#42 – The Life Formula For Visual Variety In The Photo Essay

I can’t remember where I got this from. For a typical assignment at the old Life magazine, the editors expected the photographer on location to shoot at least eight basic types of photos to ensure complete coverage of the situation and to guarantee enough good pictures for a layout.

1] Introductory or overall – usually a wide angle or aerial shot that establishes the scene.

2] Medium – focuses on one activity or one group.

3] Close Up – zeroes in on one element, like a persons hands or an intricate detail of a building.

4] Portrait – usually either a dramatic, tight head shot or a person in his or her environmental setting.

5] Interaction – people conversing or in action.

6] Signature – summarizes the situation with all the key story telling elements in one photo – often called the decisive moment.

7] Sequence – a how-to, before and after, or a series with a beginning, middle and end (the sequence gives the essay a sense of action).

8] Clincher – a closer that would end the story.

Clearly, I don’t tend to follow these religiously. However I do find that they are useful guidelines when exploring and photographing a site.

For an expanded version of this, have a look at my article on Mechanical Landscapes http://www.mechanicallandscapes.com/writing/2016/10/10/the-life-magazine-formula-for-visual-variety-in-the-photo-essay

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