The photo slideshow
Many photo assignments are one-shot assignments. Meaning, the photographer can assume that no more than one (or maybe two) pictures likely will be used. For more tips on shooting the individual images, see the post entitled: Five Nifty Tips for Better Photo. However, online slideshows are a popular feature on most news websites, which do not have the same space constraints as print.
Today photographers have to approach any assignment as if it be used as a slideshow. A good photo slideshow is more than a random series of images. Each picture should provide a unique bit of information to move the story forward.
Photo stories fall into two distinct categories: A narrative story and a series. Below is a description and an example of both. Some topics will naturally lend themselves to one approach or the other. Other topics may require you to choose based on access issues, time constraints and the role you want the photos to play in a multimedia presentation.
There are a few things common to every good photostory: Technical strength, good composition and a strong human angle. A little pre-planning can go along way toward a successful photostory. Be realistic about the amount of time it will take to photograph your story. Schedule your shoot when your subject is most active as it relates to your story. Plan for the lighting conditions and other potential technical obstacles.
The narrative photostory
As the name suggests a narrative photo story tells a story often with a clear beginning, middle and end. For small photo stories, images in a narrative story often fall into one of four categories:
1) The signature photo: This often the photo that carries the most narrative weight. If only one photo were to run, this would be the one. This is the image that best encapsulates or illustrates the overall story.
2) The close-up: Closes-ups are used to dramatize or highlight a specific element of your story. These are often the b-roll of still photo.
3) The establishing shot: Usually a wide-angle shot, the establishing image provides some context to your story, often helping the viewer better understand the environment in which the story is taking place.
4) The environmental portrait: Most stories are character driven and it’s important to introduce your viewer to you characters. Environment portraits, meaning a portrait that also shows surroundings or other contextual material, are often a good way to do this. In some cases a posed portrait me work. In other cases an action shot is better.
For longer photostories, like those that appear in magazines such as National Geographic, there are several additional categories (a ‘how-to’ shot, an interaction shot, etc). You may have more than one photo in each category. Or, it may not be clear to you which category – exactly – you photo belongs to. This is not a problem as long the photo works in a way that logically advances the story. You should always figure out a way to work a good photo into your story. The important thing is this: Understanding the principle behind the formula above will help you to create a slideshow that offers visual variety (sameness is boring) and to think through the role each photo plays in advancing your overall story.
The photo series
If a narrative story is driven visually by variety, a good series is driven visually by consistency. A series is often used to make a comparison or demonstrate a theme common among the subjects photographed. Portrait series are a common example of this kind of photo story.
A series is often a good use of photography in a multimedia piece in which video will tell the narrative story. The series can be used to illustrate or highlight one element of the story presented as video.