Photojournalists usually pack a pretty standard kit in the field. A full frame camera is usually a must, along with the requisite 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses that can cover 90 percent of situations a photographer might encounter. For some of that other 10 percent, a really good idea might be to pack a 360 camera in the bag as well.
While 360 gets the lion’s share of attention from camera manufacturers, 360 photos shouldn’t be overlooked. While the photography end of this style of imaging has taken off in the real-estate and virtual tours, workaday photojournalists haven’t embraced the format as much.
One of the big stumbling blocks is workflow. Many cameras can’t stitch photos at capture and rely on cellphones or desktop software to do the heavy lifting, whereas a photo transferred from a camera via Wi-Fi can be ready to go in seconds once it’s downloaded That said, it’s useful to give viewers a different angle on things. Here’s the photo from the top of the article in 360:
Aside from the workflow problem, there’s the shift in thinking, and then the bending of ethics. First, the shift in thinking comes from how one frames the photo. It’s a new way to think to have to make sure that everything on all sides of the image is worth seeing. There’s no point to 360 cameras if a large chunk of the frame isn’t visually interesting. The best composition often results from being right in the middle of the action versus anywhere else. There’s also the change in mindset of framing up the moment through composition versus capturing the entire moment without the composition.
How that moment is captured also brings in the ethics question for photojournalists. If you notice in the photo at the top and in the 360 version of the article, I’m not visible at all. That’s because I cloned myself out using the road below me. To take a 360 photo where I could do this required me to make my body as narrow as possible (which is a bit hard with a dad bod) and hold the camera above my head while standing on a uniform pattern below that could work to clone out. That alone might rankle journalists, as the integrity of the image is compromised with this technique. By contrast, here’s what a photo looks like when the photographer isn’t removed:
Still, there’s value to be had in a 360 image of a news event. A photojournalists’ job is to place people in a scene through photos, to experience what they cannot experience firsthand. A 360 photo is just another tool in the toolbox to do that. With COVID-19, many couldn’t attend the Black Lives Matter protests featured in these photos, but with the power of a 360 photo, at least it’s possible to feel what the protestors felt as they stared down a wall of police officers in their path (or conversely, what the police officers felt as they stared at the protestors).
A candy-bar style of 360 camera like my current favorite, the Kandao QooCam 8K, or others such as the Insta360 One X2 or Ricoh Theta Z1 could easily fit in a camera bag without taking up too much space. I’ve made it a habit to find a home for one in my bag whenever I’m covering a story.