A Critique of Picture Packages

Prior to taking this class, I had never considered the concept of picture packages. I have looked at them in newspapers dozens of times but I have never put any thought into their physical production. Now that I know what makes a good (and bad) picture package, I decided to critique eight of them to see what makes them successful. These screen captures of newspaper front pages were found during a Google search. They contain picture packages of all genres (international news, breaking news, politics, sports, etc.). They come from a variety of newspapers and I believe nearly all of them feature only two photos. It should be noted that the newspaper covers were in extremely small PDF sizes, which means that it was impossible to read the names of the individual photographers. I apologize ahead of time that none of these photos feature the names of the people who took them.

BY UNKNOWN

1. In my opinion, this is a fairly strong picture package. To start with, it features a shot that every newspaper needed to run on September 12, 2001, that of the Twin Towers burning. It’s good that this picture ran large because its size helps readers understand the impact of what happened in New York City the previous morning. It definitely attracts attention and I bet it drew people into the story too. The second picture also good. It’s a medium shot that shows specific detail of what people were going through that morning. I believe that a two-picture package is appropriate here because one shows the physical destruction and the other shows the human suffering.

BY UNKNOWN

2. Here is a two-picture package from the front page of the Los Angeles Times’ sports section. It features two celebration photos from when the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Finals. I actually think that the top photo could have run alone and the audience engagement would have been the same. The below photo features Lakers then coach Phil Jackson. The purple and yellow confetti makes for a nice pattern but I actually think that this photo is redundant when it is compared with the top photo. In my opinion, a better second photo would have been a detail or close-up shot of a player’s ecstatic face or the sad face of a player from the other team. This is the Lakers hometown paper though; perhaps the editor didn’t want to feature the opposition prominently on the front page. I also think that a medium or overall shot of the fans celebrating would have worked too.

BY UNKNOWN

3. This is another NBA picture package. This package was published during the playoffs and I actually think it is more successful than the one in the Los Angeles Times for a few reasons. First, the top picture of the Oklahoma player is a much better shot than the previous picture of Kobe Bryant. This Oklahoma player picture is nicely composed and it definitely features the rule of thirds. In addition, the photographer managed to capture a moment of “peak action,” or in this case a moment of peak despair. The second picture in this package is also better because it manages to show the winning team in action. This is an Oklahoma based newspaper but the editors still showed a picture of the game that the team from Texas won. These two photos together are a good representation of before and after.

BY UNKNOWN

4. This is the front page of The Desert Sun the day after Senator Ted Kennedy passed away. It features a three-photo package of the late Senator. The first and largest photo appears to be the informational picture. It shows Senator Kennedy at some kind of political podium giving a somewhat passionate speech. The front page editor probably felt that this photo was a given. The second smaller photo shows President Obama intently listening to a speech by Senator Kennedy. They might have included this shot to show that he was a Democrat or that he had ties to the President. Finally, they ran an archival photo of the Senator as a young man with his brothers John and Bobby. This photo was probably seen as sentimental and informational. In my opinion, the content of these three photos is fine. I don’t like that the two smallest ones are the same size though. I feel that every picture in a package should run a different size.

BY UNKNOWN

5. This Seattle Times cover from the day after Osama bin Laden was assassinated is decent. They did a good job of picking three different photographs and running them three different sizes. The photo of Osama bin Laden is needed to clarify that it was he who was killed. The photo of Obama’s post assassination speech is fairly important because it informs the audience that he spoke to the public after this event. The crowd shot is also important because it shows a variety of people and their reactions to this news. It also makes a statement because it shows that they are in front of the White House and that they appear to celebrating the news. This definitely sends a message to the audience about the reaction to this assassination.

BY UNKNOWN

6. This Indianapolis Star front page is from the morning after Obama won the Presidential Election. Interestingly enough, a good portion of the newspaper front pages that I found during my Google search featured Obama. This is a good two-picture package because both pictures are important and because they are each shot from a different angle, which adds some visual appeal to the front page. The main picture is a good composition and the flags in the background make for a nice pattern. The smaller picture is a nice detail shot showing an audience member who is overwhelmed by the momentous occasion. I actually think that this could have run as a three-picture package. As the third picture, I would have liked to have seen an overall crowd shot to see how many people were actually there.

BY UNKNOWN

7. This two-picture package shows the flooding in Louisiana and the preparations that people made in order to protect their belongings. It works to have the main picture run large because it shows the scope and breadth of the flooding. It has a larger impact this way. The smaller, detail picture is also needed. It shows the human aspect of the flooding and how it is changing the day-to-day lives of Louisiana’s residents. Photos of destruction and humans dealing with destruction are both appropriate photos because they show the dualities of physicality and emotion. Neither of these photos is particularly interesting but they fill their purpose of visually representing a natural disaster and its effects.

BY UNKNOWN

8. I didn’t like this picture package right off the bat because the photos are the exact same size. I believe that a lack of picture variety makes it hard for the viewer to focus on a single image. Having these photos side by side means that they are actually fighting for attention on the front page. I appreciate that the Washington Post didn’t also use photos that were taken from the same angle but it doesn’t make up for the previous mistake. Neither of these photos is particularly informational. John McCain giving a speech and Obama shaking hands with audience members could be attached to any article about a political campaign. It’s possible that the paper was trying to draw a comparison between these two politicians by running their photos side by side but it just didn’t work for me.

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