Monday, August 06, 2007


Val Rodriguez was Cory Aquino's presidential photographer, as well as Fidel Ramos'; nowadays, he is the Philippine Star's chief photojournalist.

Last Saturday at FotoFest, he shared with the hundreds of delegates his colorful and challenging experiences.

And for those attendees aspiring to pursue a career in photojournalism, Val outlined what he believes to be the essential attributes that make a fine photojournalist.

Foremost, Val believes "a photojournalist has that special eye that powers his tool -- the camera -- seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. As such, photojournalists have the responsibility not just to provide accurate account of news stories but also to grab a reader's attention through dramatic and informative photographs."

The rest is as follows:

* Sheer determination

Photojournalists are not usually received with a welcome mat, especially by those involved in controversial stories. These main characters may not want anyone from the media around or anywhere near them. This is one of those times in which a certain amount of aggressiveness becomes an absolute necessity. Val suggests that "you must say to yourself: it's my job; it's my duty; it's my right and it is important." He strongly recommends for all budding photojournalists to develop the swiftness to "maneuver quickly and aggressively (like a fighter pilot) to get the photo."

* Vision

Every photojournalist has something to say; however, to be able to effectively express it, Val suggests to first look within. "Anybody can come out of journalism school and put together a portfolio. You're much better off trying to find out what's special about you as a photographer; what's special about the way you see the world?"

* Curiosity

Val refers to this as the what if factor. "If you're the type who keeps asking yourself -- 'What if I do this? What if I do that?' -- You're going to end up exploring. You'll also end up with better pictures."

* Invisibility

Photojournalists have to develop the skill to become virtually invisible to his subjects so as not to influence them, believes Val. Supposedly, the trick is to stay with your subjects long enough so they get used to your presence and no longer bothered by it. Sometimes, for the subjects to get used to the idea of being photographed, you may have to sacrifice a few rolls of film or storage space from your memory cards. In such instances, VaI recommends that you "make them comfortable by talking to them, telling them what you want to do, what the photos are going to be used for, how you're going to do it. Or you could make them talk about something they are passionate about. They may become so absorbed in telling you about the subject that they forget totally about the camera."

* People skills

Val stresses to all photojournalists the importance of becoming better team players. "You have to be able to meld some of your ideas with the writer, picture editor and graphic designer."

Finally, Val shared his belief that practical experience makes a powerful foundation when developing one's skills as a photojournalist. It exposes the neophyte to many varied situations that could sharpen his shooting skills. This will also help him develop the necessary confidence and independence. "The latter quality is important," claims Val. "No editor is going to tell a photojournalist what to do because situations change and develop all the time, and he has to be able to act by himself. More importantly, it teaches editorial judgment. You learn quickly if a story is going to be worth five minutes of your time. Sometimes, there's just no pictures at all."


posted by Señor Enrique at 8:42 AM


Anonymous Ferdz said...

Glad you enjoyed this fotofest. I've been hearing rave reviews about these as I wasn't there to attend. And thank you for posting that pointer from a real Pro. Very very insightful.

To answer you previews query, nope not Chito. Only one of his apprentice under him who helped organized this event.

August 06, 2007 10:13 AM  

Anonymous kyels said...

Very informative and I've learned a few new things about photojournalism!


Have a great Monday ahead!

August 06, 2007 10:49 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

So glad I had decided to attend FotoFest, Ferdz. Actually, I was looking around the audience everyday, hoping I'd see you there :)

Anyway, besides Val Rodriguez, the rest of the resource speakers are truly masters of their chosen area of expertise.

As I told Chito, I only have one word to sum up the entire 3-day event -- "powerful." I said this because each delegate I spoke to projected a sense of empowerment for having learned from these masters. And by the way, everyone was making plans for the next year's edition :)

How I wish you were there, Ferdz.

August 06, 2007 11:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I'm glad you did, Kyels :)

Incidentally, on the day these photojournalists spoke, there were many other pro photojournalists who came and filled the theater. It must have been for their high regard for these masters.

Thanks, Kyels!

August 06, 2007 11:47 AM  

Blogger Cris Sevilla said...

Hey, this is great! I'm glad that there are venues where these masters can share their stories and their expertise. Will check out the glorietta exhibit. Nice topshot of the displays! :)

August 06, 2007 11:56 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I was tempted to ask one of the speakers if I could join his table at Oar House should I find him there, buy him beer, and ask him endless questions, Cris.

He was Jose Enrique Soriano, a man of very few words but his works speak volumes. The reason he agreed to get up on stage, I suspect, was he couldn't refuse Chito's request (see my previous entry to this one).

Anyway, he claims the only time he can go on talking for hours on end is when in Malate after a couple of bottles of brew ... hehehe.

Yes, it was amazing to have these masters under one roof to share their experiences with you and answer questions.

By the way, Alex Baluyot (documentarist) talked about a Filipino photographer who documented life in America during the 30s. He was Ricardo Alvarado. His works are now with the Smithsonian Institute.

Check out this url:

And yes, go see the photo exhibit in Glorietta!

Thanks, Cris :)

August 06, 2007 12:59 PM  

Anonymous carlotta said...

thanks for posting this! i'm not much of a photographer (mainly coz i don't have my own camera) but the tips are certainly useful.

August 07, 2007 5:36 AM  

Blogger Daisy said...

Hi Senor Enrique!

Thank you for posting these pointers from the masters.

Wag na po kayo mag deny na di kayo kasama sa kanila dahil kitang kita na kahanay na ang pictures mo po sa kanila at GB3.

Sayang ba talaga na hindi ko napuputahan ang mga ganitong event. Naiwan na naman sa pansitan hehehe.

ang saya!

August 07, 2007 5:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

You may also know of a friend who might someday want to explore this field of photojournalism, Carla, so just share this set of tips with him/her.


August 07, 2007 6:47 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I truly appreciate your confidence in me, Daisy -- many thanks!

BUT, these masters took those photos under extreme conditions at times and on a regular basis. My photo was taken on a leisurely condition -- much difference ... hehehe.

They allow for delegates to attend only a day or two out the those three days. You could've just attended one (like the day with Gunther Deichmann on travel and nature photography). Anyway, next time, I will email you ahead of time so you can attend if you have free time for it.

August 07, 2007 6:51 AM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

These are surely good pointers for newbie photojournalists. I believe there lies the most basic yet most intrinsic advises that any new photographer can ever have. What better source there would be out there than from a seasoned veteran himself?

August 07, 2007 10:49 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Indeed, Major Tom. The other photojournalists shared their wisdom as well. But what was most striking was their call for one's personal safety.

Photojournalism has become such a perilous profession yet so may dedicated lens men would at times forget their vulnerability -- trying to take the best shot despite of highly dangerous conditions.

August 07, 2007 11:46 AM  

Anonymous dennis chan said...

Magkakaroon pa kaya ng ganitong event sa susunod na panahon? Gusto kong makaexperince dito sa Pilpinas ng pagtitipon ng mga mahuhusay na photojournalist at magbigay storya sa kanilang mga buhay. Maraming salamat.

October 18, 2010 5:16 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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