Dear Young(er) Photographer,
This blog post is what I needed to hear about a year ago.
I’d like to talk to you about finding stories. It’s hard, especially when you’re fielding regular assignments, general adulthood, and a social life. Do it anyway.
It might mean that you’re working on Sunday morning, or Friday night, or a holiday, or on your birthday. Chase them anyway.
Being able to bring in your own stories makes you more valuable in a newsroom, makes you a better journalist, and makes you a stronger storyteller.
Recently, I found four story ideas at a parade, and two on the local radio station. I learned that one of the police officers here breeds and sells snakes on the side because I was joking with the public information officer. Wouldn’t that be a fun profile?
Dive into your community. Listen to local radio, get a library card, find where the high schoolers hang out, the college kids, the moms, and the sports fans. Talk to people. Listen. They’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Be ridiculous in keeping notes. Remember who you’ve spoken to, collect business cards. Make connections. People are the only way you can localize national news.
Get off the Internet. Get out of your car. Using your feet makes you approachable, makes you more mindful. It’s a way to invite stories in. Go to the visually uninteresting events and, again, talk to people. The best stories won’t be anywhere on the Internet anyway.
Consider rejection part of the game. Will the police officer let me photograph him holding snakes? I don’t know, but I certainly must ask. If you’re told no, no big deal. You’ve accomplished a little something in and of itself.
If you’re stuck, no list of story ideas or calendar events will help. You just have to see what’s out there.