My Photo Editor Mind – Story Basics, Part II

Last week I talked about sequencing a picture story, so I want to build on that a bit. In order to sequence a story correctly, you need the right images. While teaching at the Missouri Photo Workshop last year, students were required to pitch story ideas. What was apparent and taught at the workshop, was that they were pitching situations, not stories. They had a situation; they needed a story. What does this mean?

Let’s say that the drought in California is preventing farmers from planting crops. That’s a situation. Likewise, flooding in Texas causes home damage, a situation, a homeless man living on the streets, a situation. So what makes a story? Let’s say the farmer has to sell his land to cover his debt; something is happening. Or with the home flooded in Texas, the family that lives there has to move out. Where will they live? The homeless man living on the street is moving into an apartment for homeless people. There is movement, or cause and effect, if you will. Something will change. So now we have our story, but let’s look again at the farmer. The land becomes a secondary character; what does that dry land look like and feel like? Does the farmer have a family? How are they reacting or dealing with selling land? Are they helping our farmer cope? Are they angry? Action, reaction. Who is the farmer? What makes the farmer tick? Who is he as a person, his essence, his being. We need to see this.

Before you begin shooting a story, you must figure out the story, the focus of the story, and then think about how you are going to show the points of this story. Good planning will help you focus on the points that are needed for your story and save you a lot of grief. Good luck. As always, I’m here to help if you need me.