How to Shoot Powerful Editorial Photo Essays

Editorial photography is all about story-telling. A great photo essay should begin long before you actually start shooting. You need to research your topic thoroughly, have a story in mind, make sure the people you’re photographing are comfortable, and be ready to shoot in challenging situations and locations. Here, we see Olympus Visionary Photographer Larry Price on location in Massachusetts where he’s shooting an editorial photo essay on New England lobstermen. Price has some great tips on how to shoot photojournalistic photography and tell a powerful story through images:

The 90/10 Rule

As Price says, a successful picture story is usually about 90% research and 10% photo taking.

Before you start shooting, you should know about your subject and try to establish a repertoire with the people you’re going to be photographing. When it comes to the type of shots you want to capture, try to mix it up a bit—a good photo essay will have a lot of variety.

lobster boat photo

Look for Three Types of Shots

  1. Wide Angle: to set the scene
  2. Transitional Pictures: close-up shots of moments that help fill out the story
  3. Closing Picture: a sort of iconic image to tie up the story

new england lobstermen photo

Recommended Gear

When shooting a photo essay, quite often you find yourself in challenging, confined spaces—like Price on the lobster boat. You need to be able to move around easily, so it’s best to stick with minimal equipment.

Price uses an Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Zuiko 9mm wide angle lens to get expansive pictures, a 40-150mm f/2.8 lens to shoot portraits and close-ups, and a 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom as his go-to lens.

The point is, you only need two or three lenses, but with a good range to allow you to shoot in any light and capture different perspectives.

lobster boat worker

Useful Tips to Create Amazing Editorial Photo Essays

  • Use autofocus so you can capture the images quickly—all you have to do is make sure you’re framing carefully.
  • Be mindful of angles. A tilt screen on your camera allows you to frame accurately and vary your angle.
  • Gain the trust of the people you’re photographing. Once they get used to what you’re doing and get comfortable with you, you’ll be able to get up close and personal for more intimate images.
  • Most importantly, find the moments that literally tell the story!

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