(NYTimes: Stop Them Before They Shoot Again )
A few weeks ago, Chronicle photographer Katy Raddatz showed slides and spoke to our San Francisco City College news writing class. In contrast to word-driven stories of today, Life magazine's photo-driven stories inspired her, and Raddatz soon entered the darkroom to work on her Junior High school paper. She feels no threat from freelance photographers. Some Raddatz photog tips:
- weather needs a context - try not to catch a rainbow by itself, squeeze a city landmark in the frame. On hot days there'll be plenty of SF beachgoer pics. She heads away from the sand into the Mission district, and captures shirtless bluejean-clad kids running through the stream of a neighbor's hose.
- walk AROUND the problem to get the best angle. A few years back, a car crashed into a breakfast diner near the Sunset. Nobody was hurt. Raddatz got one shot of the crunched sedan. Then she noticed two older ladies sitting firmly in their booth - sitting, smoking and gabbing, just like the deep lines in their faces suggest they've probably done from that very booth for years. Raddatz got a second, more telling, shot of the scene with these two indifferent diner customers in the foreground, car damage and yellow police tape behind them.
- show not just what something looks like, show what it feeeellls like - she showed a slide of a passenger Ferry in full motion, tipped to the side with a white wake tail, making a sharp turn under the Golden Gate. The passengers' hair and clothes flapped behind them.
- look at the audience! - at street fairs or rock concerts, the stage can be predicable and, well, too rehearsed. The audience conveys authentic, candid reaction. One shot of an outdoor rocket fair had everybody looking up in the sky. The first day of kindergarten had predicable mugs of the teacher and kids, but anxious parents watching from the window was a rare, unique angle of this annual story.
- a picture is useless without a name, useless without a caption - On her first Examiner assignment in the 1970s, Raddatz learned this the hard way. Knowing nothing about sports, she covered an A's game and caught a red-faced first base coach roaring over referree's bad call. She eagerly brought it back to her editor who said, nice - did you get his name? They didn't print it. She urged us to label all names of relatives and friends even on family and personal photos, because "trust me, when you get old you forget."