Photojournalists call them “grip and grins.” You know, the photos in which one person passes a check, a plaque, a trophy, whatever, to another person. The giver and the recipient shake hands, pausing long enough to smile and look at the camera.
At the Herald-Republic we do our very best to avoid such events, often labeled as “photo opportunities.” Grip and grins usually have only limited visual appeal and have little content.
Instead of photographing the grip and grin we prefer to offer our readers more visual, more content-rich alternative, a photo which really tells something about the subject. We may photograph the activity which prompted the recognition (for instance, a person is recognized for volunteering X number of hours at a local charity. We photograph that person while he or she is doing the volunteer work). Another (but usually less desirable) alternative may be e a portrait of the person.
Sometimes, however, we’re can’t avoid photographing an award/recognition ceremony. But that doesn’t mean we have to photograph and publish the usual (and usually mundane) grip and grin.
We look for a different way to show the event, one which hopefully will show something of the character of the recipient and the emotion of the moment along with some context.
Recently I photographed an awards ceremony for the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office.
The classic grip and grin photo:
But here’s the photo we chose to publish of the recognition:
While the reader/viewer doesn’t get to see Sheriff Irwin’s grin in this photo, the reader/viewer still gets a good photo of recipient Steve Harrison during a real moment, a moment which conveys a sense of the event. As a bonus, it’s shot from a different angle, a sort of “behind the scenes” angle.