People & Place

Rob Townsend's OCA Learning Log

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Assignment 4: image selection

After a few days of thinking vaguely about, but not doing any actual work on, the assignment, I come back to it tonight with the intention of chopping down my longlist (92 images).

I thought it prudent to re-read the brief to make sure I understood its salient points. I know by now that the briefs on assignments can be interpreted creatively, but I also know that deliberately veering off a properly understood brief is quite different to simply misinterpreting it in the first place!

The re-reading did lead to a spark of clarity on how to approach the brief.

Aim to produce sufficient images on a specific location to fill, say, six pages. This would mean about six final images as chosen, but at least twice this number of good, publishable images from which to make the final selection.

I’ve taken a look at examples of this kind of location-centric photo article, mostly in National Geographic Traveller magazine [1], which seemed to fit the hypothetical publication for the assignment quite well. What became apparent is that a good photo feature (clear, informative, attractive) does indeed use some of the advice I’ve previously seen and applied on similar exercises and assignments – namely a narrative flow incorporating a variety of shot types, angles, subjects and so on. So the shooting list that I’d already been working to so far is a good starting point.

Matching this advice and Nat Geo example to the brief led me to a refinement of the shooting list. What I decided to focus on in the shot selection is the point that I am being advised to produce twice as many shots as will actually be used. I’m interpreting this as: I don’t get final say on image selection and layout.

This gave me parameters to work within (I like parameters; I find them paradoxically freeing):

  • I should identify a shooting list of no more than six types of shot
  • I should provide two photographs under each of the shot type headings (three if there are very strong contenders) – but one should be my stated preference and others should be alternative options
  • I will provide both the ‘preferred’ set of six and all alternative options as part of the assignment submission
  • Any combination of images under the headings should work together – images that only work well in specific juxtapositions are a risk to the overall narrative if they don’t get chosen together

Whilst I understand that I didn’t *need* to interpret the brief in this specific way, I genuinely find it useful at this stage to have a structure for my image selection decisions (if the structured approach generates a set of images that just doesn’t feel right, I’ll change it; but the structure is my starting point).

So, pulling all of this together: my image selection will generate a shortlist of at least 12 images under the following (guideline) headings:

  • Establishing shot
    • Wide, generic, showing overall context
  • Medium shot
    • People interacting with place
  • Detail shot
    • Small but identifiable feature
  • Portrait shot
    • Single person
  • Interaction shot
    • Two or more people
  • Closing shot
    • Imagery of leaving / closing / end of day?

The images need to use a combination of the techniques/concepts:

  • Outsider’s eye
  • Symbols and running motifs
  • Focusing on the small differences

And the messages to be conveyed are based around the following keywords:

  • “Cramped”
  • “Historic”
  • “Characterful”

With ALL of this in mind, I am now going in to make some in/out decisions…

  1. National Geographic Traveller UK, October 2014: Absolute Publishing