Field Notes: Photography

Photography is an important part of The Guardian’s presentation. First of all, the photos help create hierarchy on the page because the stories with the larger photos are the more important stories on the page. By pairing a large photo with these stories, it’s catching the reader’s eye and drawing the reader into these stories. The Guardian uses photos with the majority of its teasers to add a pop of color and create interest in the promos. Seeing a photo helps the readers visualize the stories within the paper, thus drawing them into the paper.

The Guardian uses photos in varying sizes. Some are a very small thumbnail and others take up half the page. It all depends on the story that is being told and the level of importance of that story on the page. Due to space constraints, less important stories will have either a small thumbnail or no photo at all. More important stories will either have one very large photo or several photos (usually that are medium or large size) that illustrate the story.

The Guardian also occasionally wraps the text around a photo. Most of The Guardian’s photos are rectangular or square, which helps keep consistency and makes it easier to work on a grid.

The Guardian uses bold colors sparingly and for emphasis. Most photos have simple colors and a lot of the photos that are shot outdoors have a very natural look. Overall, I think the color of the photos fits in nicely with The Guardian’s color scheme.

The content of photos varies. Sometimes it is just a photo of a person, and other times its photos of a painting or a city. The photos go along with the story, which is standard practice for publications. The Guardian tends to use mostly medium and wide shots to illustrate the written stories, but occasionally they will throw in a tight shot to create some variety.

For hard-hitting news, The Guardian generally does not overlay text over a photo. However, for the lighter, arts and culture news, The Guardian will place text over the photo. The Guardian rarely superimposes images, but will do so occasionally and sparingly.

I think The Guardian effectively uses photography to create hierarchy within the paper and to generate reader interest. They don’t overuse certain effects and styles, which can lose impact if they are overused. One of the things they could change up a little bit more is playing with the shape of the photos to generate reader interest. While it’s good to be consistent with rectangular or square photos, sometimes it is nice to see something a little bit different.