Just back from leading a workshop in Spain…beautiful country with friendly people and great food! During our trip we did image reviews and talked a lot about what makes a good travel image…and portfolio. A lot of my assignments involve travel imagery, and creating work that conveys the experience to the viewer. During our time in Spain one discussion that came up was editorial photography. What is it? Is an editorial image better than a ‘normal one’? Does it refer to one image, or a portfolio of images?
I’ve shot hundreds of editorial assignments during my career from National Geographic Adventure to the Wall Street Journal. And a lot of what formed my style of shooting and vision came from feedback working with editors at magazines and ad agencies. So what is an editorial image? Simply put an editorial image is one that tells a story? Or in other words, it is an image that feels unscripted, emotive and really conveys feeling and mood to the viewer.
Take a look at the guitar player at the top of this post. I found this musician while walking the streets in Cordoba, Spain. One thing that defines Spain is flamenco guitar. So I was excited to create some photographs of this flamenco guitar player…he would help tell the story of my experience in Spain. Next up was how to photograph him. I took a few images straight on, pretty standard fair, and while these recorded the moment, there was little mood or feeling with the image. So I got closer, chose an aperture of F1.8 and focused on his fingers from the top of the guitar. The bokeh and soft focus, along with the angle, did a much better job of giving an intimate view of this guitar player. Camera technique, along with subject matter, was creating emotion and a better editorial image.
Can editorial images be staged? I’d say yes. Pure street photography dictates not changing the behavior of your subject. But editorial photography doesn’t have this restriction. I knew I needed to photograph a flamenco dancer in Spain, but I wasn’t having much luck finding one in the streets. So we hired a flamenco dancer for a shoot in a beautiful location. Here is the behind the scenes shot.
When shooting an editorial portrait, just think of it as an environmental portrait. If you include iconic elements in the background, you are creating a portrait that tells a story…versus a tight headshot. And styling the image helps too. Our dancer showed up in a beautiful red dress, classic flamenco color and style. Above is my environmental shot using a 35mm lens, great for including background. Love the bell tower…
This image relies more on the architecture and color, along with her pose and dress, to convey meaning.
What was my favorite editorial image from Spain? During our stay in Cordoba there was a spring fair happening, and the streets were filled with beautifully dressed people in classic Spanish attire. One day I rounded a corner and two beautifully dressed women walked past me on their way to the fair. They didn’t know I was there, and the cobble street they were walking down led into downtown Cordoba. I took about three shots and then they were too far away for my 35mm. Sometimes you get lucky.
They next time you are photographing travel, think about editorial images. Tell the story well…and the viewer will be along for the ride.