This photo essay is going to be a number of things: A partially told photo story, a little instruction on how to shoot and present a photo story and lastly it's going to be NOT being an entry in the Photo Essay Contest. I'm bowing out.
Nora Corrigan was once the female principal lead for Riverdance — The Show. She danced in that important position in her last year on the professional stage after four years of touring. She performed for millions of people throughout Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, including Broadway in New York City.
Today, Corrigan has retreated from the excitement of touring the globe with a world famous dance company. Running her own school of Irish dance in London, Ontario, she now dedicates her time and talent to introducing young people to the joys of the reel and the jig.
Sunday, her students eagerly hit the stage to present the school's annual Christmas show. With hard shoes, similar to tap dancing shoes, clicking loudly to the beat of the music, the troupe, mostly young girls, kicked, spun and twirled about the stage.
Capturing motion can be difficult when using point and shoots. Sometimes waiting for a lull in the action is the answer.
1: If you are going to shoot a great photo essay, you must set that as your goal right from the start. When shooting a photo story you will find that you must modify your shooting. You will need more than one good image and you will need variety in your presentation. This doesn't happen without work.
2: Shoot an establishing shot. You need an image to act as a visual lede. (A lede is the opening to a newspaper story and is designed to capture the reader's interest.) Remember, this is photo journalism.
3. Try and shoot something of everything important that is associated with the event. I missed getting a picture of the musicians. This is a serious error. The Irish harp and drum music was integral the show. It deserved to be featured. Oops! And a picture showing the audience reaction should be here somewhere. Something showing lots of emotion is needed. Another oops.
4. Try and shoot images that can be cropped into different shapes. Cropping a picture is like polishing a diamond. It adds sparkle. You don't want your images to go thud-thud-thud on the page with each picture played the same size and shape. Play some images large, streaming them across the page. Use other images small, as visual spice. In-between-sized pictures can, and should be played in a variety of shapes and positions. You want to lead the readers eye from image to image as you tell your story.
This image is of minimal quality. It may work as electronic art but it would fail on the printed page.
5. Go for quality. If an image isn't good quality, place it off to the side. Bad grammar detracts from a word story and bad photography detracts from a photo story.
6. When placing art, think about whether the image plays best on the right side or the left side of the layout. If placed in the middle, I find it best to be bold and run the image right across the page or screen. At the least, play it large.
7. Shooting for Digital Journal is a little harder that posting to your own blog. There is the little image that is used as the icon for your story. It is always the same size and in the same place. If possible, shoot an image keeping its iconic use in mind.
8. All rules are made to be broken. The picture of a three-year-old Irish dancer, her bright red hair flying, doing a beginner reel on stage with Nora Corrigan was too important to miss. If you have an image that you simply must use, you can try boosting the contrast and sharpening the edges of the image. This can give the illusion that the image is sharper than it is.
Nora Corrigan assists three-year-old Fiona Blair as the little girl performs a beginner reel on stage Sunday.
Sometimes, if played small, such an image can work in an electronic layout. With newspapers and magazine, such images must appear as half-tones and the lack of definition is an almost insurmountable defect.
Lastly, I have found that the iconic photo on the page does not always reproduce properly when large. The image gets cropped, and cropped poorly, by the system. The solution, saving the image at a smaller size, may cause the image to appear soft or fuzzy when presented as an icon. A similar problem, and one you have little control over, is that one can never be one hundred percent certain that your page, your work of layout art, will carry to the reader. With so many different sized monitors in use, and two major computer systems — Windows and Mac — what you see is not always what your reader sees.
I have even had the problem of the Digital Journal software cropping the images I have placed in the body of my story. I find this to be a rare occurrence but it is something to watch for. After going to a lot of work to present your images, don't let a bit of computer software destroy your work.
To see a good example of a photo essay presented as an automated, online slide show, check out: Art in the park in Fuengirola, Spain, a Digital Journal report.
Good luck to all with your photo essays, have a merry Christmas, Cheers!