Photo Essay #1

Photo Essay #1

Document your everyday life. Photography Tool Shot Sheet Check List.  Shoot (suggest over 50) photographs that demonstrate the “Tools for Photography” discussed in class.

Images need to be available when class starts – either in the camera (ready to download) or already on your gmail Drive folder (downloaded from your phone) on the day they are due.

In class:

  1. Download (or open) the folder with images. Delete the poor images. Choose 15 that tell of story best – beginning/middle/end.

Rename by numbering your images placing them in the order you want them to be seen. (1.jpg) Upload the final 15 images into a folder on your flash drive labeled ” ‘title of essay’ Photo Essay” . FYI – create a general photo folder to save those images you like but don’t fit into your essay.

2. Correct images by opening each of the chosen 15 images in PhotoShop and go to Adjustments> “Brightness/Contrast”.

3. Resize each image to 10″ x 8″, 300 dpi (#.jpg)

4. Chose four for the web site and resize to 6″ x 4 100 dpi (600 px x 400 px)  File>Export for Web  (#web.jpg)

5. Write an Artist Statement  In 200-250 words explain what you intended to show in your Photo Essay. What should the viewer learn by looking at your Photo Essay? (word document)

Hyperlink your Artist Statement to your Photo Essay post page.





Tenement Dwellers, Chicago, Illinois
Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006)
Photograph, gelatin silver print
*Photograph by Gordon Parks. Courtesy and © The Gordon Parks Foundation
*Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

To better understand the Photo Essay let’s work through an example to illustrate each category below. Let’s say National Geographic is sending you to into southern Tunisia to do a story on an ancient and unique kind of weaving practiced by a Berber tribe. You are taken by a ‘fixer’ — a paid translator, driver and social planner — to a village made up of several small huts and a central bungalow with three ancient looms and the equipment for making the dies. Likely it would be women doing the weaving.  You’d probably have a working “shot list” in your head (or written). It would include photos in each of the categories below:

  • 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:

  • An establishing shot: Often a wide-angle image to give a sense of place, a sense of environment to give the view a sense of place.
  • A portrait: An online slideshow needs to be humanized quickly. We need to be introduced to our character as a sort of travelling companion on our journey.
  • A close-up: A telling detail shot early on is both graphically appealing and an opportunity to focus the viewer in on what the story is about.

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.