Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

Principles of Narrative: The Shoot and the Edit

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 14:51 min

Now that you have a clear, powerful story in mind, Jimmy explains the core tenets of working with your editor and subjects to bring that story to life.

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Topics include: Shoot: Tell a Diverse Story • Edit: Be Brutal • Edit: Be Confident in Your Narrative • Edit: Find One Image That Tells Your Whole Story


When you're shooting an editorial assignment, you have to really think about diversity of images. You know, if I went to Yosemite and spent two months and just shot the cutting edge of climbing, which is very tempting because that's where all the action is, and, you know, what I consider the kind of coolest shots or like the most logistically challenging shots and show up after a couple of months with a portfolio of epic, beautiful climbing shots, they'd probably never hire you again. You have to come back with a body of work that not only illustrates the ideas that you've pitched to them, but they have to be visually diverse. At the "Geographic," you often get an assignment. They'll send you out for a month. You'll shoot. You'll come back to DC. You'll do a interim edit. You put together what we call a tray because going back to the old slide trays, but now we do it digitally. Then you have to present it to the editorial board. And they will all chime in, and you're working with your own specific photo editor. I worked with Sadie Quarrier, who's incredible, and they'll kind of pick apart your shoot. And it can be a little rough. Things can go a couple of different directions. They can say this looks great. Just keep doing what you're doing. We love what you're doing. You know, go back out there and finish this job. You probably don't hear that very often. More likely it's, we love what you're doing. This is going in the right direction. We'd really love you to develop this idea a bit more. You're very heavy on these kind of figuring a landscape shots. We need something more intimate. Let's send you back out there. Here are notes. And then, of course, there's the this is not going anywhere. We're cutting the job. Obviously you don't want to hear that. You go back out, you shoot, and you start to take that feedback, and I think that that feedback is always very helpful because they look at it and you learn to look at your work through that lens. You think, well, I've gotten all of these really great climbing shots. Some of them are big, broad, expansive, iconic shots of somebody on a wall. There's some really close up and tights of the holes and the body movement and the climbing. I'm a little light on the culture, the subculture. I'm a little light on what it looks and feels like to live on a wall. You start to kind of really pay attention to the details of what the images are telling you, how they look visually, what your compositions look like. You want them to look different because when they put it in the magazine and when you're sitting at the edit, you know, you have to make a lot of hard choices. But it always comes down to having a very broad range of looks, not only looks but also feelings like how an image feels and also what the image illustrates in terms of an idea. And when you go into shoot, you really have to think about all those elements. It's helpful to take notes. I'm a terrible note taker, but f...

About the Instructor

Jimmy Chin has built his career taking photos at the top of the world, earning him the cover of National Geographic and multiple awards. Now he’s taking you on location to teach you techniques for capturing breathtaking shots. In his photography class, learn different creative approaches for commercial shoots, editorial spreads, and passion projects. Gather the gear—and the perspective—to bring your photography to new heights.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Jimmy Chin

National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.

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