This is the fourth post is a series outlining how the Austin Stone Story Team produces written stories. You can read the first three posts Background and Introduction, Leads and Assignments, and Interviewing to catch up to today’s post.
The stories that the Austin Stone Story Team tells are rich in theology and deep in emotion that helps captivate the reader and urge them towards gospel action. One of the ways we help emphasize these stories even more is by presenting documentary-style photojournalistic images to contextualize the narrative. Our photographers are an amazing bunch, coming from practically every style and track of photography to serve Jesus and his church through storytelling.
To help our photographers along with their assignments, we have developed this simple system for the photographer to contribute to the story in their own individually unique styles.
- We begin each of our assignments by introducing the photographer and the writer to the subject. Once that connection has been made, the photographer and writer touch base and reach out to the subject to set up a meeting. Sometimes this meeting is just a time for everyone to get to know each other so that there is some rapport built before the process begins. Other times – usually when there is a quick deadline or the subject is only available for a short period – the photographer captures photos right after the first meeting. The preference is always that there are multiple interactions to allow for more variety and better relationships to be develop among everyone involved, but sometimes that is simply not able to happen. No matter what, the first step is the meeting.
- After that, the photographer sets up the first or additional times for photographing different elements of the story. This can be anything from tagging along while their community serves in some sort of outreach or documenting their home life. In any case, some time does need to be scheduled for both the photographer and subject to meet for the purpose of taking images. If the writer can be a part of this, that is beneficial, but they do not necessarily need to attend if schedules will not allow for this.
- Once the photos have been taken and the photographer feels they have enough to visually communicate the various elements of the story well, the photographer moves into the editing stage. Downloading images to their computer, culling (picking the top images), and editing the final selections to the photographers liking – all these tasks take a good chunk of time, so this is about half of the full process. We are typically looking for our photographers to finish submitting around 40-60 images total, that way we have a significant group to pull publishing images from.
- After finals have been selected and edited, they are uploaded to the project in basecamp, the tool you can read about in Natalie’s post here, and then the photo portion moves to the photo editor’s desk. Once the editor downloads the images and begins the process of selecting final publishing images, they read the writer’s edited story and select based on where the narrative leads and what they think visually reflects elements in the piece or fills in gaps in the narration.
Once all these steps have been completed in the process, the images are ready to be published along with the story in its final form. While every story is different and the approach has to reflect that, these are the benchmarks that we strive for as a team. We believe, because of things like these benchmarks, our stories get published in their strongest form.
If you have any questions on any portion or parts of this process described, please ask in the comments!