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Editorial Photography Techniques

written by: Caroline Thompson•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/15/2010

Editorial photography speaks its mind. The difference between photojournalism and editorial photography is about bias and opinion. Editorial photographers look at the world around them and show their opinion of the world in pictures.

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    Editorial Photography

    Editorial photography (EP) is photography that tells a story. Images that can stand on their own and don't need explanations fall into the category of EP. Editorial photographers are storytellers. They are in the group with photojournalists, but their images have bias and speak loudly with opinions. The difference between photojournalism and editorial photography is in the bias. Photojournalist document history, they are watchers who chronicle the events of our times. Editorial photographers speak their minds. Their images convey emotions while delving into personalities and they convey their opinions on the events they are photographing. These images do not just document, they are commenting on the issues and values of the people and events in the pictures.

    • Environmental portraits - These tell a story about the person in the photograph. Through the image, the viewer experiences the personality of the person. In this way, they tell a story.
    • Magazine Covers - Magazines use their covers to explain and excite. Most magazines have a bias about the subject matter they cover.
    • Magazine stories - Feature stories are all about opinions and moving people to see what the editor thinks is important.
    • Product photography - Many types of product photography use editorial photographers to state an opinion in the hopes of swaying the consumer to purchase their product over another.
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    Types of Editorial Photography

    BoxingMusicianEnvironmental PortraitCommentaryOpinion
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    How to Breakdown an Image

    Editorial photography still has to cover a story, but the images convey a double meaning beyond just the two dimensional image.

    • The boxing image conveys the skill of the boxers, a moment in time (photojournalism) and the physical toll it takes on the body. The underling story is the ability of the body to take physical abuse and sheer brutality of the hit.
    • The portrait of the musician conveys the image of a guitarist. The story here is the scene at the lake, he lives in an urban environment that is balanced with the serene lake. The water is still the, he is looking off in the distance with sunglasses on even though it is cloudy. He is deep in the moment with his music. The portrait conveys what he does, but also gives a sense of the style of music and a bit of his personality.
    • The child in the window is a portrait of a child. There is a sense of something deeper here, the look on her face and the windowpanes seem like prison bars. The hole in screen is torn and worn. We sense something of her environment and a subtle desire in the way she looks out the window.
    • The swimmer with the ducks. Obviously, this is a swim competition. It is the irony of who is the better swimmer.
    • The man with the gun. This is a record of a moment, but also a statement of the senseless nature of debate. This image when used in the magazine story conveys the opinion of the editor and photographer what the debate actually means.

    All these images capture the moment of what is happening, but they are portrayed in a way that the photographer planned to express how they felt about the situation or how they interpreted what the subject was thinking about their situation. Opinion counts, it is the photographer is trying to tell the viewer. It makes images more captivating and personal.

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    Famous Editorial Photographers

    Everyone has seen their work. They may not who they are, but the images are timeless and cross ages, classes and borders. Here are some the top editorial photographers of our time.

    • Henri Cartier-Bresson - (August 22, 1908-August 3, 2004) He photographed war and people in a way that gave a sense of the times, the people and the senselessness of war and struggle. He is known as the "Master of candid photography."
    • Annie Leibovitz - (Born October 2, 1949) Annie chronicled the drug culture of the rock and roll scene while she was "Rolling Stone" magazine. She then went on to create the most amazing environmental portraits that speak volumes about the person she is photographing. Anyone looking to take environmental portraits should study her work in "Vanity Fair" magazine. Learn more about Annie Leibovitz here.
    • Margaret Bourke-White - (June 14, 1904-August 27, 1971) Margaret Bourke-White photographed some of the greatest names in history including Stalin. She captured the demur dictator smiling, in an odd and rare moment. The image almost seemed surreal. She had an eye for the "big picture," the story behind the story.
    • Dorothea Lange - (May 26, 1895-October 11, 1965) Most Americans know Dorothea Lange's work. She photographed the great depression era in the dustbowl of Oklahoma. Her picture of the Mother with children is famous. She captured the sentiment of a nation and the circumstance of an era in the face of the distraught mother.

    There are many more, these are just a few of the greats who have made an impact upon people and the news. The one thing they all have in common is they looked around, saw the world and expressed their opinions in pictures.