Visual Narratives for the 21st Century, with Mike Davis: The B&H Photography Podcast


“Selecting photos is a different skill than making them,” explains renowned picture editor Mike Davis, in this week’s podcast. This essential understanding forms the core of Davis’s new book, Creating Visual Narratives Through Photography: A Fresh Approach to Making a Living as a Photographer.

Davis approaches this topic with a mix of clarity and candor, to offer deeply engaged yet highly accessible insights about making photos—and making sense of those photos—while also discussing the elusive art of selecting and sequencing pictures and other ways to create visual narratives.

Some of the key points covered in our chat include the visual vocabulary Davis assigns to photographs, his ideas about elevating pictures beyond simply informational content, how making multiple passes through a photo edit can help a photographer remove themselves from the experience of making the work, and his three different approaches to image sequencing.

Listeners will also gain a fresh understanding of ways in which the art of creating visual narratives and the photo industry itself have evolved over time, to raise the bar on creative expression. In presenting this book, Davis’s goal echoes the response he has received from hundreds of photographers he’s helped to tell stories with their pictures: “I never would have thought of things that way, had we not had this engagement.”

Guests: Mike Davis

Photographs © Mike Davis

Sponsored by

One of Davis’s passions was to photograph the bicycling communities in…
The goal here was to convey the sense of community among cyclo-cross…
Here the point was to convey the sense of the tightrope riders walk…
Careful placement of elements in different planes within the photograph…
Decide where you want people to start in a frame, based on the quality…
The why of this photo is to get viewers to hear the exhaustion in this…
The amount of room you give the main element in a frame is both a…
When Davis started to photograph cycling, he looked at as much work on…
Challenge your centeredness by building a composition that isn’t…
Anticipation can be as simple as knowing when something will happen,…
Photographs are ideally three-dimensional experiences in which your eye…

This photo was seen in black-and-white. In comparing the two versions, do the colors take the viewer astray from where you want them to look?

Similar conditions, except for changes to focal length and distance. One image is made with an 85mm lens, the other with a 35mm, both at minimal focusing distance.

Let happenings within photos breathe to varying degrees or have them break the frame, depending on the feeling you’re striving to convey.

Episode Timeline

  • 3:26: Photography as a visual vocabulary, and distinctions between nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • 6:25: What are informational photographs and how to make photos that rise above this basic level.
  • 9:08: Davis’s definition of composition: the full realization of light, color, and distance in conveying a three-dimensional space.
  • 18:33: How the photo industry and relationships between photographers and photo editors have changed over time.
  • 30:42: Davis discusses his photos published in the book and shares thoughts about photographing with intention.
  • 39:34: Episode break
  • 44:18: Three approaches to image sequencing and how they work within the full spectrum of crafting a narrative.
  • 46:17: Mike Davis’s most visually successful book project and a general timeframe for image sequencing.
  • 48:06: Davis’s approach to working with photographers on sequencing a book.
  • 51:46: Davis describes his picture-editing process using multiple passes through a set of photographs.
  • 56:40: The primary audience and Davis’s ultimate goal in writing Creating Visual Narratives Through Photography: A Fresh Approach to Making a Living as a Photographer.

Mike Davis is a visual consultant, editor, author, photographer, and professor emeritus. He has worked independently with hundreds of photographers, as well as in staff positions for organizations as diverse as National Geographic, The White House, and several of America’s visually powerful newspapers.

Davis was twice named newspaper picture editor of the year, and he received The Sprague Award from The National Press Photographers Association, its highest honor. He has edited more than 40 books as an independent consultant, judged a wide range of photography competitions and grant programs, lectured widely, and served as a member of various workshop and review faculty.

Most recently, Davis spent eight years as an endowed faculty member at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, where he taught visual storytelling courses and directed The Alexia Grants.

Stay Connected

Mike Davis Website:
Mike Davis Instagram:
Creating Visual Narratives Book:

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: Jill Waterman
Senior Producer: Mike Weinstein
Executive Producer: Yermy Weiss
Editorial Director: Shawn C Steiner


Would love to buy the book through the link but unfortunately, the link to buy the book is broken. 

Hi Isabelle, I'm so glad to hear that our podcast has inspired you to purchase Mike's book, it really is an incredible resource. I'm not sure why you're finding the publisher link to be broken, we've tried it using a number of different devices and it's always working for us. If this problem persists for you please try clicking on the author's website,, the first page of his site also features several links for purchasing his book. Hope this helps, and many thanks for listening to the B&H Photography Podcast!