5 types of photos
5 types of photos that make for strong photo essays
1. Shot one: The scene setter
2. Shot two: The medium shot
3. Shot three: The portrait
4. Shot four: Capturing detail
5. Shot five: Capturing action
are a great way of marrying photos with narrative, and so are audio slideshows.
Below, I’ve listed five types of photos that make for strong photo stories.
I’ve also included related examples from an NPR project about the impact of the stimulus bill on a rural health clinic.
Shot one: The scene setter Where is your story taking place, and what does it look like? Is it a building, a town, an old southwestern graveyard? Place your audience in the action by taking a photo that shows it all.
This image sets the scene for a story about a health
clinic in a rural town.
Shot two: The medium shot Let’s start to hone in on the spot of your action; the area of the building or town or graveyard where your subjects are. This shot narrows your story’s field of view and should bring you closer in.
This photo shows us where the story’s source is. John Poole/NPR
Shot three: The portrait If things go south and you can only come back with one photo, this should be it. Who is your main subject and what does he or she look like? This can be a traditional head and shoulders shot or a wider shot that shows the person’s surroundings. It’s always best to take a variety of portrait shots, as photos of your subject will probably be used more than once in a good audio/visual presentation. Also, if your subject is a thing and not a person, capture it. A great series of electron microscope portraits might be just what you need.
From this portrait, we can see what the source
Shot four: Capturing detail This is the shot that is often forgotten. Detail shots work especially well for transitions, but can have great storytelling potential all their own. What are the pictures on someone’s desk? What books are they reading? What’s that post card they have tacked to the wall? All of these things tell us a little bit about our subject and are great elements to have in a photo essay or multimedia presentation.
The detail in this photo helps illustrate the topic of the story. John Poole/NPR
Shot five: Capturing action Action shots show your subject doing something — ideally the thing you are reporting on. This is the shot some photographers spend an entire shoot trying to perfect, often amounting to the same shot being taken 30 times. Photos of your subject in action are essential in audio/visual pieces, but they are not the only pictures you need. If you get the other four shots and not this one, you’ll still have a solid photo essay. I advise getting the others in the can and then working on this shot. That way, you have a strong foundation to support your story, and your action shots will be the icing on the cake.
Action shots add movement to your story. John Poole/NPR
Four or five pictures might be enough for a photo essay gallery. For audio slideshows or video, however, you’ll want multiple options for each of these photo types. With any luck, and a bit of talent, you’ll end up with a photo essay that would do Smith proud.