Signature photo:A photo that summarizes the entire issue and illustrates essential elements of the story. This might be a photo of woman — maybe your main character — weaving at a loom in the bungalow. Ideally, you’d be able to frame the shot to provide some context, maybe other women, the village in the background, etc.
Establishing or overall shot:a wide-angle (sometimes even aerial) shot to establish the scene. If you’re shooting for National Geographic it’s entirely possible they would rent a helicopter and you’d take an aerial shot of the village. Or, if on a tighter budget, maybe the village from a nearby dune. The idea of the establishing shot is this: When you do a photo story your are taking our viewers on a journey. You need to give them a sense of where they are going, an image that allows them to understand the rest of the story in a geographic context.
Close-up:A detail shot to highlight a specific element of the story. Close-up, sometimes called detail shots, don’t carry a lot of narrative. Meaning, they often don’t do a lot to inform the viewer on a literal level but they do a great deal to dramatize a story. Perhaps the weavers hands or a sample of a rug or the bowls in which the dies are mixed. For reasons we’ll come back to when we talk about multimedia in week 12, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to shoot lots of close-ups.
Portrait: this can be either a tight head shot or a more environment portrait in a context relevant to the story. As mentioned above, photo essays are build around characters. You need to have good portrait that introduces the viewers to the character. I always shoot a variety of portraits, some candids and some posed.
Interaction: focuses on the subject in a group during an activity. Images of your character interacting with others — kids, others in the village, sellers — all helps give a human dimension to your character. It’s likely that our weaver(s) also raise families, which means cooking cleaning, etc. Think about reactions too.
How-to sequence: This is photo or group of photos that offer a how-to about some specific element of the story or process. With our example maybe we would telescope in for a few images on how the dyes are made or the making of a specific element of the textile
The Clincher: A photo that can be used to close the story, one that says “the end.” Essentially, our example is a process piece. What’s the end of the process? Maybe an image of a camel caravan loaded with textiles and heading off into the sunset on the way to market.
I want to introduce a few basic ideas here about editing essays in general and slideshows in particular. As outlined above, variety is key. The first few images are especially important and often include a combination of the following:
There are several conventional ways to structure the narrative of a story, sometimes photographers will use a combination of the options presented below:
Process: essentially the photographer is showing how something is done from beginning to end. How a sculpture is made. A sports competition. Even an arrest and court case.
Chronology: real or implied, you can let time structure your story. A very typical way to structure a story through time is as a ‘day in the life’ piece.
Highlights: in reality all photo stories are highlights stories in that the photographer should always seek to relay the most important visual elements of a story. But some stories are structure less to illustrate a clear story line and more to show the peak moments or most dramatic aspects of the topic. For example, a year-in-review story or coverage of a natural disaster or a story after the death of a public figure that highlights the most significant moments in his or her career. When news organizations do this kind of story often the work of several photographers — and maybe even crowd-sourced photos — are used.
In the commercial world online publications frequently present something called a ‘flipbook.’ This might be series of images of this season’s most popular style of purses or the ten best-selling flatscreen TVs.