Skip to main content

Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

Lesson 29 of 35

Editing Exercise with Students

David H Wells

Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

29. Editing Exercise with Students


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:20:30
2 Pivotal Essays Duration:24:53
4 Career Path Part 1 Duration:27:09
5 Career Path Part 2 Duration:28:24
6 Defining Your Skillset Duration:16:52
7 Seeding the Project Duration:17:05
8 Mirrors and Windows Duration:20:55
9 Creativity Quotes and Ideas Duration:33:04
15 Student Proposals Duration:20:41
16 Analyzing Photographs Duration:34:44
17 Experiment to Define Format Duration:32:58
18 Editing Exercise Duration:12:35
19 Grants and Funding Part 1 Duration:30:20
20 Grants and Funding Part 2 Duration:40:59
23 Elevator Pitch Duration:19:01
24 Executing Your Project Duration:15:34
25 Gear Duration:30:30
26 Shooting Approach Duration:20:48
27 Shooting Q&A Duration:20:26
28 Instant Editing and Time Use Duration:36:33
29 Editing Exercise with Students Duration:28:57
30 Workflow Part 1 Duration:29:10
31 Workflow Part 2 Duration:33:18
33 Reinvention as a Career Path Duration:19:44
35 Final Q&A and Feedback Duration:28:09

Lesson Info

Editing Exercise with Students

And the way it's gonna work is I'm going to sit down with each one of you were going to go over the prince, the other two of you, if I understand correctly, are going to be able to see what we're doing by the monitor, so don't worry, you'll actually get to see what we're doing, and we're gonna work with one percent time, put some prints out, talk a little bit about them, he's out that idea that I was talking about some presentation issues where you want to go forward, this is a very small exercise, I don't get it too wrapped up because we're not going to solve it today, but I'm hoping each one he's going to leave this congress lead the conversation that we have thinking, oh, yeah, so now I've got one more tool, my bag, about what I have to think about what I'm going to go forward with. All right? So can we get the table and who's our first happy camper? All right, when we go all right, good. So we've cheated a little bit because we've talked about this before. All right? So these are y...

ou called you what's, the word you use for these again porches, quartered studies, so the idea is you're photographing dancers in different in their environment, that's the long term goal right, the idea was in these was repeating back what you said it because I want to make sure I understand it and people everybody else gets it is that you're doing what you call porter study so you can see sort of who they are and how they move so these were not the finished yeah, okay, good because I can see what you're doing but one of my issues with these right off the top was obvious you're backgrounds or not doing kind of what you want um this one here with her arm this one with her arm this one here the gesture is interesting, the backgrounds a little problematic but the gesture is interesting so those are the ones where I'm going to think to myself all right, so let's keep those with a better gestures handy yeah and you included color and black and white do you have a strong sense of if you going to use one of the other when you're doing this or you're still kind of thinking that through I still have the issue with depending where I am that black white works in some areas and other works in others, so I'm not sure okay, because it's for this said I'm gonna take color, okay? And I'm gonna lose probably those two right there and then these air a little bit small actually that's probably the best one firstly it's crap wrong because if just doing it locally gonna work with those four for now and so one of the things that you and I were discussing sort of off camera was the you'd initially said nature and then our discussion then came to actually it's it's place not nature it could be nature but for example this person I think works better was environment environment was environment so it could be any type of environment okay unique urban or so that would be I think because you sent me your proposal to get this one that was one of my things which is you change you become more about theeighties environment rather than this is thirty landscape because it doesn't have to be a natural landscape anymore right it's falling short of getting it correctly uh it's it's always been about the environment but it doesn't have to be about a specific environment it could be anywhere okay, everything and then this goes to the color versus black and then the one of the things that we were talking about yesterday after class was to me looking at this my very first thought is it both of these have sort of that there's a balance between the environment and the person on I'm not sure that you actually wanna have them fifty fifty I would wonder and it was one of the things that I was excited about with lorenzo being here though he couldn't join us last couple days with his experience with photographing athletes and stuff there's a subculture of photography where people really are using light and composition stuff to actually say no, the athlete is clearly first and the environment where he or she plays a second, and I think you might want to think about changing that prioritizing and balance. Mohr and the other question I had we talked about this a little bit yesterday was the idea of how much of this is a collaboration in terms of their input and how much of this is your direction? Well, a lot of it is what I see when I what you ended up picking out here goes right to what I photographed and I will make them I would say, make them I have them repeat, if there's something I see that they do that, I really like I will have them do it over and over again to get what I need to get, but a lot of it is somehow when they're out there, what they're doing, how they're moving and how they're feeling as well, I guess that was that was my question was going to which is it? This is a really if you have the time, it's a very useful devices, okay, so now you is the photographer, I understand how they move what's their language having said that, you do also want to put them out of the environment, see how they offer, as well as how you define absolutely okay, I mean, it seems like a good start, the one other thing we were talking about was on the business model question, which would be, I might think, mohr about trying to do enough of these so you can create the kind of visibility name, brand recognition, all the stuff I've been talking about with my project, so when you go around to clients, they're kind of looking at you like, wow, quinn does this incredible thing rather than necessary coming at the clients and it's kind of a power higher if you think you can call most kind of saying, look, I know what I'm doing here, so let's do it my way rather than necessarily because the other problem is you said this a couple times, if you let them control the definition too much, they have one idea of how they present themselves, but you're the photographer, you know, it looks good in a year also the former dancer, which gives you an advantage over somebody like me who doesn't actually know that much about him. Yes, it is, that is, that somehow it is, can you clarify for me when you said I understand when I see athletes photographed, you're talking about with the dark background, and they use a lot of light to give them shape and form and that type of thing and the environment there's a lot less control, I can use light, and I do pick different times today, and I picked lightest best I can, for example, in these images, when you're talking about like I had the light on her face there. I mean, what are you talking about? A ce faras trying to separate them out from the environment when we were outside of your memory yesterday, do that picture of you, and so what it was it was literally the son was hitting you, and the building behind you is in deep shade, and the light, by definition, said, you're for the primary subject and that background there is the secondary subject, and whether that's literally you using light, as in daylight or controlled light or flashlight or reflectors, I don't know, but that time and the analogy of lorenzo with ea sports photographers, who are using similar tools of maybe focus or something to change this balance from because both of these have this fifty fifty balance of fifty percent dancer, fifty percent environment, I don't actually think that's what you want, I think you want to raise their prominence and reduced the environment so it's part of the narrative but I actually don't think this is some to be the best example of that it's almost an interesting landscape photograph on its own and you actually don't want that you don't want the viewer to go you want the viewer to get dancer first environment second and what the tools are you know light focus angle land all the stuff we've been talking about I wasn't actually talking about studio as much as I was talking about maybe controlling the light out there well perhaps this one in color shows a lot more of her I buy actually making it the sepia color it breathes it more to fifty fifty so that may take the direction back to do I use color more I mean but that at the same time the red there really makes a building prominent but I chose that location because I love the red so I mean I think early and early in the project you need to do a lot of like including probably that instant editing to kind of ferreted out and the other nice thing is of course you can shoot color and then go back to black and white to reduce the atonality but as time goes on you're gonna want to probably start making some of these decisions earlier on in the process. Okay. Okay. That's some help. All right, good. Thank you very much. Thank you please next victim next victim thank the folks in the chat rooms david are just really engaging quite a quite a bit in this you know it's just love to see your thought process and that communicate your communication you know, with the students there this is the same usual type which is great I just want to make sure that I'm not missing something these are all your father yeah, ok just to make sure that I want to make sure you're not you have not yet photographed other person I'm going to run out of space here which is actually a really good thing do you have any photographs? We have actually talk about this now that I see this more you know anything from earlier I did the ones that I showed know what I mean like oh, you know actually that changed my perspective just when we talked about yesterday we don't have pictures in his room like it do you know I mean, we have anything longer when he was either a young man or fully functioning is your father I just wonder if there isn't something of wave using some of that because you know, some of these have relationship uh uh I mean they're different moments of the relationship would be the first thought about maybe putting some of them together but I was also thinking in terms of older photographs of him years ago in the last fifteen, twenty years dio from when you were younger person or even when you were a child yet to him too, as a way of entering this I mean, the problem now is we're entering when he's in this condition which I guess getting from listening to you talk about him that obviously your father, you're attached to him. But you want us to enter it kind of in that same things. So when we get to this, we have a better sense of no he's, not just here. Hey used to be yeah, and I wonder if the historical photographs might be a way of not making the whole thing a project, but some way of getting that and might be pairings like I was showing them my wife stuff some old sufferance and new stuff. It might be trying to find residences between images here in terms of the moment, it was like there was this one here, um as well have said we like that one, I think it's because it's simple it's a great use of focus it makes about this is all what a good photograph does. It makes it look, look at this and then do that. And then the kind of narrative journey that he's going on mentally, um, I think I know the story, everything like that one she really likes thiss one day I mean, I'm guessing these air about him, but it's not doing the same thing. Take that out. This is important terms of keeping it there. But this is sort of a little more expected on I think what you're trying to do trying to get us to look at this whole process in a different way. Your that's, my brother's brother? Yeah, right. He's the same same guy. Yeah, it is the same again the same thing. All your energy and everything is going the other way. It's block closer again. The best ones are more about what it feels like and what it looks like now. That's life. We have to have that somewhere because that's the scene is that this is similar to the one that you showed me the videos before he does it better. What size? I mean, just right off the top. My very first thought is to stick more to details because these details are really nice and atmosphere. Boy, I think I said that is before called the collar versus black and white question. I got to say right now you're really driving me on the color you think I brought e not very many, this is my grand that's my son that's your shot, my friend. So this is his grandfather the on ly a minor thing here is that I might have been more explicit if this moment existed long enough to switch your focus some from here to some to there if you have that because right now this photo's a lot about your father and I think what you're actually saying is that you're your son his grandson is going on this journey to and so that focus on him would raise that more. Um boy, I really think that this relationship of your father and your brother yeah, this one in color because of the sign yeah see, one of those two things that immediately pop out right away is that I know you know this this just must be really challenge for your mother because she is the most directly impacted. So my first thought might be to play up some of that to spend a little more time photographing her as well and not necessarily there but all the other things also because she's the caregiver with your brother as well so she has a hole she must say she looks remarkably adaptable and strong but she has to have moments, right? Yeah, she did she asked this I think look, it was the space between them on that day and versus this one one of the things to think about with this thing about pairings is actually that you might end up with a sequence of three or four and you can show over a period of time there together there part of the part that emotional journey they go on and so I would be sticking these together in some file I'm not a big fan of the ones where you're very cognizant of the photographer okay, this is good that's not my thing because a lot of things like this one um a lot of these your subjects are are well into whatever it is they're doing elsewhere and they're not aware of you until that one where you're brother was aware of you I think kind of takes us off message these are the same photo do you think they are accident all right so now I'm gonna let me just see the color ones to ceo I like that one a lot I didn't really color correct thes so they're going to be all over that's a tough call yeah I made a real mess you'd like playing a game memory that was my daughter's favorite game when she was a fine looking for sure is that I'm glad somebody's speaking and somebody's good memory there yeah uh thank you for doing that is appreciated and glad somebody's awake so I'm just gonna work with these three for now but I think that wait I see the argument for color now yeah actually you know it's it's that whole like he's living in this this is what we deal with on a day to day basis whereas the black and white makes it look more history to me there's more emotion with the color you want to chime in here because I'm really conflicted right now it was a by the internet one time in they're thinking they're thinking I could make both arguments and at this point in time I would need you because digital you're fine you don't have to keep shooting digitally and so you have both options um are you comfortable life and you will go out of my room I do I normally just use photo shop do you know the conversion is in in light room to go to black and white? Yes where you could say only turn up the red or you really want to get well versed in that because the other thing is you could start developing kind of almost a black and white palace that's unique to this project which would be even mohr kind of emotionally directed almost like split toning yeah, they taught you split telling you like in the old black and white world we used to do split tony which gave the print a kind of dimensionality and a little bit of an edge three dimensional almost a secondary sub color boy, I am really so the internet, huh? Help me help me. So rebecca says loving the black and white, but can see a pop of color could do something interesting mess, nicky says color for when he looks out the window and the shoes they're feeling like web twenty five forty thing seems like the black and white is more accessible um, and then william o says, there is more life in the black and white photos for me, I can see her father, he has character, and it shows in the black and white, black and white is coming across more prevalent lee than the color. Yeah, part of the reason I'm like I'm hedging here and dancing and looking for a rope is that I've been pushing along to think about color, but now that we're actually doing and I actually do think the black and white with maybe a little more authorship for control over the light room use we're getting it from other people is, well, I can tell you it's a lot easier to tell the weight, right, right? And then the other thing would be I'd be very curious to see how the historical photos, which we don't have unfortunately resonate to this and it's not like everyone's going to be a pairing, but I do think imagine this finished thing you come into a space should read a book and some of them repairs old and new some of them are singles, some of them repairs just about the relationship we were talking about. Um thank you. All right, some of them are this kind of pear or bite it will be a trip take where they go through the different things and collectively they create a journey which we need to be taken on and I'm really interested in the historical photos that's an entry point because I know you don't see your father only at this point in his life and you need us to see him yeah over there I think the struggle photos might be good entry point are they mostly black and white or color? I think most of them are color well, that may also speak to something which is ironic because you could also make sort of metaphorical argument of his life moving from that fullness to something that's a little more reduced just that just that first popped in my head I mean, I didn't easy job I just speculating sort of mentally free associate you have to go out next to you now, but I do think that there's something in there unfortunately, despite my jabbering I'm going black, okay, okay that's some help anymore questions, by the way no, I seen these all out on the table is really helped, I realize now it's like those details photos actually mean more to me, too anto and interviewers so it's like I really from shooting forward and as I've narrowed in my proposal it's like, okay, I see where I'm going that's good and the only thing which has started do stuff with your son and whether those were two themes that I would probably pull out a little more because they're they're both going through the same journey, but obviously a different way literally on and it has to be hard on your mother and I think if you could get the comfort level with her a letter put her guard down, I think it's going because that's that's a big part of anybody who looks at this is going to say, yeah, that's that's the journey that were going on and one caregiver who airways on heavily is also going through, okay, thank you very much. I'm sorry I'm going to do a complete mess up job. E it's all good, thank you so much, right don't look so excited, it was kind of watching, okay s so our job is to make sure that we use the tv correctly, this the space here correct spacing is the stuff that you showed the first day for the sake of the second day morning I didn't print that up uh didn't get a chance to was kind of wanting to yeah because there were three other thing that I remember what they were some of them were mohr about this about the bridge as it is a thing as it is a beautiful as an actual thing one and inside of it right? Right, which is kind of a little bit missing here unfortunately, I mean some of these are interesting because because this also goes to that thing this my god it's enormous look at that thing never to have there's two of those and so we were talking yesterday when we were walking around if you remember that it's really about two things one is it's about this thing which is this bridge but the bridge really is infrastructure but it's also about the communities there impacted right like its own art harris the community's back here, right? But I'm actually interested in seeing those people's lives out of their lives what's weird abs and flow based on the economy that's changing as thie infrastructure functions or fail ls and it might end up being so I'm not saying you should always use this motif pairings is one way you know this is the bridge this is the life of the people in the community affected by it you maybe pairings maybe more of a narrative but there's that other part that I think you need more of which is who are the people in this town ese these various towns? And then the other thing we were talking about yesterday walking around was how especially the glass surfaces and reflecting surfaces that we're walking yesterday in cities like this could be a great way to be kind of a metaphor for looking at the town, the people, the people who are being affected and then the bridge two streets the highways itself so I would be looking kind of if you think of the a mental frontier right where the bridge begins and the impact people and I would actually be looking there the most because I have a feeling that that frontier between the infrastructure and the people's lives is where the most interesting stuff's going to be because that idea that's where the connection remember the idea connected cameras, the web yeah, that's that's where I think you're gonna find him and see that's what made me want to do that with the connection and everything because it's old and new and the community now they're one of the thing looking at ones like this was a problem paying a bit more attention time of day in terms of getting the right quality flight and b would be probably using a longer lands because you're absolutely correct it highlights this against that successfully but with a lens this far back I'm weak on the starting point and the only look here or here and then the porta potties frankly not helping you where the building's versus the infrastructure is starting to get at it better and see these were all taken like right after I started school so now I've kind of learned not to be o k but I'm looking at these rethinking what I would have done differently if I could if I could go back and do it can you go back and do it? I mean, this is this is this doesn't even exist anymore. Okay? Because this is all of this is done they just yet with them just opening all of this has done all of this is now a park where it goes underneath the new branch oh, you know what I flashed on this the first day and I forgot to mention this I'm trying to remember his name uh he's a photographer is that the mark clipped you? Do you know his work on the look of his work? His name is marc klass k l e t t l taken later he started something that many people have followed which is called re photography where you go back to the same place and you photograph it later you want also start understanding how you might use re photography and this because what you just described I flashed on thinking that would be interesting to see the literal before in africa and so it's, not that your project is always going to be before and after that's a component of it, probably especially if you work at a multiple years to say, all right, I'm going to do this now, knowing that a year from now, something else is going to be different there, and those mark let's re photography is of the west, mostly and it's almost always paired old new old do ok, and you really start to see these very interesting residences about what's coming in. What so, like, this one is the old part of the bridge, but I and I've got other photos of the new part now, but the idea would actually be go back to this exact actually, we need to have it down to go to this exact place where you are here and do the same thing again, ideally, same time of day, and so we can see the difference. It can't be a completely different structure it has to really they two images echo off each other, but I would also think about putting the photography in there, because this is all about change and things getting built and made different so before and after khun b the port after it can kind of be the same kind of entry point we were talking before about with your family because you need an entry point into this project and I think before and after might be really good one okay. That's some help goods of help. Great. Thank you very much. All right, so wait grab my little clicker. Any last questions out there from the web verse, jim? Yes, common relax wants to know how many pictures become too many when telling a story it's a great question. The short answer's what's your outlet in the sense that is the publication have a finite amount. Is the gallery with the museum have a finite amount? When do you also start kind of repeating yourself in the narrative? The trick is sort of the fewer the better, the more powerful the messages in each in the best of all worlds end up a couple three years from now with twenty pictures which take the viewer to a very distinctive narrative to get them from the beginning to the middles of the end. I can't give a hard number, but I will say that, um the fewer the better and it depends a lot on your outlet, all right said t all before to the online audience create a spreadsheet so you can track everything you do during a given week and in the case of the two of you, because you're still in school, you might want to wait a few time period, but it's a good exercise um record everything that you do over that one week period and I do mean everything half on hour into fifteen minutes that maybe a little compulsive break it down um and then wait a few weeks and do the same thing again and you want to do this a few times and you want to wait a couple of years to do it again and you're gonna notice that you're going to get better at time management or if you notice you're not getting better in time management, then you know that you've done something wrong, but that's the point of the exercise, I strongly encourage you in the online audience to do it it's part of a series of homework, my middle initial, you have to work on there's no magic bullet, we can't I can't snap my fingers and tell you this is how you do the photo essay there's so many variables, all the decision we've been talking about all the things that we've been talking about in terms of photographing, thinking decisions, looking at other people's work in this case, simply looking at time management will be a huge step forward in terms of figuring out how to use your time most effectively we are anything else. I think we're good to go. I think I want to talk a little bit about sustainability, okay, andi reference to our next segment is that we're gonna be covering howto how to do that it's, how to sustain a project going forward and there's also a huge component on the very un interesting but very important things of workflow, an organization. And how do you organize all this stuff? Because when I'm guessing you already are and you two ladies is your projects go forward going to suddenly end up with all this stuff, pictures, emails, all this kind of stuff and how do you organize it? So I'm going to talk briefly again, a tool kit. I'm not going to give you a magic bullet to solve it, but I'm going to say this is how I organize myself. This is how I saw the logistical problems. You should learn from this and consider applying and going forward.

Class Description

The most powerful way to establish your voice and distinguish yourself as a photographer is to conceptualize and shoot a photo essay. Photo essays are compelling, dynamic, vivid mission statements of your work — every photographer should have a working knowledge of this narrative art form. Join David Wells to learn how to create a captivating photo essay from start to finish.

This course shatters the myth that photo essays are only for photojournalists; you’ll learn how all photographers can use photo essays to tell the story of any subject, in any style. You’ll learn how to present your unique point of view and communicate a coherent aesthetic through a compelling photographic essay. You’ll build strategies for tackling the complex task of assembling, editing and presenting a large photo project that speaks to its viewers. You’ll also learn about the techniques that are essential for keeping yourself inspired and organized while maintaining an effective workflow.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the skills it takes to stand out in a crowded marketplace and create a compelling project that showcases your skills, communicates your style, and helps others understand your personality, passion, and talents.



First off, I was a photo assistant for a few years to a photographer who did numerous multi-day workshops. This was my first time as a student sitting in on a webinar that actually kept me interested. Sometimes I'm turned off by the pace of the teacher, his or her voice, or the manner in which they disseminate the information. But this was truly fantastic. David showed lots of his work in a way that was NOT egotistical in any sense (something that does happen quite often). I was utterly impressed by the quality of his work, the wealth of knowledge he has on the world, culture and politics, and how he shoots "on the go". All of those qualities are essential parts to creating a great photo essay/story. I came into this seminar needing inspiration and in the end I have more ideas than I know what to do with. David's work is truly magnificent; his photo stories pertain to people and their struggles, which really could be something any one of us could go through at any point, but he shows it in a way that is beautiful - either beautifully desperate or beautifully destructive - instead of in an exploitative way. On a side note, he also offered up a lot of great information having to do with funding, exposure, workflow, time efficiency, income streams, releases... you won't find this a lot with other photographers. You will find the "go find the info yourself" attitude. This has been my problem as of late with photography - we don't work together as artists, we work against each other competing for what, I'm not sure. David's seminar seemed to embrace photography as the art form it is, and shared with us the tools that we as artists need to really understand and utilize in order to get our story out there. A story it seems he really wants to see/hear. Just an amazing "Thank You"!!!!

a Creativelive Student

I have purchased a number of classes on Creative Live. This class taught by David Wells is one of the best. David is a thorough teacher, personal and connects with his students. Along with his superb and inspiring imagery David talked about his experiences in getting funding, his workflow, developing his stories and distributing his work. David is talented, generous and an excellent teacher. Highly recommended class.

Anjani Millet

Just completed the course. Fantastic, practical information on everything from grant writing, finding foundations, proposal development, even how to shake hands overseas. I am not sure where else I would have found this information for photographers. So appreciate it. One friend asked if this would be worth watching for anyone outside the US and the answer is a definitive yes. Very happy I purchased, and already starting to implement.