Back to school, Baby! We’re doing essays!
Don’t you remember how you hated doing essays in school? First you had to come up with a topic, or you’d be assigned one, then you’d have to research the essay, make notes and finally write the essay! Oh, the piles of books that would have to be read and sometimes referenced! and do you remember the library? [sigh] I mean, want to forget the library?
Well, now here’s a chance to get back at the establishment!
Photo Stories, or photo essays are a sequence of photographs that tell a story by themselves when placed together. You’ll see them frequently in magazines along with some text. One of my favourite sources of photo-stories is National Geographic magazine. You can usually understand most of whats happening just by looking at their photographs. Of course the content is gripping too, but for many people its the photographs that make the magazine what it is.
Now, down to business. It’s easy to make a photo story. Choose a topic, preferably something which is close to your heart and easy to access for starters. Try doing something like “A day in the life of…” series for your family or just a series of photographs of something in your neighbourhood. This will get you in the mood for more challenging series…
You could then move on to more interesting time based stories, like capturing certain buildings and their interiors over the passage of a day, or a year! The working of a local charity, featuring the key people behind it and the work that they do, the people their work benefits would make an impressive photo story. Here’s a decent attempt at capturing a Russian, Ilya, and the 44 disabled dogs that he cares for. The photo story is in Russian, but it could be in any language and not make much of a difference. The story is still there.
Photo stories are most often seen in journalism and reportage of events as in this photo story about Riots in Dublin but there’s no reason why they cant be used to tell interesting everyday stories too, like this “Story of a parrot” by Subhasish or Surreal stories like Xylonets‘ “If You Go Out to the Barn Tonight . . . You Better Not Go Alone” and this one about the “Modern Family” by bihua.
Remember that what you are trying to do is to capture the key moments that define what ever it is you are photographing. Try capturing emotions, locations, interaction between people, interactions between things – objects and places – and also capture some of the surroundings. Essential skills that you’ll need will be good composition, a discerning eye for detail that could add meaning to the photograph and good communication skills (if your story is about people).
But, worry not if this list sounds daunting, for we are all learning… Thats why I asked you to start with an easy topic, remember? Doing photo-stories helps you to refine your skill in composition and portraiture, and if you’re doing something outdoors, maybe even your landscape skills. Remember, there are no hard and fast rules as long as you capture the essence of what you are trying to convey.
Finishing it off
The ideal old-world finish to the photo-story is to print your pictures out and paste them in a photo-book with larger pictures wherever you want to emphasise the photograph and to show some extra detail in it. You could also put together a multimedia presentation like this one made by the baltimore sun. These days, its not all that difficult to do. Otherwise you can just put them together in a folder on your computer and number them 001, 002, and so on so that they are displayed in order when seen with a slide show software. [TIP:] The two zeros in front of numerals zero to nine ensure that they are not displayed just before ten and twenty.