Among the many photography genres that exist today, editorial photography is a unique beast. It’s all about telling a story that complements written content, whether in magazines, online platforms, or newspapers. Unlike commercial photography, where the goal is to sell a product, editorial photography aims to engage, inform, or evoke emotion in support of an article or narrative. It requires you to think not just about what makes a good picture, but what makes a picture speak.
Why dive into editorial photography? For starters, it offers you a canvas for creativity and expression that you won’t quite find anywhere else. Imagine getting opportunities to work with writers and editors of top publications, network with other pro photographers, and shoot in high-profile locations. It’s in places like these where you get to push the boundaries of traditional photography and really make your mark. Plus, editorial shoots give you the opportunity to see your work in print or online alongside stories that matter.
This article is here to guide you through the nuances of taking great editorial photographs, in the interest of honing your skills and understanding the craft beyond just the basics. Let’s get started.
Understand the Story
The journey toward top-tier editorial photos begins before you even pick up your camera. Your first step is to really get what the story is about. Try to appreciate this process as more than just simple background homework; it’s your chance to find the heartbeat of the narrative that you’ll then need to convey in your photos. What are the key themes? What can you find out about the principal characters, their roles, and their motivations? This understanding will guide your lens and help you choose subjects and scenes that amplify the story’s message.
Research Your Subject
Next, do your homework on the subject. Whether it’s a person, place, or event, knowing it inside and out can make all the difference. For instance, if you’re photographing a chef renowned for innovative cuisine, researching their culinary journey and signature dishes. Doing this can help you capture shots that tell a deeper story of creativity and passion. Or, if your assignment is about urban renewal, endeavour to understand the history and community impact of the areas involved. This might inspire you to select angles and moments that capture the essence of transformation. Overall, in-depth knowledge of your subject puts you in the best place to capture the most informed and meaningful shots possible.
Plan Your Shots, But Be Flexible
Heading into an editorial shoot, you’ll likely have a shot list to serve as your roadmap. This might include planned portraits that aim to capture the essence of your subject’s personality, detail shots that focus on the elements directly connected to the story, or environmental shots that situate your subject within a specific context. These are your must-haves, as they ensure that you’ve got the narrative visually covered from all angles.
However, the unplanned moments may also just give you the chance to capture stunning editorial photographs. While you’re ticking off items on your shot list, keep your eyes peeled for unexpected opportunities. It could be a candid moment of laughter among friends you’re documenting, a sudden shift in weather that adds a dramatic backdrop to your landscape shot, or a fleeting expression on your subject’s face that tells a story all on its own. These spontaneous images can add a new dimension to your story and introduce layers of authentic emotion that planned shots might miss.
With all that said, having the right photography gear is crucial to getting all of these shots. If you don’t have a complete arsenal yet, consider getting your equipment from a lens hire service. A reputable company can link you with various groups or individuals who are more than willing to rent out their lenses, tripods, and other useful gear.
Shoot from Different Angles
When you’re out on an assignment, bear in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all angle for every story. Shooting from a range of diverse angles can dramatically change the narrative of your photograph. A low-angle shot can make your subject appear larger than life, while a high-angle shot might render them more vulnerable or diminutive. And don’t forget the power of getting level with your subject, which can produce deeply intimate and immediate-feeling images.
Prioritise Emotion and Atmosphere
Editorial photography has historically been valued for its ability to evoke emotion and atmosphere. This means you’re aiming to give rise to a mood rather than simply document a scene. This could mean waiting for that perfect moment when the subject’s expression aligns with the story’s emotional core, or choosing settings and lighting that reflect the article’s tone. The aim is to produce a picture that captures a genuine feeling, enhancing the way the words in the article communicate with the readers.
Familiarise Yourself with the Publication
Every publication has its own style and audience, and understanding these can be crucial to your success as an editorial photographer. Take the time to study the types of images a publication typically uses. Does it favour bold, graphic compositions or more candid, documentary-style shots? Adapting your work to fit the publication’s aesthetic can increase the likelihood that editors will choose and appreciate your pictures. Plus, understanding the audience means you can tailor your images to resonate more deeply with them.
Maintain a High Ethical Standard
In editorial photography, integrity is everything. Your responsibility is to tell the truth through your lens, which means avoiding manipulation that misleads the viewer about the story’s reality. This means that it’s best to keep your post-processing minimal. Beyond this, you also need to pay close attention to how you frame your shots and the moments you choose to capture. Be mindful of the power of images to shape perceptions and always strive to represent your subjects with honesty and respect.
In the realm of editorial photography, every image you capture is a chance to tell a story, stoke emotions, or illuminate a truth. Embracing this responsibility both enhances your work and enriches the narratives you help bring to life.