HERE ARE SOME MORE recent pages from the Carolina Forest Chronicle.
FROM MICHAEL: This was our sports front announcing the abrupt dismissal of CCU football coach David Bennett. There’s been considerable fallout since then, including revelations the CCU president was actively and secretly recruiting Bennett’s replacement weeks before dismissing him. Joe Moglia, former CEO of TD Ameritrade, got the coaching job.
FROM ED: Overall I like the page, though some points follow.
1. I’m not sure what the lead photo—though it’s visually appealing—adds to the package.
2. Who is Beaver? I looked for him in the story here and I can’t find him. I assume he’s the person charged with embezzlement.
3. I like the play of the lead photo.
4. Good headline approach.
FROM MICHAEL: Here’s another photo page. In this one, I thought I’d invert the page so that I could run the dominant art even bigger and make a more visually interesting page. I like this better than some of my past photo pages, but I’d love to hear any ideas on how to design a truly excellent photo page. I feel like we take great photos but aren’t displaying them as effectively as we’d like.
FROM ED: It’s a good page. Not great…good. I like the play of the lead shot. I don’t like trapping the caption in the center of the four photos at right.
You asked for ideas on how to design a photo page. Following is from a column I wrote 10 years ago—but I think the key points here apply.
THE PHOTO PAGE—a phrase that would work better if “the” were all-caps, bold, underlined. Any photo page is immediately faulted unless it leads off with THE (all-caps, bold, underlined) dominant photo.
If there’s no dominant photo, what you eventually have is not a photo page but a page with a lot of photos on it.
Too many photo pages are just an agglomeration of pictures. None has any more impact than the others. None is more attractive. None is more effective. In short, all of the photos are relatively the same size, have relatively the same impact, elicit relatively the same response—and all are relatively dull and boring.
Oh, no: it’s not because of their content. Or their composition. Rather, it’s because of the display they are given. More great photos are lost on photo pages because of weak display than for any other reason.
Especially at smaller newspapers, the temptation is very strong to run every photo you’re given of a particular event. So if your photographer offers you two dozen photos of the Christmas parade, you’re going to do your best to run those two dozen photos on the photo page. Allowing room for a copy block, a headline and some captions, that means those photos will run no larger than 2 columns wide b y 2 inches deep. A lot of photos—none worth looking at.
When we run so many photos, often our reason for doing so is that we don’t want to upset:
(a) the photographer, who thinks every one of them is important and helps to tell the story; or
(b) the people who are pictured in the photos and expect that if the photo was taken it will be run.
As page designers, it’s our responsibility to select and edit the photos so that we can create a photo page that is readable and memorable. Our duty is to all of our readers, not just those who may have been the subjects in the photos. And our responsibility to the photographer is to help showcase her best work–not necessarily all of her photos.
So the most important key to a successful photo page is to choose THE photo and give THE photo good play.
Here are some other tips:
— Use a copy block to put readers in context by explaining what the story or event pictured is all about.
— Use individual caption under each photo. A grouped caption makes readers have to travel back and forth from the caption to the photos, each time trying to find the spot in the caption where they’re supposed to continue reading.
— Use only one credit if there was only one photographer on the assignment. The credit may be larger than standard credits and placed in an area of the page that will give it more emphasis.
— It’s OK to use a headline typeface that’s different from your standard headline style.
— Stay with your standard fonts for the copy block and captions., But you may want to set the copy block (if it’s not too long) flush right if it aligns to the left of a photo.
— Cluster the photos, creating an assemblage of images and using similar spacing between them.
— Apply some negative space around the outside edges of the page, giving the page some room to breathe.