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From: How To Write Special Feature Articles
(Category: PART II)

VALUE OF ILLUSTRATIONS. The perfecting of photo-engraving processes for
making illustrations has been one of the most important factors in the
development of popular magazines and of magazine sections of newspapers,
for good pictures have contributed largely to their success. With the
advent of the half-tone process a generation ago, and with the more
recent application of the rotogravure process to periodical
publications, comparatively cheap and rapid methods of illustration were
provided. Newspapers and magazines have made extensive use of both these

The chief value of illustrations for special articles lies in the fact
that they present graphically what would require hundreds of words to
describe. Ideas expressed in pictures can be grasped much more readily
than ideas expressed in words. As an aid to rapid reading illustrations
are unexcelled. In fact, so effective are pictures as a means of
conveying facts that whole sections of magazines and Sunday newspapers
are given over to them exclusively.

Illustrations constitute a particularly valuable adjunct to special
articles. Good reproductions of photographs printed in connection with
the articles assist readers to visualize and to understand what a writer
is undertaking to explain. So fully do editors realize the great
attractiveness of illustrations, that they will buy articles accompanied
by satisfactory photographs more readily than they will those without
illustrations. Excellent photographs will sometimes sell mediocre
articles, and meritorious articles may even be rejected because they
lack good illustrations. In preparing his special feature stories, a
writer will do well to consider carefully the number and character of
the illustrations necessary to give his work the strongest possible

SECURING PHOTOGRAPHS. Inexperienced writers are often at a loss to know
how to secure good photographs. Professional photographers will, as a
rule, produce the best results, but amateur writers often hesitate to
incur the expense involved, especially when they feel uncertain about
selling their articles. If prints can be obtained from negatives that
photographers have taken for other purposes, the cost is so small that a
writer can afford to risk the expenditure. Money spent for good
photographs is usually money well spent.

Every writer of special articles should become adept in the use of a
camera. With a little study and practice, any one can take photographs
that will reproduce well for illustrations. One advantage to a writer of
operating his own camera is that he can take pictures on the spur of the
moment when he happens to see just what he needs. Unconventional
pictures caught at the right instant often make the best illustrations.

The charges for developing films and for making prints and enlargements
are now so reasonable that a writer need not master these technicalities
in order to use a camera of his own. If he has time and interest,
however, he may secure the desired results more nearly by developing and
printing his own pictures.

Satisfactory pictures can be obtained with almost any camera, but one
with a high-grade lens and shutter is the best for all kinds of work. A
pocket camera so equipped is very convenient. If a writer can afford to
make a somewhat larger initial investment, he will do well to buy a
camera of the so-called "reflex" type. Despite its greater weight and
bulk, as compared with pocket cameras, it has the advantage of showing
the picture full size, right side up, on the top of the camera, until
the very moment that the button is pressed. These reflex cameras are
equipped with the fastest types of lens and shutter, and thus are
particularly well adapted to poorly lighted and rapidly moving objects.

A tripod should be used whenever possible. A hastily taken snap shot
often proves unsatisfactory, whereas, if the camera had rested on a
tripod, and if a slightly longer exposure had been given, a good
negative would doubtless have resulted.

REQUIREMENTS FOR PHOTOGRAPHS. All photographs intended for reproduction
by the half-tone or the rotogravure process should conform to certain

First: The standard size of photographic prints to be used for
illustrations is 5 x 7 inches, but two smaller sizes, 4 x 5 and 3 x
5, as well as larger sizes such as 6 x 8 and 8 x 10, are
also acceptable. Professional photographers generally make their
negatives for illustrations in the sizes, 5 x 7, 6 x 8, and 8 x
10. If a writer uses a pocket camera taking pictures smaller than
post-card size (3 x 5), he must have his negatives enlarged to
one of the above standard sizes.

Second: Photographic prints for illustrations should have a glossy
surface; that is, they should be what is known as "gloss prints." Prints
on rough paper seldom reproduce satisfactorily; they usually result in
"muddy" illustrations. Prints may be mounted or unmounted; unmounted
ones cost less and require less postage, but are more easily broken in

Third: Objects in the photograph should be clear and well defined; this
requires a sharp negative. For newspaper illustrations it is desirable
to have prints with a stronger contrast between the dark and the light
parts of the picture than is necessary for the finer half-tones and
rotogravures used in magazines.

Fourth: Photographs must have life and action. Pictures of inanimate
objects in which neither persons nor animals appear, seem "dead" and
unattractive to the average reader. It is necessary, therefore, to have
at least one person in every photograph. Informal, unconventional
pictures in which the subjects seem to have been "caught" unawares, are
far better than those that appear to have been posed. Good snap-shots of
persons in characteristic surroundings are always preferable to cabinet
photographs. "Action pictures" are what all editors and all readers

Fifth: Pictures must "tell the story"; that is, they should illustrate
the phase of the subject that they are designed to make clear. Unless a
photograph has illustrative value it fails to accomplish the purpose for
which it is intended.

CAPTIONS FOR ILLUSTRATIONS. On the back of a photograph intended for
reproduction the author should write or type a brief explanation of what
it represents. If he is skillful in phrasing this explanation, or
"caption," as it is called, the editor will probably use all or part of
it just as it stands. If his caption is unsatisfactory, the editor will
have to write one based on the writer's explanation. A clever caption
adds much to the attractiveness of an illustration.

A caption should not be a mere label, but, like a photograph, should
have life and action. It either should contain a verb of action or
should imply one. In this and other respects, it is not unlike the
newspaper headline. Instead, for example, of the label title, "A Large
Gold Dredge in Alaska," a photograph was given the caption, "Digs Out a
Fortune Daily." A picture of a young woman feeding chickens in a
backyard poultry run that accompanied an article entitled "Did You Ever
Think of a Meat Garden?" was given the caption "Fresh Eggs and Chicken
Dinners Reward Her Labor." To illustrate an article on the danger of the
pet cat as a carrier of disease germs, a photograph of a child playing
with a cat was used with the caption, "How Epidemics Start." A portrait
of a housewife who uses a number of labor-saving devices in her home
bore the legend, "She is Reducing Housekeeping to a Science." "A Smoking
Chimney is a Bad Sign" was the caption under a photograph of a chimney
pouring out smoke, which was used to illustrate an article on how to
save coal.

Longer captions describing in detail the subject illustrated by the
photograph, are not uncommon; in fact, as more and more pictures are
being used, there is a growing tendency to place a short statement, or
"overline," above the illustration and to add to the amount of
descriptive matter in the caption below it. This is doubtless due to two
causes: the increasing use of illustrations unaccompanied by any text
except the caption, and the effort to attract the casual reader by
giving him a taste, as it were, of what the article contains.

DRAWINGS FOR ILLUSTRATIONS. Diagrams, working drawings, floor plans,
maps, or pen-and-ink sketches are necessary to illustrate some articles.
Articles of practical guidance often need diagrams. Trade papers like to
have their articles illustrated with reproductions of record sheets and
blanks designed to develop greater efficiency in office or store
management. If a writer has a little skill in drawing, he may prepare in
rough form the material that he considers desirable for illustration,
leaving to the artists employed by the publication the work of making
drawings suitable for reproduction. A writer who has had training in
pen-and-ink drawing may prepare his own illustrations. Such drawings
should be made on bristol board with black drawing ink, and should be
drawn two or three times as large as they are intended to appear when
printed. If record sheets are to be used for illustration, the ruling
should be done with black drawing ink, and the figures and other data
should be written in with the same kind of ink. Typewriting on blanks
intended for reproduction should be done with a fresh record black
ribbon. Captions are necessary on the back of drawings as well as on

MAILING PHOTOGRAPHS AND DRAWINGS. It is best to mail flat all
photographs and drawings up to 8 x 10 in size, in the envelope with the
manuscript, protecting them with pieces of stout cardboard. Only very
large photographs or long, narrow panoramic ones should be rolled and
mailed in a heavy cardboard tube, separate from the manuscript. The
writer's name and address, as well as the title of the article to be
illustrated, should be written on the back of every photograph and

As photographs and drawings are not ordinarily returned when they are
used with an article that is accepted, writers should not promise to
return such material to the persons from whom they secure it. Copies can
almost always be made from the originals when persons furnishing writers
with photographs and drawings desire to have the originals kept in good



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