Assignment: Photo story

You have nearly a week, including the weekend, to do this because I want you to have a chance to find a story that engages you. Your assignment is to find a story to cover. It could be a concert, a sporting event, a street fair — whatever. What I am pushing you to do is to produce a piece of visual storytelling. If you put together a slideshow comprising random pictures, you haven’t done any storytelling, even if you diligently write captions for each one.

You can find listings of plenty of things going on at Boston.com and a whole host of other places. An event at Northeastern is fine. Or you could simply interview a series of people about a topic you’re interested in (although keep in mind that you need to get more than shots of people talking).

I suggested covering an event, but you don’t have to. I’m simply looking for a great story idea. Don’t get hung up on the word “event.” For instance, if you want to cover a sporting event, you would, quite frankly, be far better off photographing a pick-up basketball game at the Marino Center than doing something big-time. You’ll get good access, good pictures and you can interview and take pictures of a few of the players.

I don’t want anyone getting into trouble for talking in the library, but what sorts of students are in the library at midnight on a Saturday? Or do a story on, say, a local eatery. An independent coffee shop can be a pretty colorful place. You could interview a barista and a few of the customers.

Think about variety. For instance, let’s say I decided to visit a coffee shop. I might shoot an environmental portrait of a barista (in front of an espresso machine, perhaps), or maybe waiting on someone. I’d want a customer sitting, working on his laptop. Maybe a couple more talking with each other. A few wide shots. Maybe an outdoor shot? A barista smoking outside?

You will take a series of photos for your story. I’ll be looking for you to pick the best ones, but don’t be shy about taking a lot of pictures. Electrons are cheap. Aim for variety: distance shots, close-up shots and the middle range. Keep in mind the “rule of threes.” I want to see brief interviews with at least three people — with their full names, first and last, properly spelled. For instance, if you go to a hockey game, you should take pictures and get quotes from three fans, or two fans and a hot-dog vendor — something like that. Your goal is to produce a piece of visual storytelling, so try to have an idea of what you hope your slideshow will look like as you’re shooting.

Next Tuesday, Oct. 8, you need to bring your camera and some way of moving the photos onto your computer — most likely a USB cable or Google Drive or our class Flickr account. Or feel free to move them onto your laptop ahead of time and bring that. You will edit your photos in class with whatever editing program you like. You will be producing a slideshow with at least six but no more than 10 pictures, so choose your best. Carefully crop each photo, and use your editing tools to improve lighting and contrast and to remove red-eye. This is journalism, so the idea is to strive for accuracy. Please don’t play around with unnatural colors or special effects.

Once you have finished choosing and editing your photos, upload them to your blog and create a gallery (we’ll go over that in class on Friday). Write a caption for each picture. With people, identify them and include their quotes in the caption.

Write a short story to go with the photo (it can be less than a typical 250- to 350-word blog post), and link your photo to your Flickr set. I want your slideshow to tell the story.

We should be able to finish this in class. You can write the blog post that goes with it after class if necessary.

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