A picture is worth 1,000 words (or more)

This video gives some basic information on use of photographs in newspaper design.

By Jeremy Wise

Lead Designer

Beauty is only skin-deep, but it does grab your attention.

While text may be the most important part of a newspaper, photographs and graphics should not be ignored.

"Beautiful uses of photographs and graphics draw potential readers into a newspaper," said Jeremy Wise, a former sports editor with The Enterprise Ledger. "Often, they can be a hook that gets people to buy them and read the text -- the most important part of the paper."

In fact, use of photographs and graphics has exploded with the growth of better technologies in the last 20 years, according to some veterans of the newspaper business. In those 20 years, papers have started using informational graphics to tell complicated stories.

In an interview for an article for the Society for News Design, San Jose Mercury News editor David Yarnold said he has seen "the flowering of photojournalism" and "the recognition of the value of informational graphics" as two major trends that have developed in his 27 years of experience.

In that same 2003 article, Rocky Mountain News Managing Editor Deborah Goeken said, "Advances in technology have helped make photography more immediate, nearly instantaneous in fact. And graphics are now an integral part of our presentation of news -- and most often one of the best ways to help our readers understand complicated concepts."

So, how do you use photos and informational graphics effectively?

Both Yarnold and Goeken suggest listening to reporters, photographers and graphics designers in the process of designing a page.

"Listen to what the reporter and editor are communicating about the project. Understand what needs to be communicated in the visuals and design. Participate by sharing your vision. Adapt if your vision isn't getting any buy-in," added Theresa Bodevich of The Times of Northwest Indiana. "Given time to plan, photography can advance written content, while graphics turn complicated passages into visual gems."

Wise said understanding the different types of photography and graphics can help.

He said photos come in three sizes/styles: vertical, horizontal and square.

"Square photos, if overused, can be bland. Vertical photos are good, but if you try to use them for three or more columns, you can eat a lot of space --good for days you lack material, bad for days when you lack space," he said.

Wise added large horizontal photos are what he prefers to use if he has the space and a good photo to use.

As general tidbits, Wise said use vertical photos for only two to three columns, and use horizontal photos from three columns and up. He added square photos can be used for almost any number of columns as long as the width and the height remain about the same.

*Some information for this page comes from a 2003 article by Monica Moses for the Society for News Design.