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Photography

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Last updated: 8 May 2017      

Photography is a powerful way to demonstrate the impact of solar cooking. How you use photography depends on the reason you’re telling the story—that is, what you’re trying to convey.  

Privacy

As always, it’s very important to respect your partner’s wishes: do you have their permission to take their photograph? Are there cultural restrictions or taboos about taking photos? Have this important discussion before you begin snapping photos. 

Tell a story with context clues

Charley Cross photo example 1

Tell a story with context clues.

This photo tells us about a woman who runs a restaurant using a solar cooker: The composition lets us see that “Balcha Kitchen” is the name of her restaurant. If you recognize the writing, you see this is in Nepal; her dress is a rich cultural detail. Look at the cooker: it’s not important here to show the whole cooker because your mind completes the circle of the paraboloid. It’s better to zoom in a little to show other details. Rust on the central column shows she’s been using this cooker for a long time (successfully adopted technology); the reflective surface is clean (proper maintenance and pride of ownership).   There’s good composition at work here that makes the photo interesting to look at: neither the woman nor her cooker is centered. There’s a natural temptation to center the main subject, but that can make a photo uninteresting. Putting the woman on the left and the cooker on the lower right makes the image more powerful. Finally, whether she speaks Nepali or English, she’s using the universal human language of a smile, and looking right at the camera – right at the viewer. 

Show technical detail

Charley Cross photo example 2

Show technical detail.

Other times the purpose is to document a specific technical detail for research or design purposes.     Pictured is a crank that adjusts the vertical angle of a parabolic cooker in Nepal. By getting in close, we can see the details that matter for documenting the crank. A wider shot that showed the whole cooker might have showed the crank too small to be understood. (However, if you have space, both shots could be nice—one for context and the other for detail.) The crank and nearby hardware are in sharp focus, but the background is blurry; this helps draw your eye toward what’s important. 

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