People's Newsroom

Picture Space

Every news picture must earn its space on the page. That means that it must tell the story clearly, without needing people to read the story first in order to understand what the picture is all about. In other words, every news picture must have meaning.

If the people being photographed look alive and involved in the subject of the photograph, then the photograph will have life. A photograph of a man behind a desk tells us nothing, and no newspaper should ever publish such a picture.

Some people sit behind desks because they are business people, running companies which produce soft drinks – photograph them in the factory, surrounded by bottles of soft drink. Some people sit behind desks because they are headteachers, running schools – photograph them on the school grounds, surrounded by students.

People sit behind desks for many reasons, and it is the reason which matters, not the desk. Also, it has to be a very unusual desk for the picture to have any interest for the reader. A desk with a phone and some papers on it is very boring. News pictures should always try to capture this context, the job which the person does, or the reason why they are in the news. If a school teacher is in the news because they have won a painting competition, then the relevant context would be the painting. A photograph of them teaching would not provide the correct context.

However, a photograph of the teacher painting, surrounded by the students, might be the complete news picture.

A picture of a man pointing at a broken window means nothing. If this is a man whose house has been broken into, by the thieves breaking a window and climbing in, then the story is about the way he feels, as well as the damage was done. The picture should show his anger, or distress, in his expression and gestures; behind him and to one side can be the broken window; all around him maybe the mess which the thieves left behind. In this way, the picture can have meaning to the reader.

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