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.