To begin, some students struggled with the idea of achieving verbal and visual synchronicity. It was tough to maintain a sense of how the visual and audio components were fitting together. In some cases, where the still photography was being meshed with audio, photographers were not thinking “cinematically” in their coverages. Instead, they continued to make photos as if they were intended for a print presentation with only limited options being created to cover a situation that might last a minute or 1:30 in audio. I had an interesting talk with one filmmaker who said younger audiences are now being conditioned by video games to see images changing onscreen every 2.5-3 seconds. That would mean having at least 20 images available for every minute of audio at a bare minimum. Given that need, how does the visual journalist break down a scene into enough useful, interesting images to mesh with the audio?

At the same time, those tasked with shooting video stories were not thinking about how their main character would actually “move” along a natural narrative arc in a story. Students were challenged in creating story flow so that scenes connected naturally and meshed well with accompanying audio. Also, some were so focused on the challenges of meshing verbal and visual that they neglected to do the fundamental thing at the heart of all visual storytelling – transforming the mundane into something exceptionally interesting that changes the way that the audience sees reality around them.

Visual storytelling starts with the act of seeing – organizing three-dimensional space into a two-dimensional presentation format (at least until holograms or other VR mechanisms take over our world). Photographers must be able to use light, color, and composition as amplifying tools to drive home the main content message found in a given moment in time.

These “seeing” skills must be applied to video scenes too. At the same time, another video challenge is to make frames flow into scenes that then flow into a story so that a character’s movements and the accompanying ambient sound and dialogue help propel the narrative forward to a clear, instructive, satisfying conclusion.

In talks to classes, I have often described producing video as being like playing chess in three dimensions when compared to making still photographs. There is a much more complex form of listening and observing that has to take place in order to get the relevant raw material to tell a story well.

Such “cinematic” considerations now apply as well to the mixing of still photography and audio to make an audio slideshow. While the in-field processes of producing still photos and audio for audio slideshows may differ slightly from shooting video, I think both forms of storytelling require richer, more complex observational activity than that applied previously to still photography done for print publications.

Learning those fundamental lessons can make a big difference in the outcome of the storytelling.