Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Assignment 5: selection, structure and sequencing


With this assignment it feels like the shooting is less than half the job! First there was more preparation involved than previously, and now there’s quite a bit more to do at this post-shoot stage than there was in the previous assignments.


I’ve edited the photos down in two passes so far, and it still needs a third pass to get down to 12:

  • First pass: I immediately deleted the several near-identical versions of the same shot I got on day 1 when I used Burst Mode a little too much, and also removed a smaller chunk that had really obvious technical issues (out of focus, over- or under-exposed, tree obscuring subject etc…)
    • This got the total usable shots down to just under 400
  • Second pass: I worked through the images one-by-one in Lightroom, using the Rating function to quickly identify the images that stood out
    • This gave me a longlist (4* and 5*) of 68
    • And a shortlist (5* only) of 17

To get to the final selection of 12 will need to take into account a few criteria:

  • The thinking on structure and sequencing that I summarise below
  • Cross-referencing back to the shooting plan that I prepared (without following it slavishly)
  • Juxtaposition, balance etc generated by the specific sizing, ratios (vertical/horizontal) when arranged into a photo layout style as per the brief – and to what extent they support the aims of the series

So rather than thinking of the final selection as being a task of how to get the shortlist down from 17 to 12 (i.e. simply discarding the five ‘weakest’ shots), I am treating the challenge as that of getting the series to work together as a narrative. This might entail revisiting some of the longlist (or even the first pass 400).

To help with the final selection I’ve put a bunch of post-it notes on the wall by the desk… to remind me what I’m looking for, how to judge the candidate images.



Structure & sequencing

I’m thinking here in terms of the different approaches one could have to weaving a narrative structure through a set of images covering this kind of event. There are a few variations (not mutually exclusive):

  • Purely chronological: not planning on doing this – in fact I’m actually blending photos from two consecutive days
  • Visual depth: start wide to set the scene, move to medium context shots, move further to portraits and close-ups on fine details
  • Give a sense of the actual occasion, in terms of how it builds up to a peak of excitement/scale/grandeur/awe and latterly how it ‘comes back down’ – in a way this is a blend of both of the above, moulded to the particular event

I’m erring towards the last option there: without looking at the pictures I sat down and tried to visualise how best to get across the ‘shape’ of the story… the top blue post-it note above best shows the effect I am seeking:

  • Start with individual details (e.g. a float arriving, the crowd waiting)
  • Add in more contextual details (e.g. individual performers)
  • Big (double-page spread) image showing the scale of the whole event, shot wide and high
  • Focus back on contextual details, this time on the interactions between performers and crowd
  • Finish with obvious indicators that the event is over (people leaving etc)

To further aid the sequencing and layout task, I made a non-pictorial 8-page mockup out of folded A4 paper and post-its:

This helped me enormously: it helped in terms of not only testing out the ‘story arc’ concept to the images, but in two additional ways:

  • Layout: relative sizes of images, combination of portrait and landscape ratios etc
  • Juxtaposition: how to position images together on facing pages; I’ve added notes to the spreads for my own benefit, as follows:
    • p1 (cover): the hook shot!
    • p2-3: build-up / anticipation
    • p4-5: awe / spectacle / scale
    • p6-7: people / reactions (joy, excitement) / interactions
    • p8: comedown

Once I’d laid out the photo-free mockup above, the final selection became easier, as I started seeing how each image could fit in.

Then in a few more iterations I played about with various layouts on screen. For the ones that I was getting increasingly happy with, I started printing them out on A4 and then folding to A5 size so I could see what it might look like as an actual magazine supplement. This helped me enormously.




If you can make it out, you’ll see that I changed a couple of the pictures during each iteration, as it was seeing them positioned together that made me realise which ones worked and which ones didn’t. I got second opinions from my wife throughout. After the last version above I did one further set of changes, including the cover crop, which formed the submitted assignment.

I must say that this approach was a real eye-opener for me. I’m not wholly sure that I’d go to this extent on many assignments, but the nature of this one – where layout and juxtaposition are important – led me to go down the physical mockup route. It really helped me visualise the end result.


2 thoughts on “Assignment 5: selection, structure and sequencing

  1. Pingback: Assignment 5: tutor feedback | Art of Photography

  2. Pingback: Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative | Art of Photography

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