For the past three weeks, the University of Missouri School of Journalism has hosted the Pictures of the Year International competition. I spent a lot of free time there, but one of my favorite categories to watch is the feature picture story. There were well over 200 entries in the category, and it took several hours for the 3 judges to get through them all.
The picture stories that were voted in during the first round usually took a little more time for the judges to look at. Many of the stories that were voted out were called within seconds of appearing on the screen. That definitely made me think that a picture story that immediately caught the attention of the judges, either because it was visually interesting or it made them curious, were the ones that made it further in the competition.
The story needs to be strong without relying on the captions. It needs to interest viewers enough that they want to read the captions and the story, and look at the pictures more. If you do have a story summary and captions, you need to make sure they match the story. You can't insert missing information or try to change the meaning of the story by simply putting the information in the story. It causes a disconnect, and it made the judges quickly vote out the story.
They also strongly emphasized the importance of good editing. The story needs to be tightly edited. There needs to not be repetition in the images, but they need to flow together, like we have talked about in capstone. You don't want the picture story to be too much to get thorough, and there were times they discussed that the story just had one picture too many and they said it could ruin the story.
Another important thing they emphasized was to look at stories in a new way. They voted out many stories from Haiti just when they heard where it was from. They said they wanted to see a fresh take on it, instead of the same old predictable pictures. The edgy, different stories were many of the ones that made it into the final round and received awards. I think that's important to remember. You need to put your style into everything you shoot and make sure if you're covering a topic that has already been done before that it's new and different. The judges were also impressed with stories that required lots of access. There are stories that are in your neighborhood that need to be told and you could have the best access.
The final thing I noticed was important was the ending of the story. DON'T GO FOR THE CLICHE! Be creative and think about what is a fitting ending to your story, not just a sunset or a night picture. You have to be more creative. Sometimes it can be the make or break factor of your story.