Lessons from the Scene: Seeing Storylines


By Gary Fong
Figure 1
Shooting the quintessential storytelling moment begins with understanding the story. When the story concept meets the photographer in the field, the magic of visual communication comes alive.
Understanding the story before shooting is basic and mandatory. If photographers are not able to recognize visual elements, he or she won’t know what’s germane to the coverage.  Great moments could be missed.  One must become familiar with what’s important to the concept.  If needed, do research to understand the depth of the story.
When doing coverage, one must start by watching and understanding the visual clues. As the story elements and composition coincide in time and space…that’s the moment to make the exposure.
Story coverage is fluid, spontaneous, and precise.  A finely attuned photographer is sensitive to what’s relevant and what’s not relevant. It’s a process of watching, waiting, and making the right exposures. It’s “not” a process of shoot everything, then hoping one image is right for the story.
Post coverage, how does one identify a successful photo? Try asking an average person what the photo says to them. If the image is shown to a many people, one should hear a consensus of the storyline. If the consensus is all over the map, the communication factor of the image has failed.  
Professional photographers may wish to check with a picture editor. A skilled picture editor would able to identify those successful images that transport the reader beyond the page. If one is building a picture page, editing the correct pictures that contribute to the storyline is even more important.  However, talking to a picture editor may build ones confidence…but at the same time, may leave a photographer’s self-esteem in ruins.
The best way see pictures…saturate the brain with knowledge about the story…and be sensitive to the events as they unfold before the lens.