El Universal: Photography Field Notes

If I were only allowed to say one thing about El Universal’s use of photography, it’d be that the paper LOVES headshots and profile photos. There are a LOT of faces in this paper. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but I do think that there should be more of a variety. Also, a lot of those faces seem to be the same size on the page, and the paper would be much more visually dynamic if there was more of a variety when it came to mixing wide, middle and tight shots.

Other than the headshots, there are mostly wide shots, and some medium shots. There are very few detail shots, and I think the paper would really benefit from including more of them.

There’s also a ton of photography in the Destinos section. Makes sense because travel really thrives and relies on photography. There are pages in this section where the photos are essentially the stories themselves, and the text is really just display copy.

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If the page is a full color page, and not a spot color page, the photos are really what bring that color. Certain sections do use color typography, but pages tend get most of their color from really stunningly colorful photography. There’s a lot of beautiful shots — excellent composition and vibrant colors.

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That said, it’s only on some pages. Other pages are really, really lacking in good photography, in my opinion. To me, it seems like the paper is focusing its energy on getting a couple of really great shots, and the rest of the photography seems to be more of an afterthought.

There are also photos on every page, other than the opinions pages, which have illustrations. I think it’s great that the paper can fit so many photos throughout the publication, but I don’t think a mediocre photo should run just because it’s a photo. Good photojournalism should really add something to the story, or tell a story independent of the text. Running a photo for the sake of running a photo isn’t the point.

There are also many pages that run lots of small photos, and only a handful of pages that run a very large, dominant photo. Personally, I’m a fan of really dominant photography, because if I can’t even tell what’s going on in the photo, why is it there? The smaller the photo, the harder to understand what it’s conveying. And the more small photos you throw on a page, the more jumbled and cluttered the page begins to feel.

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Cheryl Seligman