Part of my job for the magazine I work for is to go out and conduct interviews. With every story it is the starting point and, after my initial phone call to the interviewee, it is probably one of the most important aspects of my job. It is here that I make a real connection with the people involved, as well as find out their story and take the photos that will go along with the article.
I haven't been taught how to interview but along the way I have learned what is the best way to conduct an interview and make the most of my time with my subjects.
Firstly I find it is best to just be yourself and act naturally. A big part of this for me is dressing like I normally would. I don't turn up to interviews all dressed up, in fact quite the opposite. As most of my interviews involve me having to traipse around a muddy paddock and get up close and personal with farm animals, I always wear my farm boots (which are pretty trashed actually). I will wear nicer jeans (although not my best), and a casual top, but I will take along my thicker warm fleecy lined jacket that I do wear out on the farm, because I don't know what sort of weather I will be facing and how long I will be outdoors taking photos. Just make sure you are comfortable and not too overdone, remember, the focus is not on you during an interview!
Mud and all, these boots are worn to most interviews.
Create a good rapport
This is actually pretty easy to do, and half the battle is won because the people you are interviewing are usually pretty excited about having their story told in a magazine, so they are going to be pleased to see you and keen to talk to you. I know I have found this to be the case at every job so far. Acting naturally and being your usual friendly self wins people over every time. You will find that it will actually work in your favour! I've come away from interviews being given bags of mushrooms, eggs and free coffees, all because people have had this brief connection with me, as well as wanting to share the products they are producing. As well as this I have also met some lovely people who are doing amazing things with their lives and at each and every interview I learn something new!
Before you leave for your interview make sure you have all the right equipment that you will need. For me this means camera, tripod, spare batteries, spare memory card, notebook, pens, Dictaphone and spare batteries, iPad (to look up where I am going in case I get lost!) and, importantly, the address of where I am going.
Now photography is, of course, a whole stack of individual post topics within itself, but when I go out on an interview these are things I keep in mind:
* Make sure your battery is fully charged
* Make sure you take a spare battery
* Know roughly before hand what sort of shots you want to save time
* Do a bit of research on where you are going, who the people are and what the subject is
* Be aware of the lighting and what settings you need to use for your camera
* Think outside the square; take photos from interesting angles, different perspectives etc
* Take close-up shots (they make good filler photos when accompanying an article)
* Take portrait shots of the people you are interviewing. Be aware of the background.
* Take more photos than you will need! (it gives you lots to choose from)
Conducting the interview
When I hold the interview I always use a Dictaphone to record what is being said, simply because I would never be able to write down everything during what is usually a 25 minute interview. I do take a notebook and pen and make notes as well, which includes writing down things like names and places. I do this mainly so I make sure I get the spelling correct, which is vital because your interviewee would not be happy if they read your article only to discover you had misspelt the name of their property, their partners name or the names of their dogs.
Let it happen organically
By saying this I mean to just let the interview go where it wants to. I always start by asking how people started with their business/farming operation/hobby etc. It is a great starting point and opens up the flood gates of conversation. From there I find that the interviewee will just start talking and things will naturally lead from one point to another. Since they are always passionate about what they do, and pleased to be interviewed for the magazine, I find they will always take me on a journey with their story and share all of the information I need to know. I also keep my ear out for things that they say that will make good quotes. I always like to put a direct quote or two within my articles because it personalises them, and the reader will then hopefully get to feel like they have got to know the subject better. Sometimes a sentence or two will jump out at me during the interview and other times I will find it once I get home and listen to the tape, but I always keep it in the back of my mind.
This is an obvious point really, but it is important to keep in mind that whoever you are interviewing has invited you into their home or onto their property and you are taking up precious moments of their time (in my case it always takes about two hours all up to conduct the interview and do the photos). So...manners go a long way, remember to thank them afterwards and if they gift you with some of their produce/products or even just serve you tea and scones (trust me it happens!), make sure you thank them for these too!
Have you ever been interviewed or had to conduct an interview?