If you’ve ever created a photographic series of any sort, be that a small grouping of images or an entire book, then you know that the anchor shot is the most important shot of the series. That’s because these are the shots that give people a first impression for what the rest of the series of images will be like. Because of that, the anchor shot needs to do a couple of vital tasks.
In the first place, an anchor shot needs to hook viewers. It’s a lot like the first chapter of a book, from that standpoint. This means that just like the first chapter of a book, the anchor shot should get viewers invested in the rest of the series. It needs to have an allure to it, something that makes them ask questions or gets them curious. Those questions and that curiosity — that’s what will drive people to dig deeper into the series.
The second thing an anchor shot should do is give a broad overview of what the rest of the series will contain. Again, if we compare this shot to component pieces of a book, then this is like the book’s cover. People can look at it and get a sense of what the series will be all about, even though the anchor shot doesn’t tell the whole tale. It’s just a hint, one that gives the genre and some good clues about further discoveries to be made.
To do these two things, anchor shots are generally constructed in a specific way. Whether you’re on a factory floor, in a busy marketplace or out on a farm, the anchor shot is usually a wide-angle shot of the entire scene, something that includes as much of the area that you’ll be photographing as possible. This establishes people within the scene and prepares them to explore the more in-depth shots later on. Of course, there are always exceptions to this — not all anchor shots are wide-angle scene shots, but quite often, they are.
Now that you know what anchor shots are and what they’re supposed to accomplish, the next thing is to know when you ought to create them. Honestly, it’s a wise idea to make an anchor shot any time you visit a new place or explore some new theme, even if you’re only planning to produce single images.
Why? Because you never know when something might become a series. You could end up going out into the field on a given day or even over the course of several excursions with the idea of taking single images only to find out weeks or months later that several you’ve collected really work well together as a story or to express a certain theme. If you don’t have that anchor shot, you’ll miss it. And worse, it’s not always possible to go back and get that anchor shot should you decide later on that you need one. So no matter where you go or what you intend to create, it’s always good to start each photo excursion by taking a few anchor shots. These days, with almost unlimited digital storage, there’s really no reason for skipping this step — and if you do decide to create a series later on, you’ll be glad to have these images.