Number Comprehension: Does two really mean eight?

So a constant vexation in my first year of press photography has been the inability of others to listen to what I ask of them.

Already I sound angry and irrational but let me explain….

I spend a lot of my time doing ‘show’ pictures, showys, standalones whatever you call them they are just there to fill space and make the paper look pretty. The problem is Joe public doesn’t understand this, they think that their little story of achievement/charity is a big deal, and whilst most are wonderfully uplifting stories, the readership couldn’t give a gnats testicle about them.

And this is where the battle begins…

I arrive at one of these types of job and am met by a typically saccharine person who is so happy that you found them news worthy, they politely ask “what is the plan, what do you need” and various arrangements of other seemingly useful sentences. This is all just an act to lure me in, I suddenly feel relieved that I’m free to shoot how I want to, in the way I imagined in the car on the way over.

Me: “can I just get a couple of people/a pair/two and any relevant props you have please”

They waft away like Julie Andrews in ‘The Sound of Music’ and I’m left to await my downfall.

I hear footsteps, not just a couple, it’s a stampede. The ever so helpful being filled with false smiles and false cooperation has now returned with every single man, woman, child, animal, mineral, and vegetable they could find in the vicinity. oh yeah and no relevant props.

Did they ignore me?

Was I misheard?

Do they struggle with numbers?

I enquire as to why I have been presented with what can only be described as a scene from a frat party in a teen movie, the response is usually either..

“I thought it would be nice”

DID YOU!!!! Did you think it would be nice to ignore everything I said and decide for yourself how I should do my job, did you! Isn’t that nice!


“I didn’t want anyone to be left out”

It’s very considerate but what is worse, not being asked to go on a photo because the photographer only needs two people or being asked to come on a photo only to be cropped off because you were surplus to requirements and happened to be on the end and easy to get rid of. All that excitement of being in a photo, telling their family to buy the paper, only to suffer the embarrassment of seeing a couple of their friends having a great time…. without them….. they were on the end…… I didn’t want them.

I don’t request such small groupings of people to be mean, I do it because I’m trying to produce eye catching pictures. Now maybe there are people who can work miracles with large groups that would make you want to gaze upon them for hours. I’m not one of those people, nor have I ever met one. Photos stand out more when they are nice close up, impactful shots of one, two, maybe sometimes three people. I’m doing us both a favour, be grateful and for goodness sake do as you are told.

The First Thing I Have To Say….

I feel like I should have something profound and interesting to start with but if I waited for that flash of inspiration I’d wait forever.

So my start point is the emergency services. It’s a pretty sketchy situation when you get called to an accident of some kind but it is part of the job. I have previously come under fire from the readership for getting an image of a coffin being removed from a house, and I feel that I need to set a few things straight…

1. When you get called out to a potential murder on CHRISTMAS DAY!! with a brief to “get everything” that is what you do, there was no way I was going back to the office with images that weren’t what they wanted and have to go back for more. My name is mud most days because I’ve done something dumb, so I do my best to prevent it.

2. I fully considered what I was shooting and that it could well be a step too far, however just because I shoot it doesn’t mean it will get printed, It’s up to the editors to decide what content to include, so if I have crossed a moral line then they can leave it on the database to get lost in time and never see the light of day.

3. I shot the box going in empty as well as on the way out, and they look the same, so if the photo is in fact the box going in are you less offended even though the photo is the same?

If an area is cordoned off then it makes perfectly clear the limitations you are faced with when trying to get the photos to tell the stories but if there is no physical line to dictate to you where you can shoot from then how do you decide?

So far I’ve always played safe and stayed across the street but is that too safe should I be pushing my luck? Nobody wants a telling off from the police do they, but is it compromising photos, would other more confident shooters get closer and get away with it? I have no idea, I haven’t figured it out yet.

On Tuesday I attended a fire. It was on a very narrow road and fenced off, I climbed on to the back of a flatbed truck to try and get a better view but this is what I was up against…..


off in the distance on the other side of the fence were two fire fighters tackling the fire (you can see the stream of water from one of the hoses), it was now mostly out but we still needed a photo. what do I do?


As the fire was no longer a danger and mostly out I went to speak to those fire fighters in the foreground of the image and asked if they would let me take a photo from the entrance at the fence. they obliged and then said if that was no good they could supervise me and I could go in closer, I took the offer. so what could have been a disaster was saved by me having the confidence to go and ask. I dont think its appropriate to do this with the other services as there are usually people and feelings involved, but if there isn’t then I may give it a go.

Here is the image that went with the story..

Fire in Meadow Street Chesterton

And here endeth the first post of a probably uneventful blog.