Feedback we give to first time Multimedia Storytellers

James Dockery, ESPN editor and co-teacher, is in Lisbon with me as we are teaching the students multimedia storytelling. [Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm,  ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/90]

Each time I teach multimedia storytelling I find myself sitting with the student and talking about what they could do better.

This summer I taught in a program the same thing I teach in a workshop, but they needed to have a grade, which required me to write out those tips.

Here is the gist of what I am writing when grading or giving someone feedback on their first multimedia storytelling project.

Since this is the very first time you have done multimedia storytelling and have few friends who have been through something like this you may feel like you are flying blind at times.

I know most students when signing up for a course like this have often talked to other alumni of the classes and made their decision to take a class based on what those students told them.

This is to say that for the most part the only person helping you with this assignment would have been myself. This puts a lot more burden on you to ask more questions and push harder to grasp new concepts.

I saw through the class this grappling with storyline and storytelling. I think this is actually the most difficult part of the content to master. If it were that easy to do then there would be blockbuster hit after another coming out of the studios around the world.

One of the key elements of this project is that the success of the project has a lot to do with how well you take ownership and control. It requires leadership skills as well as the skills of the technician to capture the content.

You did a great job of adjusting from the first interview to the second time. I think you really showed the concept really well with what I call the “Radio Cut.” A “Radio Cut” is where you can close your eyes and just listen and get the story as if you were listening to it on the radio.

One area I would encourage you to work on is what I call the peeling of the onion of the story. I thought you did a pretty good job with peeling the onion and getting a deeper story than you had on the first round. I think in time you will know how to get deeper faster with your subjects.

The reason I think it is good to dig deeper is the more you are able to help the audience understand that this is a problem that is so difficult to over come and needs a miracle to make it happen they will not be as engaged.

Zacuto Z-Finder

My advice on the technical side would be to get a viewfinder for your LCD. Many of your shots were slightly out of focus, which is typical if you cannot see the LCD up close.

Fill the 16×9 frame. Make is a cinema piece and don’t use verticals where you see the black on the sides. Fill the frame.

I would also advise getting more variety in these types of shots as both video and stills.

  • 25% Wide Shots – Establishing
  • 25% Medium Shots
  • 50% Close-ups

I think if you had more time with your subject you could have shot a lot more and had what we call more b-roll to use while he is telling us his story through the audio.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM, Sigma 2x EX DG APO Autofocus Teleconverter, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

Another tip is to fill the screen with b-roll when someone is talking about things in the past. This is where abstract visuals can really help you.

This is where you may have what I call a video portrait of her can help. The subject is looking out a window for example and you just slowly move the camera or it is on tripod and they might move just a little.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/420

Another thing you could use is what I like to think as visual eye candy shots. This might be a close-up of water drops during rain hitting leaves. Could be a shot in a room as people walk through the shot. Where you rack focus in and out of focus on elements in your subject’s world. Things like a book, a flower on a table, tools he may use in the job and things that just when used as b-roll are kind of what you might see when you are day dreaming and looking out a window.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 10000, ƒ/8, 1/100

For non-journalistic piece you can coach the talent/subjects. Their voices sounded the same even when they are talking about killing themselves or running a successful business. Their voices need to have a little more emotions than the same one. Most people need a little coaching and doing several takes until you capture the emotion of what they are saying is necessary. Just as good light can impact the mood of a photo, the tone of the person’s voice can bring mood and emotion to the storyline.

Sequencing needs to keep me on the edge of the seat. Meaning every 10 to 15 seconds you need to create a little tension. Sometimes this is visual and sometimes it is in their voices, the words or something that makes it a page-turner.

Remember this from all that I taught on storytelling. Your clients for the most part do not know their stories well enough or they don’t need you. Also, they don’t know how to take your content and put it together into something for their audience. They need you to take control and capture their stories and put them into packages for their audience. They also need help with promoting their stories. So individual social media posts to drive people to the “story” are also needed. Still image with a few words and pointing people to the project on Vimeo or YouTube can not just help the client promote their work, but give them ideas on how to promote their work as well.

Remember you are not just telling their stories; you are educating them on how to tell their stories without you as well. They will take tips from the process and now be better speakers when they speak due to you helping them see the nuggets of their story. You will help them become more transparent so that ultimately their stories are told in a way that the audience is moved to action.


Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/800

This is Keziah Khoo who I met a few years ago when I taught in the School of Photography 1 class of Youth With a Mission in Kona, Hawaii.

This was her second Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop. She went to Romania last year and this year went to Togo, West Africa.

She tells the story of Kondo who struggled to get an education. Listen to Kondo tell her story with the help of Keziah bringing that story to life.
While we were in a village one day a mother gave Keziah her child to hold.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/500
We still have openings for the Honduras Multimedia Workshop taking place this October 29th to November 5th. Deadline to apply is August 30, 2016. 

Click here to learn more. Get your money in now to hold your spot.

Come join us in Honduras and have some fun.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1800, ƒ/7.1, 1/200

Passing The Torch In Togo

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Storytellers Abroad participant Brian Funderburke listens to instructor Pat Davison as he works with Brian and the team in advising how to handle the story.

Sharon Sedzro was born 3 months premature, and weighed less than 4lb (2kg). The doctors told her mother that she would only live if they relied on God. She lived and was later the catalyst that brought about a children’s camp ministry that missionaries from the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism had tried to start over ten years earlier. Storyteller Brian Funderburke shares the story of Madame Sedzro, Sharon Sedzro, and Judy Bowen, and how God worked in their lives to restart a children’s camp ministry that is impacting hundreds of Togolese children.

We still have openings for the Honduras Multimedia Workshop taking place this October 29th to November 5th. Deadline to apply is August 30, 2016. 

Click here to learn more. Get your money in now to hold your spot.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

Brian was able to sit with all three instructors, Jeff Raymond, Pat Davison and myself to work through his plan for his story. 

Removing AIDS Stigma In Togo

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/800

Hannah Saxe, one of the Storytellers Abroad participant, has her fan club walking through the village of Adeti-Kope,Togo, West Africa. Hannah did her story on HIV in Togo.

Brenda Mastin is a nurse at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism hospital in Tsiko, Togo. Over the last few years she and other Togolese colleagues have formed the organization ALMA which is french for “friend indeed”. They are an HIV/AIDS ministry of education, compassion and support. Their main operation is to educate the local churches to show compassion to HIV/AIDS patients as well as giving them support through counseling and medication. They hope to open their own center for chronic disease care near the hospital. In this video Storyteller Hannah Saxe tells the story of ALMA and their work in Togo.

Here is Hannah having prayer with an HIV patient and the subject Brenda before they did the interview.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2000, ƒ/8, 1/100

Freedom From the Fetish – Martouka’s Story

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 5600, ƒ/8, 1/100

Storytellers Abroad participant Hannah Teramura works with the voice over for her video.

Teramura tells the story of Martouka. After years of growing up in fetish worship, Martouka Anani fell deathly sick and remembered the gospel he had heard as a child. Even though his parents disowned him from walking away from the fetish religion, he pursued Jesus and devoted his life to sharing the good news with others.

Now he is a pastor of a thriving church and a teacher at the Bible Institute, training up other pastors to step into teaching roles to transform Togo for Jesus. This is his story – please watch and consider support the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism’s mission to impact more lives and expand the multiplication of churches in Togo, West Africa.
Here is Hannah on the far right enjoy some fun with some of the other workshop participants.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 160, ƒ/8, 1/100

We still have openings for the Honduras Multimedia Workshop taking place this October 29th to November 5th. Deadline to apply is August 30, 2016. 

Click here to learn more. Get your money in now to hold your spot.

Because of God’s Love – Djamila’s Story

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/1250

Storyteller’s Abroad participant Kathryn Shoaf tells the story about a young woman named Djamila. She is the daughter of an Islamic soldier, but found herself torn between two opposing worlds – the familiar traditions of Islam and the unknown Christian faith that her mother had claimed. With guidance from two ABWE teachers, she discovered the life changing love of Christ.
Kathryn was stretched during her time in Togo. She was learning how to use visuals when there are no visuals when someone talks about something that happens in the past. She also learned more about how to sequence the story to keep you more on the edge of your seat.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/8, 1/100

Before the class all went their separate ways to interview their subjects we did a practice interview where they saw what it will be like interviewing someone in French wth a translator helping. Kathryn has the headphones on in this photo.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 160, ƒ/8, 1/100

While we work hard while in Togo, West Africa you can see we also had fun as a group.

We still have openings for the Honduras Multimedia Workshop taking place this October 29th to November 5th. Deadline to apply is August 30, 2016. Click here to learn more. Get your money in now to hold your spot.

Students first Missions Multimedia Storytelling packages

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

What a great week I have had in Kona, Hawaii teaching Sébastien Pannatier and Jessie Toney Multimedia Storytelling.

Dennis Fahringer, pictured above on the left, is the YWAM School of Photography 2 leader that invited me to teach.

Neither student had ever shot video on their cameras. They had never plugged an external microphone into their cameras. They had never done this type of storytelling before.

Now the subjects were not available whenever we needed them and we had to work around their availability and that in itself could have been the deal breaker for these stories, but through persistence they each were able to do formal sit down interviews and capture their stories.

Like everyone who has done a project like this and most of all our very first one we wish we all had more b-roll in the end. I told the students that I have never felt like I had enough b-roll on any project.

Rather than me making you read a lot here are their first projects. Please if you have some words of encouragement as they leave for Rio De Janeiro next week to spend a month there capturing stories around the Olympics let them know by commenting below. by Jessie Toney by Sébastien Pannatier

Less is more for the Storyteller

The more I teach the more I believe you can do a lot more with a lot less.

To be a successful photographer you do need camera gear, but I believe this is something you acquire over time and not something even if you had unlimited funds to buy everything you think you will ever need.

If you are wanting to join me on my multimedia workshop to Honduras this is the basic kit I recommend:

  1. DSLR or Mirrorless camera and lens
    1. Microphone input
    2. Headphone output
  2. Lavalier microphone
  3. Headphones rather than earbuds
  4. Tripod
  5. LCD Viewfinder
  6. Laptop
    1. Adobe Premier or Final Cut
    2. Photo editing software [Adobe Lightroom]
While keeping your gear basic can help you concentrate more on capturing than figuring out how to use all that gear you will be surprised that as a teacher I am focusing on getting you walking rather than running.


We need to really remember why you are learning how to do multimedia storytelling. You have a person/organization that is wanting to get their message out to an audience to get them involved.
In pure journalism the reporter is keeping their audience informed so that they can choose how they want to get involved. Most of the time this is through their voting, volunteering or even advocacy work they may choose to do.


Unless you are independently wealthy you cannot be creating stories just for yourself because it is fun. While the subjects that you will cover may want people to get involved, it is really the audience that will determine if they think it is compelling enough to warrant their attention.
An audience is more motivated to take action when something is going to impact them. Again this is why journalist keep the impact of the story on the audience paramount. 
Once you understand who your audience is and what concerns them finding those stories that they might be interested in is far more effective than just finding interesting stories to you. 

The Story

You must really dig deep and know far more about the subject than you will ever tell in a story. We have heard the analogy used over and over, but the telling just the tip of the iceberg story is so important to make it an engaging story.
While facts are super important in a story it is the emotions that will connect and pull the audience into the story much more than facts.
I would say that the facts are the Queen of the story, but it is the emotions that are the King of the story.
There are basically two effective ways to capture the emotions: 1) Visuals & 2) Words.
I believe the most impactful visual is the still photo, because people need to pause on the image to absorb a truly emotional moment. Just as importantly I think it is the audio recording of the human voice that is the most powerful way to communicate emotions as well. In combination you can deliver that one-two-punch.

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
― Mark Twain

The most powerful stories are well crafted and keep you on the edge of your seat. To do so takes a lot of time. Time to understand the audience, the subject and the skills of storytelling to craft a captivating story.

Come with Gary S. Chapman and myself to Honduras. We have great stories that need to be told and there are many audiences who want to hear those stories.

Stanley’s Compact Lighting kits for the road

This is my lighting gear for travel when flying.

  • (2) Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stand – 6.2′ (1.9m)
  • (2) Interfit Metal Umbrella Bracket with Adjustable Flash Shoe
  • (2) Cowboystudio 33 inch Photography Studio Translucent Shoot Through White Umbrella
  • (2) Neewer TT850
  • (2) Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger
  • (2) ThinkTank Strobe Stuff
  • (2) MagMod flash modifier system
  • Gitzo GT0531 Mountaineer 6X Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs – Supports 11 lbs (5kg) & Manfrotto ball head
  • ProMaster XC525 Tripod
Just keep it simple.

When Shooting Video I just bring in my suite case these two lights.
I also just bring one extension cord to use with the lights as well.

There you have it a simple light kit to travel the world shooting stills and video. 

What takes place in a Storytellers Workshop?

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 640, ƒ/9, 1/100

This is our Storytellers Abroad Nicaragua team from this past week.  This was the third workshop. In previous years we have been to Lisbon, Portugal and Bucharest, Romania.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/100

Bruce Edgar led us one morning for our devotional. This not only helps us get to know the missionaries of the Nicaraguan team, but also helps us focus each day and ask God for guidance. With so much packed into our day with new things to learn and practice we need to a lot of help and rely on God to direct us each day.

Each day we had a different missionary lead us.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4000, ƒ/8, 1/100

I wanted to give you some idea of what students are doing on these workshops as well as the Honduras Multimedia workshop I have going on this fall and still have openings.

We take some time the first few days where we spend time in the classroom helping you with that days assignment. Now this is a photo from the classroom we were using in Managua, Nicaragua.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 20000, ƒ/8, 1/100

We first go over all the settings for your camera, microphones and Adobe Premier. We practice recording each other. We spend the Sunday shooting around in some of the churches where many of our subjects attend and then on that Monday we are interviewing like here. The leaders try to get out with everyone at some point during the week to help observe you working and to give you tips.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/640

While some of the students were jumping right into the shooting up and personal with the subjects we would help those who were more shy and reserved to learn how to take control of the story and get the content they needed to tell the story more effectively.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2000, ƒ/4, 1/100

The class is designed pretty much around starting in the class and then quickly getting you out with your subject shooting for 3 to 5 hours for three days. At the end of your time with the subject you come back and ingest all your cards and make notes. After this you are sitting down with one of the instructors reviewing your work.

We are asking you to identify each of the elements of the storyline in your story. Your outline will look something like this:

  • Subject/Character – A little information about the person you are covering
    • Their family
    • Their work
    • Their volunteer work
  • Conflict/Problem – What is the problem that they cannot solve on their own
  • Guide/Resource – who is helping them and what resources are available or lacking?
  • Assignment – What does the guide/mentor recommend to help solve the problem for the subject?
  • Actions – What actions has the subject taken
  • Outcome – Is it a Tragedy or Comedy?
  • CALL TO ACTION – We add one more step in the story process of basically asking a very direct question to the audience and direction on how to get involved. We are not teaching you to just entertain with a story, but rather to engage the audience until they are taking action and getting involved in some way.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/4, 1/100
Many of our students have been shooting for many years and been doing videos or photos to help missions or NGOs tell their stories. We spend a lot of time helping them break some of those bad habits and giving them the tools to help them do a better job as a storyteller.

Stages of Learning

There are stages of learning. Here are the six basic stages, listed from the most rudimentary to the highest levels of comprehension:
  1. Knowledge (memorizing, recalling)
  2. Comprehension (expressing ideas in new forms)
  3. Application (transfer of learning to a new situation)
  4. Analysis (breaking a communication down into its parts)
  5. Synthesis (creating something new by putting parts together)
  6. Evaluation (judging value based on standards)
Stages of Learning (from LeRoy Ford’s book “Design for Teaching and Training)

We understand how one learns so the course is designed to move you to the final stage where you are functioning at the highest level of evaluation.

We are training you to identify a story and how to produce this story so that it connects with the audience and elicits a response, which we call the CALL TO ACTION.
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1100, ƒ/4, 1/100
Here I am giving some examples to the class. We then explain how we use a visual to communicate and direct the audience to understanding.
Each thing you learn you will see an example, then you will also learn why we do it a certain way and then you get to practice those skills yourself. The good thing is each day you are evaluated on how well you performed. If you fell short we send you back for it to be done again. 
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/100
The past couple of trips we had some storytellers along capturing the story of the workshop. Rob Llewellyn who works also with ESPN came along and also jumped in to help one of the students while we were busy with the other students. 
Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 14400, ƒ/11, 1/100
The last thing we are doing while in country before taking off for the airport is a screening of all the videos with the subjects and all those who helped us in the process. This helps us realize there is a real deadline to get this project done.
Photo by Rob Llewellyn
Here is photo of Jeff Raymond, Team Leader; James Dockery, teacher; and Stanley Leary, teacher in downtown Managua, Nicaragua.
Please consider joining Stanley Leary and Gary S. Chapman in Honduras for a similar workshop on October 29 – November 5, 2016. Honduras Workshop information
We haven’t chosen location or dates for 2017 Storytellers Abroad workshops, but be sure and bookmark this in your browser and check back every so often to see about our future workshops.

This is a video we made while in Lisbon, Portugal to explain the workshop.

Are you stuck in Ground Hog Day like Bill Murray’s character Phil was in the 1993 movie?

Back in 1993 Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell starred in Groundhog Day. It was a story where a weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.

He is learning from his mistakes and even intentionally makes bad choices due to his bad attitude.

While I would love to wake up each day looking like I did in college that just isn’t happening.

Here I am with my Nikon FM2 and the Nikkor 80-200mm ƒ/4. The ƒ/2.8 hadn’t been made at this time.

The lesson of Groundhog Day was really simple, you don’t get 2nd chances so do your best to make your actions positive. You reap what you sow as the saying goes.

“Moore’s law” is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years. The observation is named after Gordon E. Moore, the co-founder of Intel and Fairchild Semiconductor, whose 1965 paper described a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit,[note 1] and projected this rate of growth would continue for at least another decade. In 1975, looking forward to the next decade, he revised the forecast to doubling every two years. – Wikipedia

Since 1975 until a couple of years this was still holding pretty true. The impact this had on the rest of society and particular photography was incredible.

Just in the last 14 months Sony has introduced 11+ top end mirrorless cameras. A few years ago we were talking about short duration flash to stop objects and now we are talking about High Speed Sync as a way to stop action using strobes.

photo by Robin Rayne Nelson


How much have you spent on gear the last few years and then how much have you spent on education? Most of us would benefit by spending more on education than on gear.

Here are some great educational opportunities I recommend for example:

photo by Robin Rayne Nelson
I believe the best way to learn is by doing and having someone with you teaching you as you are doing. The workshops I lead are more about hands on experience and the instructors speaking into your project as you work on it. 
Bill Murray’s character Phil in the movie Groundhog Day used the repeat of a day as a workshop where he learned from his mistakes. Since Groundhog Day movie is fictional we have to look for other ways to learn how to make the best choices so we can stop the insanity of not growing but just feeling miserable. 
I would love to work with you and help you develop some new skills to help you be better prepared and able to anticipate what clients need. Give me a call or write to me so I can save a spot for you this January in Chiapas, Mexico.

Announcing Multimedia Storytelling Workshop with Coffee Farmers in Mexico

I am putting on a multimedia storytelling workshop in Chiapas, Mexico with Cafe Justo’s coffee growers January 9th – 16th, 2016.

I hope you consider joining me and learning how to tell a story doing all of the process yourself with the guidance of myself and James Dockery.

This is James working in one of the edit suites at ESPN. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/7.1, 1/30]

James Dockery, ESPN Video Editor | James works as a lead video editor for ESPN and also operates his own business in Charlotte, NC where he is photographer/ videographer. James has been a photographer for over 30 years and a videographer for over 20 years.

Here is James’ website for his photography business outside of ESPN

While James as you can see is well qualified to teach the subject the main reason I have partnered with him is his personality. James is such an optimist and a person who has a lot of energy and is interesting to be with. James passion for teaching is felt by the students as he spends time with each person being sure they are getting what they need to complete their projects.

Here James is working with student going over her project. [Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 500, ƒ/1.8, 1/100]
James loves pastries and here he is making the best of friends of the workers at the local coffee and pastry shop on our trip to Lisbon together. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/8, 1/100]

James and I enjoy sharing our experiences with workshop participants. We discovered getting each person as much hands on time doing a project and our walking alongside them as they work is much better than a lot of lecture time.

Be sure to go to the website and read more about the it and then sign up. Looking forward to seeing you in Mexico.