What’s Your Story?

October 3, 2008

As we discussed in class yesterday, there are some key qualities that are found in successful stories:

1) A narrative arc (conflict, crisis, resolution)—especially in fictional stories. Another way to think about it: a beginning, a middle and an end.

2) An angle (some specific point or response to a specific question)—especially in journalistic stories.

3) Specific details that illustrate universal themes—found in all stories that resonate with wide audiences.

With these qualities in mind, as well as the basic requirements of Project 2 (15 images, text), share your story ideas here in one or two paragraphs. Just describe your subject and tell us how you intend to craft it into a story. Or give us a short summary of your story and describe the pictures you will pursue.

Do this as soon as possible so I can respond. Also, let’s treat this like a workshop. That is, read the other story ideas and comment on them if you feel you have something to contribute.

Remember, the project is due next Thursday so it would be ideal to shoot this weekend! I will give you feedback publicly, on the blog, so be sure to check back for my response. 



  1. I am having difficulty forming a creative yet effective photo story. I enjoy the more creative shot of taking photo’s and having actors and scripts to follow almost goes against my idea of true photography. That being said, I would like to do a story profiling Elon University as a whole.

    To start out I would like to have shot of an open field stating that it was the beginning and that Elon was once just a field of weeds and grass. The next shot could be of the railroad and the crossing signals stating that as Elon College started to grow a station was built.
    I would profile West for it was the last building standing after the fire. I would profile the rest of the buildings and the athletic fields or football stadium to show its growth and expansion.

    Then for the last few shots would be of the Football game and the hustle and bustle that comes along with that.

    That is a rough storyboard that I have going for it allows me to be creative with my shots but I still get to tell a story.

  2. I am interested in doing my story on an intramural flag football game that goes wrong. Using my friends team I want to shoot photos of them with three minutes left in the game, where they are down by one touchdown and an extra point. I would include the huddle when they get the ball, the process of gaining a first down, and the next play set. Fortunately the next play set will end with a touchdown but the next play set will not end with a winning catch in the endzone … it will end with a dropped pass in the endzone, meaning they did not score the extra point. I would then shoot the disheartened receiver and also the supportive team.

    I may need to develop this a bit further to get 15 photos but I think it’s doable. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated; I’m not the most creative when it comes to storytelling!

  3. This project has been a struggle for me as I’ve wrestled between various story ideas. I’ve known for a while that I wanted to concentrate on a specific organization, with my angle being an individual or family that has benefited from this organization. I want the story to be moving, and to show the conflict, struggles, and resolutions of a suffering family or individual. I was originally considering doing my story on Habitat for Humanity. But today I decided that I would rather focus on the Allied Churches Homeless Shelter or Loaves and Fishes. Unfortunately, Allied Churches and Loaves and Fishes are not open on the weekends. And I really wanted to begin my project this weekend. Allied Churches would be good because so many people frequent the place, and I would have ample opportunity to speak to some people, learn their stories, and talk about the impact of the organization. But I think Loaves and Fishes would be better because not only would I be able to concentrate on the organization and those benefiting from it, but I would also be able to document people receiving the food. This would give me a glimpse of the struggles these people endure, and the hope they receive on a weekly basis. I learned from their website that the distribution days for Loaves and Fishes in Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I have not been able to contact anyone because they are not open on the weekends, but I am hopeful that I’ll be able to go on Monday.

    My plan for this photo story is to visit on Monday and shoot possibly 50 photos of the organization and the volunteers, and conduct a few interviews to find out more about the organization. I then plan to return Tuesday to photograph the distribution process and talk to some of the people who are picking up groceries. I want to talk with them, and hopefully learn some useful information that will allow me to make this story about these people (preferably one main character) that are truly struggling. I will spend Tuesday and Wednesday working diligently on the photos, cropping, adding text, and creating a story that is compelling and moving.

    In the meantime, I may work on a backup story on Sunday as a precaution in case the Loaves and Fishes idea does not work out. I would like to know other people’s thoughts on this though. I know I may be biting off more than I can chew, but I think this idea has potential and I’m willing to give it a shot.

  4. I want to focus my story on the upcoming presidential election. My plan is to use my friend and show her progression of finding information and influences that will ultimately help her make her decision on who she will vote for.

    I am planning on taking pictures of McCain/Obama signs I have seen around campus/town. My main concern is that I won’t find enough subject matter.

    My photostory will show my friends story as well as provide information and statistics about the election.

  5. My story is currently in the middle of production. I am crafting a story about my current trip to Myrtle Beach to see The Roots and Gym Class Heroes at the House of Blues. The angle in the story is the difficulties in going on road trips while enduring high gas prices.

    I’m trying to get pictures not only from a standstill but also from a moving car in order to give the viewer the feeling that he or she is actually in the car with me. I’m chronicling the journey from Elon to the House of Blues and back. The only road block I’ve come up against is the rule against flash photography at the venue. I would really like to use my cell phone for those pictures and include them in the story in order to give it that rugged concert feel, but I don’t know if that fits the parameters of the project as the photos would be of a low quality. It would be a cool idea though because it would make the viewers feel like they were there.

  6. Will,

    Your idea is very broad, and the angle hasn’t quite emerged. I think it would be wise to narrow the focus. Find an interesting way to profile one of those items—say, West, and the fire. Or maybe the piece could be about the edge of Elon. Find interesting shots along the border of the University and how it merges with the landscape, the community, etc. Write commentary about the phenomenon of Universities being in fairly remote places and the resulting tensions–both visually and culturally. That could be cool. KEN.

  7. Sarah,

    I really like the idea. It’s big, yes, but could be very strong. You might want to consider saving it for your digital story or video project, because the sound element (interview, ambient sound) and music would make that much more compelling. But your vision of it seems pretty well-formed. Try to find a narrower angle while there: maybe profile a person who runs it or volunteers, or a family. That way the story will become more pointed and specific. Sounds like a great organization. KEN.

  8. Laura,

    There’s something to this idea, but it needs tightening, or maybe broadening. I like the idea of taking pictures of signs, but it could make for a dull rhythm. Maybe this story is about a small town in election year. Make commentary about the “small town” which has become such a commodity in the campaigns, especially as described by Sarah Palin, and the attempts to reclaim it by Joe Biden. Your text could be commentary about this notion of small town America, with pictures showing some presence of the election in every shot (signs, bumper stickers). But you also need people, so maybe take some nice portraits of small town characters and have quotes in which they express their views. What do you think? KEN.

  9. Mike,

    The gas angle has some merit, but I don’t know if it’s sustainable for the story. It could certainly be a detail, but I don’t see how you will carry it through. I do like the idea of phone pics and, because it makes some sense in conveying the feel of the event, I’m okay with you doing that. I think your angle is just going to be “road trip,” with some commentary on the need to escape Elon, or a need to forget the mounting tensions with the economy, election, school, etc. You have to craft an arc by showing change, and maybe the simplest thing to show is how you, or someone else, was feeling stressed and maybe even down, but the trip and the concert brought them back to a hopeful place. KEN.

  10. My idea has changed and will now be a PSA. I am trying to shoot this afternoon actually. My photos will be of a student and friend eating in octagon. When he realizes the time he starts sprinting out of Moseley. Unfortunately he encounters a crowded doorway, someone that tries to stop him, and then realizes that he does not have his phoenix card to get in Belk. He borrows a phoenix card from someone outside, runs up the stairs, logs on the computer and and waits. “Thanks for registering” and he returns to the table to tell his friends.

    Basically, there are only a few days left to register and this PSA will encourage students to register.

  11. Megan,

    Yes, this works. Make sure it’s clear that he’s registering to VOTE in the national election. Looking forward to seeing this. KEN.

  12. For my photo project I was thinking about doing a profile of my roommate who has been working out for about a month now to make sure she fits into her maid of honor gown for her sister’s wedding in December. We are both really lazy so it is a big deal that she is been consistently working out for so long.

    I was thinking about starting off with a picture of her sister (who I would either have to photoshop into the picture, or drive up to Raleigh where she is from and take a real picture) showing the dress to her, and then my roommate trying it on and it not fitting.
    Then I would document my roommate’s continual progression towards getting in shape, taking some pictures of her working out. Then I thought maybe I could take another picture of her trying the dress on, and the zipper going up a little bit further than last time, but still not fitting (although I don’t know if that would be too tiny of a detail to catch anyone’s attention).
    I don’t know how to incorporate the final result, showing that it is December and her being at the wedding, but I’m sure I could figure something out. Let me know what you think!

  13. My photo story will end up as a commercial of sorts. In advertising class, my group has to do a project promoting Mike’s Deli. I want to get a shot of a friend waking up on a weekend, hungry as ever. The photo story will be of him going to different locations, but nothing will truly hit the spot. Eventually, the subject will end up at Mike’s Deli, and he will be satisfied.

    It kind of has a “Harold and Kumar” feel to it, but less weed smoking. Thoughts?

  14. Lauren,

    This is a good idea, but hard to show given the time frame. I like the zipper idea as a visual, so maybe show her trying to fit in the dress, freaking out, then planning an elaborate workout. Maybe those are presented as thoughts, or a dreamlike vision. Have her plan to start her new workout first thing in the morning and set her alarm clock. Then, show her waking up and throwing her alarm clock out the window and going back to sleep. That would work as a story. What do you think? KEN.

  15. Chris,

    This will be as interesting as the shots and the character development allow it to be. It’s a simple quest story that will work, if you have some personality shining through. That means, show some quirky details, make it funny and playful, but have good images and crisp writing. KEN.

  16. New Idea, If i did this:
    Most important football game of the year. With all my friends I tell them i will make it to the football game and tailgate. But fate has it he forgets to set his alarm. He misses the tailgate and his friends wonder where he is. His friends go to the game and see the game winning pass. The kid who misses the tailgate and the game is upset and feels left out. He now always sets his alarm when things of importance are at stake.

  17. I would like to have action figures be the subjects in my story. My first idea revolves around a “tech dude” (small toy skateboarder) starting out as just a regular hometown skater who, through a combination of local sponsorship and a great run in a national amateur contest, manages to get picked up by a huge skateboard company.

  18. My idea is to look into the legend behind the bricks at Elon. I was inspired by one of the photos Dani and I took in class on Thursday and I would like to do a story about stealing a brick. I would start by doing a few shots of people walking over it during the day and then have friends dress up in all black at night to steal one. What I have yet to decide is if I want to try to stage a pretend brick-layer or try to get a hidden camera/documentary feel of watching the actual person do it. I will look into when the bricks are replaced, I think it is very early in the morning, and that could be difficult to do without being obviously seen.

    Most likely I would go with a friend of mine dressing up as the brick layer, but we will see what happens. I would love any comments or suggestions, thanks!

  19. Will,

    This could work. But as I said with Chris’s idea, the idea is so common and potentially overly familiar that you have to make it interesting with good shots and character development. It’s definitely a story, with an arc, so go for it. But sell it with the execution.

  20. Hunter,

    I like the idea of using action figures. The story is pretty big–like feature film big, so you need to find ways to simplify it, while emphasizing the story arc. Get that beginning, middle and ending down and it could be strong.

  21. Tamara,

    I really like this idea. I think getting the actual shot would be great, but it might get you in trouble. Unless you can arrange it so that it’s all on the up and up, I recommend you do the fictional version. Or maybe you do a series of speculation–imagining how the bricks get replaced in whimsical ways. That could be clever and amusing. It’s good story targeting.

  22. Story Idea:
    Two roommates don’t get along because one is completely inconsiderate of the other. The other roommate never gets a chance to confront her about the problem since their schedules conflict and the girl comes in at all hours of the morning. Finally, she gets a chance to confront her and they start to brawl because they are frustrated and can’t talk it out. The girl who wins the brawl gets to keep the room, the other has to move out.

  23. Like I pitched in class on Thurs, my idea is to profile the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. I was the site of a Revolutionary War battle and one of my favorite places to visit.

    I wast thinking about going to the park and shooting various places in the visitor center, the monuments, and the actual places of battle while saying what happened through the text (obviously)

  24. For my photo story I want to do a twist on Cinderella and apply it to Elon. So for example instead of evil stepsisters Cinderella will have evil sorority sisters. She’ll have to clean the sorority house. Prince Charming is going to one of my friends on the basketball team. The ball will be the bar and the chariot will be safe rides.

  25. Megan,

    This could work. I’d rather you have some creative confrontation rather than a “brawl,” just to keep things interesting and inventive. They could agree on some kind of contest. Something colorful and visually compelling.

  26. Travis,

    This should be fine. Again, I recommend your find some narrower angle so you can tighten the focus. But I like the general subject matter and look forward to learning something. Teach us something.

  27. Kristen,

    Yes, this could be fun. Remember to find fresh angles and help us see this old story in a new way.

  28. I was actually thinking maybe a thumb war?

  29. Okay so I have different ideas:

    The first is about a girl overcoming her fear of riding horses and it going horribly wrong. The storyline would start with pictures of the girl driving up to the barn, interacting with a horse, and eventually gaining the courage to get on the horse. All of these images will show that she is very nervous at the barn setting and around horses. The next set of images I was going to have would be the horse getting scared while she was riding leading to her falling of the horse and fracturing her ankle.

    The second idea that I have is to use the ‘Go Green’ concept and create a tutorial story. The first set of images would be showing someone who portrays a lifestyle that is not economically efficient at all; for example having wasted paper everywhere; having the TV, lights, radio, with the power on; using plastic plates and cups. The pictures after this would show this person getting “trained” on how to be green; I would use another person to be the trainer. I would try to put a humorous spin on the story by making it difficult for the person to understand the concepts that they are trying to learn.

  30. This project has been a pain for me as I have been struggling with ideas. I started to do something with volleyball, but I started taking the pictures and realized it wasn’t going anywhere.

    So my current idea is sort of like a how-to/ad for the Wii Fit. I would show how to use it and two people using it. One of the people I would use for a before/after type picture and use photoshop for some help. I think I could get some cool angles for it as well.

  31. Can you elaborate on your first suggestion? I feel like its the type of photography i want to take however i am uncertain on how to make it a story, as well as what type of photographs you had in mind

  32. I still am trying to come up with ideas for this project, but one concept I had was “taking a walk in another person’s shoes.”
    I guess the conflict would be two people / friends have a fight and each challenges the other to spend a day doing what the other does. I had an idea that I would put pictures of the two people side by side as a comparison.

  33. I was having a difficult time choosing what I wanted to do for my story idea. I finally decided to go with a completely fictional story using some friends as the characters. The basic premise is the main character, who is not seen for the first few frames, has escaped the control of the “bad guys.” It will open with a very angry boss, who sends out his “boys” to go find the character. The main character will take out the first guy he encounters very slyly, but then finds himself surrounded. That is when we reach the climax, then head for the conclusion.

    I know it sounds pretty corny, but if done carefully it might be interesting. Maybe a new spin on the stereotypical Hollywood Action movie?

  34. Corey,

    I like the Wii Fit idea. Try to squeeze a story out of it–like comparing (fictionally) someone who just works out “virtually” with someone who goes to the gym every day. Could be funny. Yes, go for those fresh angles.

  35. Dani, I like both of these ideas! At this point, it seems like the Green idea would be easier to shoot, unless you went ahead with the horse idea. But both will work. You seem to have the the horse idea more fully imagined and it does and a beginning, middle and end. So it may be stronger and easier to convey, plus it would be nice to see some different imagery and horses are always so photogenic. So, my preference would be for the horse, if you can swing it.

  36. Megan,

    Yes on the thumb war. But make it DRAMATIC!


    Let’s talk about this after class.

  37. OK so on the way to class, I got an idea. I was thinking maybe doing something with the Alamance fountain. Having some frieds decide to jump in and then the campus police driving by and seeing it. That hardest part of this would be to try to track down a campus policeman or campus security officer. But on the positive side, I would be able to shoot at night- which is great because I don’t have time to shoot during the day! This does concern me about the quality of the photos though. I am not very good at taking pictures at night.

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