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Photojournalism tips: talking to Vancouver Metro’s Phylicia Torrevillas

Top tips for those looking to break into the world of photojournalism

Vancouver Whitecaps star Eric Hassli takes on three LA Galaxy defenders at a MLS game at Empire Stadium in Vancouver. Photo By Les Bazso (PNG)

Telling complex stories in just one image requires a special sort of skill. So while  honing your skill set, why not turn to those who have experience in the field.

Scanning the web, you can find various useful tips from seasoned veterans including these top 14 from Brenda Veldtman a photojournalist who has spent many years working for an NGO in Africa.

CNN has even recently posted tips for photojournalists on how to take good photos with various new tech devices including cell phones and tablets.

But instead of just re-posting various links, I  talked a Vancouver-based photojournalist to offer up her advice for all you aspiring PJs out there.

Tips for budding photojournalists from a brand new pro

Only a year ago, Vancouver Metro reporter Phylicia Torrevillas was a journalism student at Langara College. But now her photos can be seen throughout the pages of a daily newspaper by more than 190,000 readers a day.

Torrevillas says the photojournalism experience she has gained since starting at the Metro in March 2011 has taught her how to make photos look as interesting as possible while telling the story. But she adds it can be hard sometimes when you are covering routine events like announcements to capture an interesting photo that still tells the story.

Vancouver Metro reporter Phylicia Torrevillas captures a story about a new China cargo airline with a creative photo. Photo By Phylicia Torrevillas / For Metro

The above photo, she says, is an example of ways you can get creative with your subjects within a less-than-thrilling story. She recommends:

  • Look for different angles: high, low, oblique
  • Look for props that represent the story to include in the photo
  • Use your aperture setting (Av) to blur subjects in the background
  • Get close to your subjects to increase the impact of your photo

Another tip she says is paramount for budding PJs, is to do some research before tackling a story.

Torrevillas says before she sets out to an assignment it’s a good idea to go to Google Images to get an inspiration or ideas to see what other photojournalists have done on the same subject.

Vancouver Metro reporter says Google Images can provide a photojournalist with inspiration and ideas for new ways to shoot on certain stories.

For example, Torrevillas says when she was assigned to cover a volleyball game she used Google Images to look at the angles, the distance and what kind of actions other PJs shot.

For an overall guide, Torrevillas says eager new PJ’s can always fall back on the ABC’s:

  • ACTION –  anticipate the peak action that sums up the story in one decisive moment
  • BACKGROUND – avoid or blur out distracting backgrounds/ make sure everything in the frame tells the story
  • CLOSE – moving close to subjects increases a photos impact on readers and most editors will tell you to get up-close shots

Torrevillas demonstrates the powerful effect a photo has when the photojournalist gets really close to their subjects. Photo By Phylicia Torrevillas (For Metro)