Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer: A Photo Essay

Hello! I am properly back this time, I promise. Weekly posting shall resume!

This week, I will be talking about summer nature photography and the concept of a photo essay.

A photo essay  is a series of images that documents an event or tells a story. We often associate photo essays with news photojournalism, but this does not mean they don't apply to nature photography.
What are the keys to a successful photo essay?

1. Set the scene.

In nature photography, we can become myopic about our subject matter. Close animal portraiture is nice, but does not provide any environmental context. A good photo essay should include other elements of the animal's habitat so the viewer can get a complete picture of the story.

By including both macro and scenic shots of the flower beds, I've also introduced some variety into my photographs. Now, the reader immediately has some idea of what this story is going to be about - we are outside, in a garden.

2. Introduce the main characters.

The key measure of success of a photo essay is whether not it portrays a clear story. This is easiest to achieve if you have an idea of what you want to convey before you begin shooting. My story, for example, is going to be about insect life in the heady summertime.

To simplify things a bit for the blog post (I never like to include too many photos - I feel like it becomes overwhelming), I've focused here on grasshoppers. Open, grassy areas are excellent spaces to hunt for grasshoppers, who aren't exactly the most elusive of insects. In addition, their large size makes them an accessible subject matter even to those without dedicated macro lenses. If you want some tips for insect photography, click here.

3. Subplot

If you are doing a series on an animal, it is a good idea to include different behaviors from that species, if possible. It adds more dimension to your story.

Here is a shot of a slant-faced grasshopper doing what grasshoppers do best: eat. Eating is always an interesting behavior to document.

4. Conclusion

This is the part we've been waiting for! What was the point of your story? What happens in the end? This is also the point at which you might urge the viewer to action, or force the viewer to make a decision.

We, of course, know what summer means to insects.

So, what do you think? Have you ever created a photo essay? Does yours include text, or is it only pictures? And do you think that this photo essay was successful? Let me know in the comments below!

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