Stephan Geyer - Round 4. Documentary

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Your Judge For The fourth Round Of The 53mm 12x53 Photo Of The Month Competition is 53mm favourite, Fuji Global Ambassador and Documentary Photographer, Stephan Geyer. His Advice that follows About Taking Successful Documentary Photographs is inspired and such wise and wealthy counsel that anyone wanting to excel in this genre Should absorb. It is sound enlightenment to be effective in this round of the Competition too. Stephan's portfolio is also inspiration enough to gauge what a good documentary photograph looks like so visiting his website and Instagram feed would be a great starting point. This Is Another Real Treat To Read And Lets You Into How A Fujifilm X-Photographer Decides On What, On How And Why To Shoot A documentary photo.

Try and take on board as much of the expert counsel as you can, because as far as this is guidance it might well be what Stephan will be looking for in his winning shot too.

Hola, 53mmers! 
I’ve been monitoring closely the first three rounds of the competition and whilst I am extremely humbled to be amongst this select group of judges, above everything else, I am thrilled to be amongst such great photographic talent in your submissions! This month, I will be going through all your Documentary photography submissions and I cannot wait to see what you have in store for us. 
This particular style of photography is one that has been very close to my heart for as long as I have memory! Having lived in 4 continents and quite a few countries in my life, I grew up “documenting” my surroundings in order to understand cultures and places and it’s something that has become necessary to me and something that I love bringing into my photography. 
To me, Documentary photography is one of those genres where ‘feeling’ takes over. This makes taking documentary style photos so incredibly rewarding as a means of collecting moments, but also challenging because you need to absorb enough information into the frame to tell the story of that moment. Truly a case of “a picture is worth a thousand words.” 
With this in mind, I’d like to give you some thoughts on what, to me, makes a great Documentary photo: 
  • Be a part of the scene… - The best way to document a fleeting moment is to truly be immersed in it. Don’t be afraid to get close to the subject or scene. Your Fuji cameras help you quite a lot in this regard already - use it to your advantage. 

  • …but don’t become it yourself! - Remember that the main objective of your shot is to freeze a moment as an observer; to tell a story, not to become it. Walk this fine line between the lights and shadows. It takes practice, but it’s an exhilarating process. 

  • Be an Explorer, not a tourist - Some of the most unique moments are to be found away from the limelight and the constraints of expectation. Have you ever been to a touristic destination, reached a landmark and taken a photo of it? Try to turn around and document exactly ~that~ as it’s happening behind you in the thousands. 

  • A picture is worth a thousand words – Choose your words carefully! – Composition begins in your head, think about what it is you’re trying to capture and try to avoid “snapshots” 

  • Compose your shots in a way that the viewer can see beyond the frame - Use composition to help you convey the frame as a frozen moment of a much larger reality. Use visual cues such as motion blur, empty spaces, harsh contrasts to help you with the story telling. 

  • Go out of your comfort zone - Even if you are used to taking Documentary style photos, push yourself further, get closer to a subject that you’ve ever been, for example. 

Having seen your previous submissions, I think this community is beyond ready to tackle this challenge. Happy shooting and see you on the other side!