Pulitzer Prize winner Judy Walgren: 5 tips to improve our photojournalism skills

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In 1994, photojournalist Judy Walgren won the Pulitzer Prize for her work documenting female genital mutilation in Africa. Since then, Judy has completed a number of projects depicting war zones, famines, draughts and all kinds of human crisis around the globe. Today we had the opportunity to get to know Judy and ask her about her best tips to create visual impact and convey the drama behind these realities, through a photo.

  • Use your grid: Judy recommends using the grid on your screen or viewfinder while working on the composition of a photo. The idea is to position your main elements on either one of the junctions on the grid. This will help you create harmony within the elements of your picture and keep things balanced.
  • Commit to your picture: look for symmetry, straight lines and nice shapes. If the lines are crooked or there are objects in the background that disrupt the harmony of the photo, move! Exploit different angles and don’t be afraid to get close to the person or the object you are photographing!

  • Look at all the corners of your frame and fill it up: again, composition can help you get the visual impact you are looking for so try to make things interesting for the viewer by choosing scenes with lots of different elements people can look at.
  • Look for interesting light: natural light can be very flattering and you can enhance the effect with a reflector but even if you are taking photos indoors, look for different types of light. Cooler tone lights, diffused ones or spotlights can be used to give a photograph a completely different feel and generate more impact on the viewer.

  • Use contrast in your favor: either by selecting a cooler background tone than your main subject or by finding strong light, you can make your object or the person being photographed, appear closer or popping out of the frame. Contrasting colors and lights will help create drama which in turn will attract the attention of the viewer.

Judy left the most important piece of advice for the end of our workshop. She reminded us that even though there are a lot of rules and premises in photography that can be very useful when creating an impactful image, the most important of all is to never forget to break the rules from time to time. She encouraged us to experiment, be creative and try new things and not be afraid from being different.


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