Guest Blogger Evan Baines!

We are starting a new thing today where every now and then we will be bringing in guest bloggers to share their expertise who we respect and admire!

Our first guest blogger is none other than the oh, so talented, Evan Baines.

Evan is a great friend of ours and in our opinion, one of the best photojournalistic wedding photographers alive today. Evan is a rare talent that we have both learned from personally and professionally. We are beyond excited to bring you his post, Noun/Adjective, that he wrote exclusively for our blog! Check it out and leave some love!

Noun/Adjective by Evan Baines

There are lots of techniques out there for portrait photography, where photographers can light or manipulate the scene to create their artistic vision. However, there is a common misperception that documentary photography (AKA “photojournalism”) is simply a matter of snapping away at whatever happens to show up in front of the lens. Nothing could be further from the truth, but the challenge is that the tools and techniques of the documentary photographer are intellectual rather than physical. One example of a technique that I focus on in my own work and discuss with my associates is something I call noun/adjective.

Arguably the most important tool of the photojournalist (and perhaps photographers in general) is the basic decision of what to include and what to exclude from the frame. Few pieces of great photojournalism function with only a single piece of content, and the best photojournalists typically achieve remarkable effects through symbolism, parallelism, contrasting subject matter, and various other techniques that might sound more at home in a literature textbook than a photography blog. Trying to form sophisticated connections can be really overwhelming in the heat of the moment, and noun/adjective is a mantra and method of building more interesting documentary compositions.

Lets say that there is something interesting going on, like grandma shaking her money-maker on the dance floor, and I want to take a picture. Grandma is now my “noun.” I could just take a picture of the “noun” by itself, but as with writing I can make the noun much more interesting by modifying it with an adjective. So once I know that I want to take a picture of grandma, I start scanning the area around her (and perhaps moving around a bit to change my background options), until I notice the bride’s aunt walking by. I quickly adjust my composition to capture both grandmother and the aunt, hoping that she will “modify” grandma. Sure enough, the aunt turns and shoots grandma a funny look, and as a bonus the planner in the background is laughing so hard she has to wipe away a tear. The aunt (and to a lesser extent the planner) is now an “adjective” that allows me to comment on my primary subject.

Obviously, this works best when you can anticipate the subject matter of your photos. One great adjective to keep an eye out for at weddings is the expressions of friends and family as a key moment occurs.

In this example, I was on the lookout for mom’s great expression as the bride’s sister helps her into her garter. The dynamic of mother’s look balancing the action of the two sisters not only makes for a more interesting composition, but greatly enhances the storytelling character of the image.So the next time you are working a wedding and something interesting is happening or about to happen, rather than being content with taking a picture of just that one thing, consider whether there are any adjectives available to make your presentation of the content even stronger.


Evan will be guest speaking on photojournalism at the Genesis Workshop in Memphis this year, and if you have a chance to see him in person, go! You will not regret it!