What Is Editorial Photography (Tips To Better Your Story)

Editorial Photography

I know…  there seems to be countless “versions” of photography.  You have portrait, landscape, urban, real estate, journalism, astro… and the list goes on.  Then there are sub-categories that fall below the main ones.

So where does editorial photography come in, and what’s its purpose?

Well you have come to the right place.  In this article you’ll learn what sets editorial photography apart from all others forms. Also, why it might be a form that may interest you more than you think.  Be sure to read to the end where I give a few tips to tell your story (written or visual) with editorial photography.

Let’s dive right in.

So, what is editorial photography?

Simply put, these are photographs that are taken in the moment that supplement a story.  More importantly, it supplements a written story.

Let me paint you a picture, if you will.

Let’s say you had a great weekend with your significant other.  You both started the weekend by hopping in the car and headed a couple hours away to the beach.

You then spent the weekend doing such memorable things.  Drinks on the beach, putt-putt golf, fishing, swimming, watching the sunset, laughing.  The weekend was more than something to remember.  You decide to write an article (website, facebook, anything) describing the great time.

Editorial Photography

Your photos compliment your story

You then sit down and choose to write an article about it.  After writing the article, proof-reading, and making final touches; you decide to add photos to the post.

The photos that you choose to put in that article are editorial photos.  Plain and simple.  You choose the photos that best compliment the story. You also place them throughout the article to where they make sense and compliment what you are writing.

The same can be said when you make a Facebook post and add a photo (or photos) to go along with it.  Those photos compliment what the written text is.  This is another reason there is a caption setting along with posting a picture.  You’re encouraged to explain the image.  The image compliments those words.

With that being said, you can spice things up.  Let’s talk about adding text to your images.

Editorial Photography

I used this photo to better tell my story of traveling up the blue ridge parkway.

 I also used this photo to better tell my blue ridge parkway journey.

You can add text to your editorial photos

You don’t always have to surround your photos with text in an article to explain that image.  You also don’t have to rely on captions to do the same thing.  Try adding text to an image.

What I always recommend is to frame your photos to allow for copy (text) to be added to it.  Take the image below for example.

adding text to a photo

Example of text added to the photo

I knew before taking that photo that I wanted to add text to the image.  I knew it would not only add more dynamic to the photo with the written word, but it would draw more attention and make the scene  more understandable.

I shot this photo with the right of the image completely out of focus.  I then used Photoshop to darken that side significantly so the text and the statues would stand out.

I typically like to use this technique as the main photo of an article or as a way to explain what I am feeling at the moment when taking the photo.

This feeling makes another connection with the person who is reading and absorbing the image.

What do you think of the image?  Leave your answer in the comments below this article.

Don’t overdo text-on-photo

I say this to everyone that I recommend this technique to.  I have seen it over done quite often.

What would end up happening is your page/Facebook image would start looking like memes.  You do not want this.

What you want are engaging informative images that compliment your article or post.

Think of it like this.  How often do you see images with text on them on Instagram?  You mostly see them in advertisements and on someone’s story (if they choose to use it).  80% of all posts are made with no text on the image – with text in the caption to explain the image.

Don’t over-do it.  Use it sparingly, but effectively (i’ll explain effectiveness in the section at the end of this article).

Something you may (or may not be) wondering is what is the difference between an editorial photo and photojournalism…

Editorial Photos vs. Photojournalism

Editorial Photos vs. Photojournalism

This photo is more photo-journalistic.  Can you answer why?  Leave the answer in the comments below this article!

Editorial Photos vs. Photojournalism

Can you say why this image is more editorial instead of photo-journalistic?  Leave the answer in the comments below this article!

If you weren’t thinking about it before, I’m sure you’re thinking about now.  What really is the difference?

I mean, they both capture a moment and supplement the written word.  You use both of them to compliment your writing…  so what makes them so different that they have completely different names?

Well, there’s more of a difference between the two than you may think…

Editorial photography is more lenient

You see, editorial photography compliments your story.  You can achieve this in any way that you see fit (for the most part).  This can include somewhat staging a scene to better compliment that part of the story better than it would have been captured in the moment.

For instance, if you are writing an article about a local winery owner and his business.

Instead of shooting the wine owner doing daily activities – you could “stage” the photo. You could stand him or her along a row of grapevines a sunset to capture a great photo.  That would be a much better featured image than them doing everyday activities.  This isn’t misleading at all, seeing as you shot in their vineyard in front of their grapevines.  But it’s staged because you would have never gotten that shot naturally.

You also have a little wiggle room when it comes to photo editing.  Specifically, manipulating colors to offset focus to an object, person, or event.

Editorial photography is more lenient

This example of mine leans heavily towards editorial because of the strong color edit.  The image wasn’t manipulated in anyway other than color and lighting.

Editorial photography is more lenient

This example leans slightly towards editorial because of the edit to the sky and lighting in general.  Colors are still correct and not shifted in any way.

Photojournalism is raw

The opposite is to be said about photojournalism.  It’s someone who is capturing that moment in its purest form.  This includes no staging, no editing, completely raw.

The journalists job is to capture moments in time and report or tell a story about it.  You wouldn’t want an altered version of this.

Let me give you a little example.

If you read a story in a magazine about an unfortunate community in Africa that was having a very hard time finding food and were on the verge of death.  The photographs that aided the article were horrible.  They showed children drinking out of mud puddles and families eating scraps off of rodents.  It made you so sick to your stomach that you found a way to send them money to help them.  But you weren’t the only one…  thousands of others read the same article and sent money in as well…

Months later it was announced that the photos were staged and altered.  The photos depicted a community that wasn’t nearly as “bad off” as the photos showed.  The photo of the child drinking out of the puddle wasn’t him drinking out of it at all.  It was implying that he was.  The photos of  the table was staged with the rodent on it.  All of this was to raise money on the wrong pretenses.  The community was going through hard times, but not those situations exactly…

Months later it was announced that the photos were staged and altered.  The photos depicted a community that wasn’t nearly as “bad off” as the photos showed.  The photo of the child drinking out of the puddle wasn’t him drinking out of it at all.  It was implying that he was.  The photos of the rodents was the family sitting at a table after the table was staged with the rodent on it.  All of this was to raise money on the wrong pretenses.  The community was going through hard times, but not those situations exactly…

This is all an example of course.  But that would be the wrong way of shooting photojournalism.  That is the main difference (along with photo editing) between the two of them.

Photojournalism is raw

This is a good example of photojournalism.  This isn’t edited or manipulated in any way.  This would be what you see if you were there.

Photojournalism is raw

This is also a good example.  This is exactly what you would see if you went to this location.

5 editorial photography tips to better tell your story

I thought it would be fitting to include my tips for taking better editorial photographs.  Just know, there is no right or wrong way to take photographs to tell a story.  If you like the way you have been taking and including them in your writing – then continue doing that.

I’m just hoping to inspire you to do something a little different – and what has worked for me over the past couple years.

Let’s dive in.

Take photos to tell a story

Take photos to tell a story

This is example one of telling a story.  We arrived to Swannanoa and this is what we saw first.

I know we have some-what covered this already – but hang in there and let me explain.

If you know you are going to write an article about a location you have visited, you must keep the storytelling aspect of your article in mind.

What I have seen over the years is many people will take photos of an interesting location – but just of the interesting aspects of the location only. What is worse, is there are most likely many photos just like the one that they took.

Take photos to tell a story

This is example two.  It’s what you see when you enter the property.

Take Niagara Falls for example.  Thousands of people have taken photos of the falls from the top on the American side.  They then take more of the same photos on the boat that takes you into the heart of the falls.  This is all great – but it’s nothing new and doesn’t tell a story.

Photos that would assist you article in your own way would be to tell the story from the beginning to end.  This could include pictures of you getting in your car or a screenshot of your trip in Waze.  The next shot could be of something interesting along your travels, then getting to the location, paying for the ticket, getting on the boat, etc. etc.

Example three is the condition of the second floor.

Example four is another outdoor shot – leading you back outside.

The possibilities are endless. It’s these images that paint the picture and put the reader/viewer in your story.  Much of the population are drawn to imagery.  Use that to your advantage through telling the main aspects of your story throughout.

Example 5 is an approaching storm.

We were able to get a great shot while the storm is still rolling in

The final example is the tower at the edge of the property.  In which after taking the photo the storm let loose.

Here is one of my blog posts where I utilized editorial photography to better tell my story.

Slightly stage photos to better tell (or tell more) of your story

This in particular is something that I have done on several occasions.

Take the image to the right (or below) for example.  Instead of taking just an image of my wife (for her headpieces) – I told her to actually wear her headpieces in a field of sunflowers.  This told her story much better in her “about me” section of her online store.

I recommend others to use the same idea to better tell your story.

This even more encouraged if you can tell more of a story in the same image.

A plain image of someone with some copy on the image is great.  But if you can capture that person’s image doing exactly what are writing about, in the setting that’s appropriate with the activity. You then have a much more interesting image that tells a much better story.

Slightly stage photos to better tell (or tell more) of your story

I staged my wife to better show her and her products together for her “about section of her website.

Edit your photos to better set the mood

Unlike photojournalism – it’s ok to slightly edit an editorial photo (for various reasons).

There are two different types of edits that I like to do in my editorial photos.

The first is a crop.  I know this may sound simple – but you can use it to your advantage.  For example – I took a “normal” shot of the statues at the Korean War memorial in Washington D.C.  I used the full photo to better describe the memorial in general.

I then used the same image and cropped in to better describe the statues themselves – which I talked about the texture and their facial expressions.

This is something that you could do with nearly any camera with a decent megapixel count on the sensor.  The Korean War memorial photo that I used was taken on a Canon 80D – or 24 megapixel sensor.

The second type is setting the mood with colors.  Take the previous photo for example – the original image was much brighter throughout the image.  What I did was set the mood to more focused and grimace by darkening the image around the subject – while keeping the colors the same.

There are countless variations to set the mood using color.  Mess around with it to get the mood you want – but be sure to keep it believable.  You don’t want to cross the line between reality and unbelievable.

Edit your photos to better set the mood

Regular full frame image

Edit your photos to better set the mood

Cropped image to describe the texture and facial expressions of statues

Edit your photos to better set the mood

This example shows manipulation to color to give it a more “moody” or “creepy” feel.  No manipulation of any other aspect of the photo.

Wrap text around your image

This may be common sense for some.  But instead of placing the photo above or below your text – place it inside the text itself.

I have included an example of this with the photo to the right.  As you can see, this text nearly touches the left side of the photo and text is above and below it.  This is what I like to call “wrapping text”.  Or wrapping your text around that photo.

There are a couple things you need to keep in mind.  You will want the surrounding text to support that photo.  It should somewhat describe the photo (it may even mention it).

An example of wrapping text around your image.

But be sure to make that photo very relevant to the text that’s surrounding it.  Another thing you need to keep in mind is mobile viewers.

If you are reading this on a mobile device, you should have noticed that the image I spoke of previously did not have text wrapping around it.  Well, there is no getting around this.  Unless someone is viewing your website on a mobile device with “desktop view” activated – the mobile view will hardly ever include text and a decent sized image on the same line.  Keep this in mind.

Put your best photos forward

What I mean by this is, take as many photos as possible.

I usually take between 5 and 8 variations of the same image.  And possibly 3 versions of each variation.

A variation, for me, is an angle, height, focal length/framing, etc.  What this will do for you is give you options when choosing the best one to place forward.

I will also frame certain images for text.  This take a little bit of pre-planning, but it makes it much easier later on when editing and adding that text.

Make taking many variations of a photo to better tell your story.  This could also lead to an image that you would have never thought of capturing – which then could lead to a better painted story.

Lets wrap it up

Well, folks, at this point you should understand what editorial photography is, what it isn’t, and how to obtain better photographs to better tell your story.

Above everything mentioned in this article, be sure to have fun.  Enjoying what you photograph and write about is going to reflect that in your work.

If you would like to know more about ISO, exposure, or shutter speed – be sure to check those out.  If you need an educated recommendation on camera gear, be sure to check that out on our site as well.

As always folks, thank you so much for reading.  Until next time, keep shooting!


I have been taking photos and film since I was a child. Now that I'm in my mid 30's, I want to share with the world what I have learned over the years. I attempt to live every day to the fullest and share that with you through my blog. I am an electrician by trade and photo and video lie within the "hobby" aspect of my life at the moment. It's what I'm truly passionate about.
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