like. They may be the only way that people outside the capital city will know what their own leaders look like. Even in societies with television, some areas of the country and some levels of society may have no access to it, and many of the programs may be imported from overseas. The newspapers still have an important job to let readers know what their own news looks like.
To the photographer, a picture assignment may seem dull. It may just seem like yet another cheque presentation, or yet another graduation day, or yet another retirement. To the people involved in the story, though, each of these is a big event – the culmination of months of fund-raising, the fruit of years of study, or the end of a lifetime’s service. It is the news photographer’s job to feel the same excitement that the people involved in the story feel, and to convey that through the picture to the readers.