Prepared for ABWE, Sept. 2008

Shooting for multimedia presentation

by Billy Calzada


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World Jalapeno Eating Championship - Laredo, Texas


I am here because I believe in the power of missions photography. It serves more than one great purpose.

Of course, it is important to document the spreading of the Gospel of the Lord by missionaries. These images can, themselves, be used to spread the Word, and these pictures can be used to fund mission work.

But I am also interested in the historic aspect of missions photography. For centuries, missionaries have gone where others have not been willing to go. And in the last century, give or take a few years, missionaries have made pictures; anthropological and historic pictures of peoples that they have encountered.

I believe this fine tradition continues today. Just look at the fine body of work of so many in this room.

Photography is an artist's tool; it is a documentarian's tool, it is a tool for preserving family and personal history. It is God's tool.

But for those of us interested in informing an audience; it is a tool for storytelling.

Most of us have made photos for publication, usually to illustrate an accompanying story. Most of us have a personal tried and true method for making these pictures - perhaps you receive an assignment; you study it carefully, and you go into the field and into the lives of people. You make pictures as you consider what is playing out before you; you make pictures as you consider what the "story" really is.

You then edit your pictures; often thinking in terms of print publication.

Sometimes, this edit is redundant; you might be turn in two very similar pictures, thinking that a publications editor down the line can make a final decision. You might mine out a total of 3-5 pictures for publication consideration.

I'm here to be talk about adjusting one's mindset, and shooting for more than print publication.

The internet offers many other outlets for our photography. It is, more and more, becoming the prime outlet for our work. And with that in mind, we should consider shooting specifically for the internet.

There are several methods of "posting" pictures on the internet. Slide shows, audio slide shows, video presentations, flash presentations, and many others come to mind. Our friend, Andrew Silk, will address this later in the program..

At the San Antonio Express-News, a daily newspaper in Texas where I work as a multimedia journalist; the internet is both loved and despised by photographers.

Loved because it offers that extra outlet for photography, giving our photographs a public forum where many of our choice photos, unchosen for print publication, can be seen.

Despised because we now have to edit, tone and caption a mountain, rather than a hill, of photos, adding more duties to our already overloaded work days.

I choose to love more than I choose to despise. In so many ways, the internet as a place for displaying our work is a prayer answered.

So, let's take advantage of the internet - it offers us a place to present pictures, to glorify the Lord; it is an invaluable too.

It's about storytelling.

The internet was made for photo essays.

Let's define the picture story as a series of pictures that when seen in a cohesive manner, inform us about something that must be seen and learned.

When going into the field to shoot assignments, I suggest that it is best to take a page from the world of video. At this point, I hope that I don't lose anyone that has no desire or love for video.

I can tell you that at my newspaper, there are some photographers that don't want any part of shooting or editing video.

But for our purposes, we will working with photographs.

The world of video offers us a way to relate a story uses sequences. I shoot lots of video these days, and I've had to l earn to see things in this way. When shooting video, I think in terms of sequences. One shot leads to another, which leads to another, which leads to another, which, when wrapped up, should tell my story.

Contrast this with how I used to shoot and then construct my slide shows.

I used to edit for the print edition of my newspaper; choosing 3-7 of my best pictures; pictures that each contained all of the elements necessary to tell the story.

After editing, captioning and sending these pictures to my editor, I would then construct a slideshow using these selected pictures. So, I had a slideshow with pictures; each somewhat able to stand on its own to illustrate the assigned story; but they did not work together as a group.

The answer, then is to shoot in a style that emphasizes a series of pictures, each working off the one before; to tell your photo story. A sequence. A beginning, middle and end.

When shooting video, my shots mix is about 20 percent wide angle, 60 percent short or long telephoto, and 20 percent tight details. It's a difficult thing to do as a still shooter, because, if you are anything like me, with a still camera my "normal" tends tends to want to be a 24, 28 mm.

So, what I am suggesting is a big change, at least for myself.

Let's not forget about audio. Today's technologies make it a simple matter to gather audio for your slide shows. I often carry a Marantz recorder, and at other times, I carry my video handycam, you can see how small it is, and use it for gathering audio.

Gathering audio, in its simplest and yet effective form, is not difficult. It's as easy as conducting an interview, and then gathering ambient sound.

I find that producing audio loads of fun, and, if you use the software called Audacity like I do, there is no cost involved. Audacity is open source freeware, and it is available for all computer platforms.

I try to keep my audio tracks as simple as possible. I usually start of with a bit of ambient sound and try to match that with the pictures. I then edit the interview track to include only the relevant points. I then drop these edited interview tracks over the audio.

The battle is matching your pictures with your audio. You want your best pictures in a prominent place, at or near the beginning, or as the closer. And yet, you want your picture track and your audio track to tell a narrative. This is where I sometimes stumble; this is the difficult part of creating an audio slide show.

Audio should not be an afterthought. We are all visual journalists, and so we think of the visuals first.

But fact is, audio can really drive your story. It can make a group of pictures work well together.


Let me show you "Celebrate Bandera Picture Gallery."

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The pictures are nice, perhaps they tell a story alone; but now let's watch "Celebrate Bandera Audio Slide Show."

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I feel that the audio drives the show. It adds much to the narrative, awakening your senses and providing for a richer experience.

Now, I want to show you the "Celebrate Bandera Video." You may have guessed, I actually shot this on video; and my thought process was as for video, a progression of information.

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Two years ago I got called into my photo director's office. Of course, I wondered, "What have I done?" My mind raced as I slowly walked to his office. "Did I make a caption error? Are we being sued over a picture I took?"

It turned out to be much worse than that.

My photo editor wanted me to put down my Nikon camera and start shooting video.
I was stunned. This was completely unexpected. This would be like being told you have to change your college major to something that you have no interest in.
But I've learned to shoot video. I attended the NPPA Multimedia Immersion Workshop several months ago, and came away with much sharper skills. I have found that the video skills I have picked up have helped me with sequencing for still photography.


I want you to see a slideshow that feel is beautiful in is simplicity and is driven by the imagery, not the audio.

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I feel that that photographer Lisa Krantz told an intimate and complete story, it has a beginning, middle and end. And it all rides along on Heavenly voices.

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I love portraiture; photos that stand alone; speaking for themselves.

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But audio can serve to add a new dimension in portraiture.

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Most of us here are photographers. I love the camera; and when it comes right down to it; on a personal level, I love shooting pictures more than anything else I do.

But adding other skills, including video and video production, audio production and yes, even flash for online presenation, makes us better communicators.

Afterall, it's about storytelling.

2008 Billy Calzada