As a mentor I am often asked about shooting stories. This is a skill that goes beyond just being able to shoot a great photograph. I have seen a collection of award-winning photographs that fall flat as a story. The key skill in storytelling is editing. I have jotted down a few thoughts about editing photo essays that may help you get started. These are not hard and fast rules, they are only meant to give you a place to start.
A good story should include:
--Visual variety. (close-up shots, wide shots, scene-setter shots, and telling details or very tight pictures)
--Story variety. (content should not be repetitive. Make sure each photo tells a different part of the story. If it doesn’t contribute something unique, throw it out.)
--Emotion elevates a story into one that people are drawn into and can relate to. (don't just show what something looks like, show what it feels like to be there)
--Try for interaction, little moments.
--Sometimes focusing on one person helps draw in readers and gives more of a feel for what is happening.
--Or you could focus on one theme or message.
--A lead photo or one storytelling shot that introduces the topic.
--Several supporting photos that contribute to the story and move it along.
--A nice closer or ending. Sometimes it is a chronological thing, sometimes it's more of a mood shot.
--Ask yourself what is the story really about? Go beyond your first answer. Is it about an Oysterman? Fine, ask again and keep asking until you get to the bigger issue. Is it about a job? A lifestyle? Passion? The disappearance of a way of life? In other words, each story is about something on a surface level but what is the underlying theme or struggle? This is a lot like writing fiction or screenplays because it IS a form of storytelling, although a photojournalist's stories should be truthful and accurate.
You can start with a shopping list of photos to look for but stay open to other things. When you get there, it may be totally different than you think it will be ahead of time. This list is only a starting point and should not stifle your spontaneous, on-the-spot creativity.