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Paul Taggart, whose work has appeared in publications such the New York Times and National Geographic, has photographed dozens of photo essays—from stories of civil unrest in faraway lands to a kid's first camping trip. Here, he discusses the key concepts behind great photojournalism: the types of photos that make up a photo essay, the research and planning that goes into shooting one, and the art of sequencing the final shots in a way that tells the story. He also talks about the prospects for storytellers in the Internet age, and shows examples of photo essays that he has shot for major magazines and for his own personal projects.
Sequencing images for your photo story is, one of the hardest things. And there's no right answer, and there's no right sequences. There's a lot of wrong sequences, but for me, it's still something I struggle with. I think I'm pretty good at editing down, let's say it's a big project, 10,000 images and getting it down to a 100. And then getting it down to that magic 25, but then getting that 25 in the proper order isn't always an easy task.
I'll usually do a first pass, and then for me, my workflow is, then I send that out to friends and family, even. And then also over the years, I've got a lot of friends that are editors, that are photo editors. And I send it to them and they'll give me informed ideas about how to sequence things. and then also, if I'm having trouble, usually if it's a larger project and there's more images. what I'll do is I'll just, I'll walk away from it. I'll put all the pictures on the wall, and I'll have them mapped out the way I want it, and then I just walk away from it and then I go look at photo books. I collect photo books, I've got a thousand of these things. And you just start looking at how photo books are sequenced, because they're brilliant, you know.
And then you come back to it, or you could watch a movie or something else, I mean. Film making informs photography in incredible ways. And if you can sort of harness what you see on film or in a photo book and then bring that back to your just 25 images. Sequencing 25 images all of a sudden becomes rather simple. so I guess bringing in outside sources and other people's opinions really informs the way that I organize the sequence by photo for photo story.
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