Sunday, June 5, 2016

Memorial Day Observations On Photo Selection

Photo #1
The Memorial Day Drill is in its fifth iteration, and I can say that while the theme stays the same, the approach changes from year to year. I submitted two images this year, and the Editor In Chief chose Photo #1.

Photo #2
I'm always trying to second guess my editors, trying to figure out exactly what type of photo each of them prefers. Final selection can be a combination of factors. But it I were to bet money on which of my photos was most likely to be accepted, I consider the following factors:

Number of Subjects: Up to a point, the more identifiable subjects in a photo, the more likely it is to be published. There are exceptions for any group larger than my personal ceiling of seven subjects, a number based on the ease in posing and the final size, in inches, of the published photo. I'll often tell publicists that I want the "Bride, Groom, Maid of Honor, and the Best Man", a subtle way of asking only for the top tier participants. There are exceptions when committee members for important charity events are concerned. In this case, I prefer to let the publicist decide who should be included. Photo #1 has three, Photo #2 has only one, really.

Age of Subjects: Kids have a universal appeal, but need to be handled carefully. It is imperative that my subject's parent/s or guardian/s know who I am and why I'm taking the photograph. Part of my introduction I can recite in my sleep: "I would like to submit for possible publication a photo I took of your child". Parents need to be reminded that my make the photo doesn't insure publication, and I sometimes add, "My editor will make the final selection", which gets me off the hook. The ages of the subjects in both photos is about the same.

Home Towns: Subjects from within the paper's service area are a better reflection of the community's participation, an important reason for community photos to exist. The subjects from Photo #1 are from Los Altos, Photo #2 from Montara, which is geographically closer to San Mateo.

Pertinent Details: If I were to list possible key words  I would like associated with the photos, I might choose:
  • Scouts
  • Flags
  • Golden Gate National Cemetery
Photo #1 has all three, whereas Photo #2 has only 2.

Privacy Concerns: I don't know if it was a factor, but the name on the memorial stone is very readable in Photo #2, which may be one reason why it wasn't published.

Secular Content:  I was reminded of the possibility of "downstream" controversy when I submitted a photo of a Nativity Scene that was the centerpiece of Bethlehem 2014. Two photos were submitted (Photo #3), and the Editor chose the one showing  two young girls portraying apprentice metal smiths. In the case of Photo #2, the Cross may have been a factor, as I suspect a Star of David might also have been, although in a cemetery, the distinction may not be an issue.

Photo #3

If I were asked to comment on what makes a good publication photo, I believe that these fundamentals would serve a beginning photographer well. Please remember that these observations are based on community photography, where the content of the photo is usually not of a "Stop The Presses" urgency..

Incidentally, my personal favorite was Photo #2.