So now you have decided on a topic for your story. Let the research begin! Doing research will help you get a better understanding of your topic, and this will give you ideas about how to tell your story and find out whether the story has been done before. It will also help you focus and clarify the direction and give you an idea of where to find subjects.
I think that finding a subject for a story can be one of the most difficult parts of a photo story. Many, many years ago I wanted to do a story on college women and binge drinking. I needed to find a subject who went with the story I had been researching; I knew I wanted someone of legal drinking age, so I went to bars to find a subject .… and got turned down repeatedly until I found a woman who agreed to be photographed. Rejection is part of the process, and there can be a lot of it; you need patience and perseverance, but the payoff will be worth it. A great subject can make a story.
Finding subjects can be difficult. I’ve recently been asked where to find subjects for a story. Well, if you have done your research, you might have heard of an organization that serves your topic, but consider support groups and social media too. Find out where the people you want to focus on gather. Let’s suppose I couldn’t find my college student at a bar. Well, I could go to the college campus, find out when parties were being held, talk to students, or find out where the women’s dorms are. This is a lot of footwork and knocking on doors; again, this is probably one of the hardest parts of doing a story.
After you have found the subject for your story, you have to ask yourself, “Now, do I have a story or a situation.” “What?” you might ask. “What’s the difference?” Let’s say, for example, you are working on a story about the recession. You have a family where the parents have lost their jobs (it already happened). That’s a situation. But then you find out they are losing their house too, and they are moving out of their house because they can’t afford it. Now you have a story. Now you have a story arc. There will be results from them moving out of their house and those results will be your photos. It doesn’t necessarily have to be that dramatic; it can be more subtle, but you need an arc.
Just wanted to say again, finding subjects can be the hardest part of your story, so if you do your research well, find a great subject and make sure you have an arc, you will be setting yourself up for success.
Next week, starting to shoot your story.
If you missed part 1, it’s on my blog at maryvignoles.com.