Visual Narrative

Recently I took a workshop on the visual narrative in order to gain some understanding of how to actually put a group of photographs together for a book/article. This required taking a very critical look at the photos I have been taking for the Jersey Shore Project. The instructors were a former photo editor and former creative director for National Geographic and their knowledge and experience was invaluable.

Sequencing selected photos forces you to make a decision about what it is you are trying to portray in your photo essay. It is also imperative that you use the best photos – though in my case we did two pages of multiple photos that individually were not strong but collectively worked and advanced the story. Deciding on a title was also important as it helps you focus and select photos that fit with your objective. A good beginning photo and end photo is also important as well as a photo that sets the scene – something I was lacking.

One technique for selecting photos is to create what the instructor called “buckets” each of which is a topic within the story. My buckets included boats, people, gear, packing out, etc. You then review your photos and place them into the buckets and from there choose what fits with the story best. One of my real aha moments in the workshop was when the instructor said they would get 30,000-40,000 pictures from a photographer for just one assignment – and then whittle that down to about 15-20 that would actually be published with the article.