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Reporter’s blog: News photography isn’t for the faint of heart

Sudbury.com’s primary photographer, Arron Pickard, is talking photos today and he even has a tip to help make your pictures better

Oooh, that’s a nice photo. You must have a really good camera.

It’s a phrase uttered often by many non-shutterbugs, but it’s one that grinds the gears of photographers around the world.

It takes a keen eye, someone with imagination to look outside the box, someone who looks at every angle, who isn’t afraid to get dirty, to get the best photo.

Sure, expensive cameras help. They come equipped with all the bells and whistles that help capture some stunning photographs, in the right hands. You can give an expensive camera to someone who has no vision and come up with the same photo as someone with a camera worth $100.

The ability to be adaptable, to think on your feet, is a highly valued skill for a news photographer.

As a news photographer, I know well what it takes to get the shot. It takes someone who is persistent, who is resourceful, who is able to handle stress and who can spot a great photo in an instant.

Being a news photographer is quite different than being a portrait photographer. We don’t have a studio set up; we don’t have situations we can control with lights. We aren’t able to pose people in breaking news photos. 

We have no idea what kind of situation we are going to encounter when we show up. House fires, car crashes and other tragedies present very significant challenges, the least of which is the fact most people don’t want us to be there taking photos.

But that’s our job. And, despite what some people think, those are the photos to which people pay the most attention.

Many photographers put their craft before their personal safety. Throughout my career, I’ve been in some rather precarious positions to get the photo. Standing amidst a small bush fire comes to mind. I vividly remember standing on a smouldering log, taking photos of firefighters while a water bomber passed overhead.

If there is one tip I can pass, it is this: if you think you’re close enough to the subject you are photographing, get closer. Fill the frame. That is great advice I received, and while it might be best for news photography, it is still something any photographer can add to their tool belt.

Oh, and get out there and take photographs. Take a drive, bike ride, whatever, get out into nature and take pictures. The more practice, the better you’ll get.

Aaron Pickard covers court, features and general news for Sudbury.com, and serves as our primary photographer and backup camera operator.