Have You Considered Trying Reportage Photography?
Reportage photography is a genre that you probably see every day as you read the news, flip through magazines, and surf the Internet.
It shows an event in a storytelling style that gives the viewers information about what is happening in a scene. It usually involves people in candid situations who haven't had interaction with the photographer, although they are often swarms of cameras. There is no posing, staging or direction given, and many photographers often capture the same scene from similar angles.
Much like photojournalism, reportage photography covers events of all kinds, including important occasions like weddings and rituals, festivals, fundraisers, protests and sports. It is fast-paced, unpredictable and can take you to all kinds of places. If possible, you need to research before shooting and keep tabs on updates regarding timings and the latest news unfolding all around you. It can be stressful as you need to think quickly and anticipate things before they happen to get the best shots. You might not have the ability to control the lighting, backgrounds, or viewpoint, so having strong technical skills is a plus. If it is starting to sound like a challenging genre of photography, it certainly is.
Depending on where your photos are published, you might need to show one image, such as a newspaper would require, or a series of images like a magazine or blog might prefer. So knowing where you will pitch and sell the images is essential.
What is the difference between reportage and documentary photography?
At first, reportage and documentary photography might seem like the same thing. But there is one clear difference. Reportage photography covers one event. While that event might cover several days, weeks or months, such as a big political protest or election, it is still considered one event. On the other hand, documentary photography tells a story covering a topic or issue.
How about editorial photography?
Another kind of photography that is easily confused with reportage photography is editorial photography. Editorial photography often goes with a written story or at least a caption. It can include reportage photography and photojournalism, portraiture and documentary photography. So reportage photography comes under the umbrella of editorial photography.
How to shoot reportage photography
Reportage photography requires patience, passion and skills, including technical, research, people and more. If you have all that, you can dive right in. Your camera bag should include standard and zoom lenses and a tripod. Dress conservatively in tidy clothing in neutral colors, so you are not drawing attention to yourself.
If you have a limited area to move around in, find your place and get comfortable. Reportage photography often means crowds, so having a good shooting vantage point by being early can be key. If you can move around and many things unfold around you, keep on your toes and move around quietly and respectfully.
Look for emotion, unusual scenes unfolding, storylines and if possible, talk to locals on the ground to stay up-to-date on happenings. Arrive early and stay late because those are often when the best images are captured.
You don't need a model release or permission from the subject to shoot reportage photography as long as you are in a public place or have permission to be there (with a press pass, for example).
Reportage photography can also apply to weddings and events such as conferences, workshops and openings. In these cases, the sense of urgency isn't so strong as a protest or parade, and you won't be competing with other photographers for the best image unless you count uncle Fred who might jump into the aisle as the couple kiss. You will know in advance what will happen and will have the freedom to move around most of the day.
Why is reportage photography a great skill to have?
You never know when you might stumble upon a newsworthy situation and reportage photography skills will come in useful. It can be quite lucrative to sell photos to publications in these cases, especially if you are the only photographer on the scene. For example, you might be at a bank during a heist or at the beach during a shark attack. Or a client might ask you to shoot in that style, so guests are not intruded upon. The more skills you have as a photographer, the better your portfolio will look and the more work that comes your way.
When can you practice reportage photography?
The wonderful thing about reportage photography is you can practice it almost any time. From small community events to family celebrations and major happenings going on all over the world, you are probably never far from the action. There are stories to be told through your lens with reportage photography all around you.
Where can you sell reportage photography?
Here are some places you can sell images you take in the reportage style:
- Websites and blogs
- Stock libraries
- News agencies
- Groups and organizations involved
- Through your website
- Through your online store that sells prints
If you know of an event coming up, you could offer your photography services in advance to organizers or groups and/or individuals involved. You may be paid in advance or be able to sell photos after the event, depending on what you capture.
Reportage photography is an exciting and creative genre to get into. It can be blended with other kinds of photography and you can practice it in many situations. Suppose you are looking for a new area of photography to dabble in or perhaps want a side hustle or extra stream of income. In that case, reportage photography can offer excellent financial rewards.