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The Photographer's Story: The Art of Visual Narrative

The Photographer's Story: The Art of Visual Narrative [Kindle Edition]

Michael Freeman

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Product Description

Product Description

Having already taught you how to compose and interpret great photos, Michael Freeman now continues his best-selling series by exploring the most successful methods for presenting photography meaningfully and in an engaging format. This is the critical “next step” that separates adequate image galleries from captivating collections – and disinterested viewers from enthralled audiences.

Tapping into his decades of experience shooting for such publications as Smithsonian, GEO, and Condé Nast Traveller (among many others), Michael Freeman studies the photo-essay phenomenon that took the world by storm and gave storytellers a completely new set of tools to construct their narratives. Having established how rhythm, pacing, and careful organisation build tension and cultivate interest, Freeman goes on to explain what this means for presenting your own photos, particularly in the new digital formats of online galleries, slideshows, and tablets.

The Photographer’s Story will enliven your images, refresh your perspective, and elevate your understanding of how photographs work together to tell a story. Your audiences will thank you for it.

About the Author

Michael Freeman is a renowned international photographer and writer who specializes in travel, architecture, and Asian art. He is particularly well known for his expertise in special effects. He has been a leading photographer for the Smithsonian magazine for many years, and has worked for Time-Life Books and Reader's Digest. Michael is the author of more than 20 photographic books, including the hugely successful Complete Guide to Digital Photography and The Photographer's Eye.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 23940 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Ilex Press (1 Nov 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BPAJ63Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,824 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Michael Freeman, professional photographer and author, with more than 100 book titles to his credit, was born in England in 1945, took a Masters in geography at Brasenose College, Oxford University, and then worked in advertising in London for six years. He made the break from there in 1971 to travel up the Amazon with two secondhand cameras, and when Time-Life used many of the pictures extensively in the Amazon volume of their World's Wild Places series, including the cover, they encouraged him to begin a full-time photographic career.

Since then, working for editorial clients that include all the world's major magazines, and notably the Smithsonian Magazine (with which he has had a 30-year association, shooting more than 40 stories), Freeman's reputation has resulted in more than 100 books published. Of these, he is author as well as photographer, and they include more than 40 books on the practice of photography - for this photographic educational work he was awarded the Prix Louis Philippe Clerc by the French Ministry of Culture. He is also responsible for the distance-learning courses on photography at the UK's Open College of the Arts.

Freeman's books on photography have been translated into fifteen languages, and are available on other Amazon international sites.

They are supported for readers by a regularly updated site,

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Comprehensive Book on Photo Stories and Essays Available 6 Nov 2012
By T. Campbell - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Since at least the 1970s there have been a number of fine books on photographic story telling and essays by noted photographers, magazine and book publishers such as Time-Life and National Geographic, how-to authors, and others with many emphases, ranging from theoretical, to how a publisher manages the whole program, to how one photographer operates. Most are long out of print; some are classics and highly collectible. Freeman's "The Photographer's Story" is the latest contribution on this subject, but is more comprehensive, thorough, and up-to-date than others I am familiar with.

Freeman is uniquely qualified to write this book for two main reasons. Firstly, he has been walking the walk since the 1970s doing stories, essays, photographic picture story books, and how-to books in such numbers as makes keeping track no longer useful. He's done so many stories for "Smithsonian" magazine that I'm not sure he still keeps count. But the uniqueness of his qualification is, IMHO (not really H), his ability to articulate his mind in objective, analytical ways on subjects most artists are shy to, refuse to, or cannot address in a concrete fashion. Most artists of any stripe are experts at handwaving and telling about their "feelings," but couldn't say why an image works in an objective sense if their lives depended on it. Freeman is comfortable in making that leap into those unpopular domains.

Better than almost anyone else, he can take a process, define its characteristics and components, talk about how they work to achieve the goal, and how to get there. He is especially clever at inventing schematic representations of aspects of a process that give the reader not just his words and photos, but visual information on the interactions of the process components among themselves and through time to its completion.

So a bit about this book, the organization of which is straight forward. A major theme running through the book is that the possibilities and demands for storytelling with photographs are changing with almost every new electronic medium hitting the markets. Another is that throughout the book he emphasizes the roles of all players and stake holders in the entire process, as seldom is a project a photographer-centric solo effort. His ease within this multi-polar environment is evident in his respect for their roles in handling his own work.

The first section is "The Photo Essay," wherein he introduces and breaks down the "classic narrative" structure of a story and also introduces his first visual schematic, which graphs a model of the rise and fall of tensions through the flow of the story. He uses two of his own stories to illustrate the general idea in one case, and to introduce a schematic method to show the rhythm and pace of the flow of image content, colorfulness, scale of the scene (closeup versus medium and long shots), and the visual weight (in this case, of human faces). He uses this approach several times throughout the book in explaining and illustrating his argument. I have a concern that sometimes - in particular, the schematic for changes in colorfulness - the model needs a bit more explanation for the reader to be certain of understanding what one is seeing, or supposed to see.

In the first section, he also delves into the historical archives to show from where his story originates. He does a superb job of analyzing the all-time classic and great essay by W. Eugene Smith for Life magazine, "The Country Doctor." I've not seen it done from so many points of view, supported by his schematics to separate visual aspects of the images and layouts from the content of those images. He could make a whole book of this type of analysis on other essays and stories.

The second section, "Planning & Shooting," covers a breakout of the different types of photo stories and then looks at the planning required of all participants in the story, from the various editors to participants in the activities, to supporting the shooting itself, to the various uses after shooting. Imagining a shoot without adequate planning is a waste of everyone's time and resources.

The third and last section, "Edit & Show," is the meatiest, and technical. He covers the types and reasons for the various edits, aspects of space-time in the layout, and the differences between print and the various internet and visual media in how a story can be advantageously presented. While tablets, such as the iPad, are the latest influence on changing the presentation of stories, they certainly will not be the last.

This book is arguably the finest current look at its subject. But in another dimension, it is also the fourth of a series starting with "The Photographer's Eye," followed by "_ Mind" and "_ Vision." These together comprise the only extant effort to present the most difficult aspects of the photographic enterprise at an intellectual level. As a foursome, they deserve to be presented as a boxed set. Every university level photography program should require that boxed set. Writing on the arts does not get better than what Freeman has given us.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Telling the Tale with Images 12 Jan 2013
By Conrad J. Obregon - Published on
Michael Freeman says that "a series of still images, precisely captured and carefully edited, can tell a story in a way like no other". "The Photographer's Story" is his explanation of how to capture and edit such a series, in a variety of media, from classic magazines to electronic tablets.

The book begins with a discussion of the nature of a photo essay, including a famous case history, the "Country Doctor" essay of W. Eugene Smith, shot for Life Magazine in 1948. In the following section, Freeman categorizes these stories into several kinds, including people stories, location stories and commodity stories, and explains how to organize such stories. In the final section he shows how to edit such stories and present them using a variety of media.

Underlying all of this is the idea that putting together a series of photographs can have a synergistic result greater than any one picture, including even a great single shot. Whether talking about the rhythm of presentation or the selection of images from a single shoot, the idea is always how to strengthen the telling of the story. The book is not concerned with the single great shot telling a story in itself, or with the most effective presentation of a series of unrelated shots as in a portfolio presentation.

Freeman has developed a thoughtful style and presents concepts that are not often encountered in the world of photography. At first glance I was slightly confused because just as I became interested in a story he was using for illustration, he jumped to another that followed from his prior point. I soon realized that he was not concerned with telling us any particular story, but rather, was interested in illustrating a technique across several different stories. I had to discipline myself to ignore the content of the stories and follow the overall teaching points

I was particularly impressed by the way he distinguished the methods of presentation due to the nature of the media itself, illustrating the similarities and differences between presenting, say, a magazine article and a slide show.

Photographers who are interested in presenting single impressive images, designed to be shown in isolation, may gain little from Freeman's work. Those interested in telling a story too complex or deep to be illustrated by a single image will want to read this book and refer to it both before designing and shooting a story and then before organizing and presenting it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting but repetitive 17 May 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had read Perfect Exposure and The photographer eye too. And I have to said this two books are much more better. This one about photography narrative is a good book but it is repetitive in the central ideas.In half the space the importance of create captivating collections, or narratives, the concept of Rhytm and Pacing, the picture script and planning, and Layouts in space and time as neccesary tools could be explained. Then the book illustrate the remake of some of the great stories the author published in important magazines.
I recommend the book to any photographer who want to go to the next step beyond taking individual but good pictures. Not for the beginner who needs to make emphasis first in taking good photos. For this reader go before to the Photographer Eye, and then to Perfect exposure (being this the best of the trilogy). I take off one star because it goes boring and repetitive.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read. 8 April 2013
By Julian Velasco - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered the book because I like Freeman's work, and was disappointed (at first) when I saw that this book was pretty much about photo essays. Having bought it, I decided to read it. And I was shocked to see how much could actually be written on the subject!

I've never done a photo essay, so I'm not sure how useful this really is for me. But now I want to try! And it's written in Freeman's typical style, which I like. After all is said and done, I think I learned a lot, even if I never do a photo essay. So I'm glad I read the book, even though I might never have read it if I knew what it was about before I bought it.

But just be warned: this book really is about creating photo essays; if you don't want to do that, this book may not be for you.
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid resource for the art of photo essays. 31 July 2014
By Laura - Published on
As a former photojournalist, this book was naturally appealing to me. It establishes the modern vernacular for creating photo essays in an easy to follow structure. This book would be especially inspirational to someone wishing to build a portfolio in visual journalism, to someday be employed with a top end magazine or book publisher. The book takes you on a journey with easy to understand lessons that could be applied to those working as a photojournalist, the serious amateur looking to improve travel photography, down the personal hobbyist who would like to improve the photo story that gets tucked away in scrapbooking techniques.

The art of storytelling is something that is taught in early elementary years: leading sentence, story structure, persuasive / exciting element, conclusion. Mr. Freeman reiterates these essay rules to the world of photography. Creating visual storyboards are tools that filmmakers create all the time, and this book seems to follow that concept, only keeping the visual to still images...until the end, a part of the book which puzzled me.

While the photos in the book are compelling to the eye, and a real showcase of the exotic locations Mr. Freeman has explored along his travels, the everyday photographer may have a difficult time connecting on how this may relate on a local level. I would have liked to have seen examples in a small town American countryside or city, and perhaps what to look for in day-to-day events in order to tell a visual story.

At the end of the book, Mr. Freeman describes how to incorporate images into a slideshow or movie. For me personally, this seems to be off point. Why would you convert the photos into a movie to tell the story, why not just make a movie or documentary in the first place? I understand the mediums can blend together, but for 90% of the book he's telling about photographs, it seemed like an afterthought where it mentions oh yeah, you can make it into a movie, too.

In the end he states there is "no approved system" for the final photographers edit for the images chosen to tell the story. He provides the way he personally deals with post-shoot processing / editing, but drives home the point that you're probably going to make your own system that works for you.

What I found in this book to be of particular benefit and something that I hadn't seen in similar books on this topic, are the graphical layout and design options for telling stories with impact. I'll definitely look forward to utilizing some of these suggested layouts.

Overall, I found this book to be a solid resource on creating creative photo essays full of impact.
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