When needs must one turn’s one’s hand to many things, especially when you are a volunteer :) Here’s the tale!
A bit of history
Over a year ago it was clear there was a definite need to improve the quality of photographs taken by Shakti staff. Previously they had been working with cheap film cameras but had recently acquired a couple of compact digitals. However no one really knew how to use them properly. Consequently the resultant pictures were of poor quality – some over exposed, others under exposed – and the composition of the subject of the photograph left something to be desired. Certainly very few were of suitable for scaling up or for use in a web site. I drafted a proposal to address this: and waited, and waited.
Then just when you thought it was never going to happen, it suddenly appears luminous on the horizon. “Can we do this on Thursday 8th September when members from all our project teams will be in town?” I was asked on Friday 2nd ! “Of course we can!” I say whilst thinking “OMG that’s less than a week, and one day I know is fully committed already, and one day is Sunday, oh that leaves at the most 4 working days. Can I really do a good job at short notice on a subject area that is not my forte?”
So Friday evening and Saturday I put on the thinking cap and identified what might be feasible to do and what should be left out. I reviewed what I had written way back in April 2010. I had originally been assuming we would be a photographer or a photography enthusiast with a development background to present this training, not that I would end up doing it. Now I am no great photographer, and probably would have a hard job remembering enough high school physics to tell people how a camera works, but what I decided I could do was to design and deliver a workshop to encourage and motivate folks to take better pictures by discussing why photographs are important for our work at SHAKTI, review the various types of photos required and the reasons why, and show just how powerful a photo can be for reporting, for publicity and for fundraising.
On Monday I presented Mr Panda with a project plan complete with audience segmentation, use scenarios, learning requirements, training objectives and draft course design. I got agreement with a couple of minor changes and I spent the rest of Monday & all of Tuesday scouring the web and the photo collection at Shakti for suitable images to illustrate various points and finalised the training photosets and prepared the presentation materials on Wednesday. I gave a final briefing to Mr Panda late on Wednesday evening after the project meetings had finished.
In a nutshell the workshop objectives would be to give staff
- An understanding of why Shakti needs photos and how they will be used
- An understanding of what constitutes a “fit for purpose” photograph
- Knowledge of how to use their project cameras effectively
- The ability to compose a photograph
- The ability to plan and execute a series of photos for a project
The proposed training components would be
Introductory session - why we take and how we use photographs in everyday life. Then relate this to why we take and how we use photographs at work – to report, publicise, fundraise
Interactive participatory session - use photos to illustrate aspects like Point of View, the message or story in the photo, its emotional connection with the viewer etc. Aim to develop attendees ability to look closely and really “see” the image, its message, the composition, potential use and impact. Use photos which relate to social issues and to the areas in which Shakti works.
Breakout session (1) : Mix up the project teams. A collection of several different photos to each team. Review photos in light of points discussed earlier. Group presentations & discussion
Recap. Lunch Break
Photography 101 : An introduction to the basics and to the camera. Use studio photographer. Prepare briefing on what should be covered
Project Requirements - Some events and occasions are common to all projects e.g. meetings, training workshops. Each project also has specific requirements for photos. Some requirements are donor driven e.g. when funding includes provision for food for workshop attendees it is necessary to report on lunch menu in order to prove what was given to whom and when. Use several series of photos showing points to remember when taking photos in specific situations (including meetings, focus groups, health camps etc), to show methodology or approaches used (e.g. street plays, games, household mapping etc) for specific reasons (e.g. animal health vaccination administration, recording child weight gain, mother’s haemoglobin blood test etc)
Breakout session (2) ; Split project team wise. Review the aim of your project. Identify a typical forthcoming event/occasion to photograph which is going to occur in the next month. Draft a storyboard/ plan the days shooting. Groups presentations & Discussion
1 Month hence, project teams return with outcomes of planned photo shoot and lessons learnt, what went according to plan, what did not, what unforeseen things took place, any serendipitous good fortune etc . Award (small) prizes for best photos, best set etc .
Encourage sustainability by working with project managers to schedule photography planning as a regular project team meeting agenda item
Planning faced a minor preparation hiccup on Wednesday when we failed to find a studio photographer who could come at such short notice. Only on the Thursday morning did one of our staff locate one! In the end he arrived a little later than we had scheduled, had not been given the session brief, but he did a great job on explaining how to use and care for the cameras!
Overall the day was a great success as hopefully the accompanying pictures show.
Mr Panda took the Project Requirements Session and stood as translator for me for the other parts. Ok we ran over time: estimating timings when much has to be translated is still difficult to do accurately. Also half the group are new to Shakti so I had no experience of their level of competency in the topic area or how readily they would take to such a participative workshop. I’d recently attended one day of the CHILDLINE official training given by the national reps which had been mainly as lectures, classroom style. In the end the group were marvellously talkative! After a few initial hesitant steps they got used to the interactive nature of the first session, and were in full flow by the time of the breakout sessions .
Yes I could have prepared the photo collections for the morning breakout session better, using ecopy rather than printed ones, but that was a constraint of time. In the end the second breakout session was rushed. The storyboarding idea did not take and the teams ended up planning an unconnected series of photos to take over the next month. But the upside is that they did plan and the have the thought of prizes to incentivize them to practice taking better photographs in the forthcoming weeks, and so embed, internalise and sustain the training. I will be following up with each of the project leads to make sure them schedule photography planning into their project team meetings, and with Mr Panda to ensure he does the same for his monthly project review meetings.
The feedback from the participants was most surprising and very gratifying
“The training was beyond my expectation - very innovative, enriching and mind blowing. It was the need of the hour. Right training in right time and in right way. Thanks” Ramesh Nayak
“Today’s programme was unique. It was a great opportunity to attend valuable training. I could learn many objects through this photography like as: how to communicate a message, to think about the composition, wanted and unwanted messages, what is good and what is bad about a photo. I learnt why photography is important. It’s been really fruitful for me. Thanks” Suresh Lima
Comments like these really made a long day worthwhile and I went to bed giving myself a well deserved pat on the back!