Some photographers think of feature hunting as an opportunity to run home and do their laundry. Others use it as a chance to grab a bite to eat.
Whenever the assignment pool runs dry, a good editor will boot their photogs to the curb and expect them to come back with something other than a full stomach.
If you approach feature hunts grudgingly, here are five ways to make the process a little less painful and a lot more productive:
1. Give yourself structure. The world is a big place and it can be overwhelming to try and make something of nothing without some sort of guidance. This can be as simple as a adopting a theme or visual motif. Love dogs? How about a portrait series of four-legged friends and their owners? Feeling blue? Challenge yourself to incorporate the color into your photography for the afternoon.
2. Find the gaps. Expand your comfort zone and inform your worldview at the same time. Look at past coverage to discover what topics or geographic areas your outlet has covered most. By doing so, you’ll know where the gaps exist. Cover them aggressively.
3. Nurture your curiosity. Strike up conversations with strangers. Get the pulse of the community and what makes it tick. Once you find something visually interesting to document, approach it with a fresh mind and pair of eyes. Don’t assume you know how something works. Even if you think you know, let your subject explain it in their own words for a richer and more expressive narrative.
4. Be attentive. So many of life’s greatest moments are fleeting and incredibly subtle. Give yourself the best chance at capturing them by pocketing your phone, earphones, and making people think you’re a crazy person who’s being stalked because you keep looking over your shoulder. (Sometimes great action unfolds behind you, like the shot of the fella petting the cat above.) Also, keep your camera on, focused to infinity, and at a “safe” aperture/shutter speed combination so you can react quickly when the moment arrives.
5. Focus on the humanity. It’s easy to come away from a feature hunt with great pictorials and lovely landscapes. Without people, though, these are little more than stock images. If you love shooting patterns, sunsets, or landscapes, incorporate this passion with a human element to give your visuals depth, meaning, and broader relevance.