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TRY A PICTURE ESSAY
It Can Really Get You Hooked!

A picture essay is a group of photos connected by a theme. It's easier to shoot than searching randomly for picture possibilities because the theme determines the kinds of shots you'll need. I've used some of Peter Randall's Isles of Shoals essay photos as an example.

When I lived in Seattle, I was hired by Washington State Ferries to do a complete series of publicity pictures for their files which involved traveling aboard every ferry in the fleet– about 30 of them. Of course, the Ferry people wanted "portraits" of each ship, which I dutifully shot, but the real fun was doing a three-month picture essay on ferry life.
Peter Randall photo: resting places

Late afternoon sunlight washes over the resting places of both the living and the dead as storm clouds race overhead. The warm, yellow light and cool, purple sky work beautifully together.

People waiting in the terminals, enjoying themselves on deck, old brass fixtures aboard, scenes in the pilothouse, cars getting on and off, the energetic ferry attendants, people down below snoozing, lovers at the rail kissing, views of the surrounding mountains framed by lifeboats in the foreground, and so on. I shot several thousand pictures and then chose about a hundred which, when viewed together, said: "Ferries!" It was a great assignment and I loved traveling to places, both large and small, and shooting in all kinds of weather.
Peter Randall photo: lobsterman

The lobsterman is silhouetted, the sky perfectly exposed, and the white floats in the foreground are subtly tinted by the orange glow of sunset.

Speaking of which, it will soon be Springtime so now’s the time to pick a subject you’d like to visually explore in depth. Is there a bridge that’s always fascinated you? An intriguing deserted farm? A particular block in your city that’s alive with action? Choose anything that can be tied together by the sum of its parts, but not something so big that it becomes overwhelming. Other good essay themes that come to mind are historic buildings or districts, country churches, airport and train stations, parks and amusement attractions– you get the idea.

I suggest you don’t do picture essays on subjects like homeless shelters or drug rehabilitation centers because these require a high degree of technical skill and are frequently quite stressful. You may not be ready to handle it yet. But it’s something to keep in mind as you gain more confidence; organizations like these can always use good pictures to promote their worthy causes.

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