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September contest theme: Jobs

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  August 31, 2009 05:01 PM

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Let's concentrate on shooting pictures of people rather than nature or inanimate objects this month by calling for photos of human beings at work: People with outside jobs like landscapers, utility workers, police officers, professional fishermen, firefighters, construction workers, bike messengers, window washers, doormen, taxi drivers, pet walkers; and people with inside jobs like, well, just about anything.

It's also appropriate, given that Labor Day falls in this month.

The photos must be of people who are working at a job, not engaged in a hobby like gardening or fly-casting. And no professional sports shots; we've done sports recently. But a Fenway usher or popcorn seller qualifies.

One criteria is that the worker must be actually laboring, doing their job -- we want action shots. Let's be creative with the angles, people -- no mug shot photos of a roofer standing still, smiling into the camera.

One reason I chose this theme is because one of the most difficult things for an amateur photographer to do is to shoot strangers. Turning your camera on a stranger in a public place and snapping away can feel uncomfortable or awkward, particularly if they notice you and look quizzical or annoyed.

Every photographer handles it differently; some are discreet, and some ask permission first, especially (or always) when there is a child involved. Photojournalists who are quite experienced at this always approach the subjects afterward to record their name and town for publication in the paper.

If someone is in a public place, you can take their photo without asking their permission. (You always must ask permission at a private locale.) But other circumstances can present themselves. One RAW regular wrote to me that he had taken some photos of booths at an arts and crafts fair (held in a public place), and a few of the sellers objected. Next time, he'll ask their permission first -- not because he has to, but because after talking to them, it felt like the right thing to do.

So use your judgment. Ask first, or, if asking first will ruin the spontaneity of the shot, talk to the subject afterward. Here's a good discussion on Flickr about the topic.

Unlike the August contest, these photos can have been taken any time. This month's 4 separate Flickr tags are, contest, september2009, jobs. The deadline is midnight Sept. 30.

Here's more about our monthly contests. Questions? Write to

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