In many ways San Mateo is like a small town. An event like national "Coffee With A Cop" day might not get much play in most big cities, but I can say without reservation that San Mateo takes community involvement seriously. My contacts with the police and the judiciary have all been positive, and all my subjects were extremely cooperative in setting up shots.
The Particulars: I arrived on the scene about 30 minutes after it officially started, and 90 minutes before it was due to end. As always, I tried to image a backstory for my photo that would be reinforced by the actual photograph. The obvious point was a friendly interaction between citizens and some police officers. To this theme, I wanted to add some contrast, and when I saw this friendly exchange between three female offices and a single male civilian, I know I had the makings of a suitable photo. The difference in their apparent ages helped add to the contrast.
Visual Hook: Once I found both my subjects and a suitable composition, I started shooting. This was not a posed or guided shot, but a true candid, and after a few minutes, I had 15 shots to choose from. I made the following mental notations about several shots:
- Shot #5: A balanced framing, good expressions, but the hands are look a little a little "fisty" and defensive.
- Shot #10: The pointed finger, placed against the dark color of the uniform, provide a visual hook, but it looks almost accusatory.
- Shot #14: The subject of the conversation turned to the officer at camera left, and all of the faces express a friendly exchange. Because the attention is shifted to the left, my male subject turned his head slightly toward the camera, giving me a better "face" than if he had been caught in profile. The viewer must concluded that there is friendly story with conflicting points of view, one that my male subject finds engaging, and amusing.
I didn't submit the image until I returned home in the afternoon. The photo ran the next day, front page and above the crease. I guess my the Editor In Chief liked the photo I selected, and that it reflected to community spirit that the event was designed to encourage.
It is helpful to remember that almost every photograph can be refined to clarify the message intended, and barring any Photoshop shenanigans, the only way to achieve this is to identify the message the photo should convey, find the visual elements to promote that message, and continue to shoot until you capture something that the viewer is likely to understand.