Taking good pictures might seem like an easy assignment as all someone has to do is press a button and boom a picture is taken. However, it isn’t as simple as it looks.
For me personally, I understand a little bit about photography because I took a photography class last semester while I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree.
So listening to Mary Knox Merrill speak about photography was not only enlightening, but somewhat of a refresher for me. The way she was describing her techniques in taking a picture, or using words such as “depth of field” or “iso sensitivity” wasn’t foreign to me.
The veteran photographer and current director of multimedia at Northeastern University has an impressive resume. Her work has appeared in many publications around the world including Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe.
What stood out the most from her lecture was her passion for photography. In other words, she’ll do anything, even if it means work 18 hours a day, to get the right photo for a project.
Her grasp on the subject matter was strong too. The experience she has speaks volumes and she shared some of her knowledge too.
She stressed the importance of taking many photos all from different angles. Doing that gives the viewer a different perspective of what is going on in a photo. For example, she said if you take a portrait photo of someone’s face, you don’t know what is really going on in the photo other than him or her smiling. It really doesn’t have a story.
Merrill stressed the importance of getting the background or environment in the photo. If you back up, stand on something and have the subject fold their arms and look into the camera, than the picture that’s taken will have more of a story to it. Like in class, she used our instructor as her example. Someone seeing a picture of him in the above mentioned pose will probably figure out that he’s a teacher, because of all the students in the background.
Little things like that can change the whole dynamics of a picture.
Merrill also stressed the importance of not being shy. She said if you’re shy, then you’re in the wrong business. Talking and engaging in people is part of the job and best way to get quality photographs.
When she was working as a photojournalist for the Christian Science Monitor in Congo and Rwanda, she said how you carry yourself is important when reporting a story. Merrill is a very sociable person, so she had no trouble engaging with locals in both countries. In fact, if she didn’t do it, she wouldn’t be doing her job.
All in all, the passion she has for photography is what has made her successful. If she didn’t have passion for it, she probably wouldn’t have told us why it’s important to take good pictures. In fact, she probably wouldn’t be working either.
What I do know is that I’ll keep her advice in the back of my head when I take pictures.