The feedback we give to first time Multimedia Storytellers

James Dockery, ESPN editor and co-teacher, is in Lisbon with me as we teach 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 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.

When signing up for a course like this, I know most students have often talked to other alums of the classes and decided to take a class based on what those students told them.

These past experiences are to say that, for the most part, the only person helping you with this assignment would have been me. Needing help 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. The storyline is the most challenging part of the content to master. If it were that easy to do, there would be blockbusters after another coming out of the studios worldwide.

One of the critical elements of this project is that the success of the project has a lot to do with how well you take ownership and control. Therefore, 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. You showed the concept well with what I call the “Radio Cut.” A “Radio Cut” is where you can close your eyes and 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 peeling the onion and getting a deeper level than you had in the first round. I believe you will know how to get deeper faster with your subjects in time.

I think it is good to dig more profound because the more you can help the audience understand that this is a problem that is so difficult to overcome and needs a miracle to make it happen, the 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 it a cinema piece, and don’t use verticals where you see the black on the sides. Fill the frame.

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

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

If you had more time with your subject, you could have shot a lot more and had more b-roll to use while he told 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 a b-roll when someone is talking about things in the past. B-roll is where abstract visuals can help you.

B-roll is where you may have what I call a video portrait of her that can help. For example, the subject is looking out a window, and you slowly move the camera, or it is on a 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. Eye candy might be a close-up of water drops during rain hitting leaves. It could be a shot in a room as people walk through the photo. 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 something that, when used as a b-roll, is what you might see when daydreaming and looking out a window.

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

For the non-journalistic piece, you can coach the talent/subjects. Their voices sounded the same even when they were 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 feeling 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 my 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, 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 required. Still, an 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 also give them ideas on how to promote their work.

Remember, you are not just telling their stories; you are educating them on how to say to them without you. 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 move an audience to action.


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

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 Storytellers Abroad Missions Multimedia Workshop was Keziah’s second time. 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 from October 29th to November 5th. The deadline to apply is August 30th, 2016. 

Click here to learn more. Then, get your money in now to hold your spot.

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. The 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 me 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 participants, has her fan club walking through the village of Aditi-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 mercy to HIV/AIDS patients and support them through counseling and medication. In addition, they hope to open their center for chronic disease care near the hospital. In this video Storyteller, Hannah Saxe tells the story of ALMA and their work in Togo.

Hannah prayed 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 Bible Institute teacher, training other pastors to step into teaching roles to transform Togo for Jesus. Martouka tells his story – please watch and consider supporting 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 from October 29th to November 5th. The deadline to apply is August 30th, 2016. 

Click here to learn more. Then, 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 of 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. Then, with guidance from two ABWE teachers, she discovered the life-changing love of Christ.

Kathryn grew during her time in Togo. She was learning how to use visuals when there are no visuals when someone talks about something that happened in the past. She also learned 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, they all went separate ways to interview their subjects. Then, we did a practice interview where they saw what it would be like interviewing someone in French with 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 worked hard in Togo, West Africa, we also had fun as a group.

We still have openings for the Honduras Multimedia Workshop from October 29th to November 5th. The deadline to apply is August 30th, 2016. Click here to learn more. So 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

I have had a great week 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. The students had never done this type of storytelling before.

Now the subjects were unavailable whenever we needed them, and we had to work around their availability, which could have been the deal breaker for these stories. Still, through persistence, they each could do formal sit-down interviews and capture their stories.

Like everyone who has done a project like this and our first one, we wish we all had more b-roll in the end. I told the students that I had 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 let them know by commenting below if you have some words of encouragement as they leave for Rio De Janeiro next week to spend a month capturing stories around the Olympics.

Produced by Jessie Toney

Produced by Sébastien Pannatier

Less is more for the Storyteller

The more I teach, the more I believe you can do much more with much less.

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

If you want to join me in my multimedia workshop in 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 essential 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 remember why you are learning how to do multimedia storytelling. You have a person/organization wanting to get their message out to an audience to get them involved.

In pure journalism, the reporter keeps their audience informed so 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 you will cover may want people to get involved, the audience will determine if they think it is compelling enough to warrant their attention.
An audience is more motivated to take action when something impacts them. Again this is why journalists keep the story’s impact on the audience paramount. 
Once you understand who your audience is and what concerns them finding those stories they might be interested in is far more effective than just finding exciting stories for you. 

The Story

You must dig deep and know far more about the subject than you will ever tell in a story. We have heard the analogy used repeatedly, but speaking just the tip of the iceberg story is so essential to make it an engaging story.
While facts are super important in a story, emotions 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 the emotions are the King of the story.
There are two effective ways to capture 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 genuinely emotional moment. But, just as importantly, I think the audio recording of the human voice is the most powerful way to communicate emotions. So, 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 storytelling skills to craft a captivating story.

Come with Gary S. Chapman and me to Honduras. We have great stories that need telling, and many audiences want to hear those stories.

Stanley’s Compact Lighting kits for the road


Here 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 bring one extension cord to use with the lights as well.
There is 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

The group photo is our Storytellers Abroad Nicaragua team from this past week. Nicaragua was the third workshop. 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. Having devotionals led by the local team 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 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 in these workshops and the Honduras Multimedia workshop I have going on this fall and still have openings.

We take some time during the first few days where we spend time in the classroom to help you with that day’s assignment. Here is a photo from our classroom in Managua, Nicaragua.

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

We first review all the settings for your camera, microphones, and Adobe Premier. Then, we practice recording each other. We spend the Sunday shooting around in some churches where many of our subjects attend, and then we interview like here. On that Monday, leaders try to get out with everyone during the week to help observe you working and give 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 shyer 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

We start in the classroom and quickly get you out with your subject, shooting for 3 to 5 hours for three days. At the end of your time with the issue, you come back, ingest all your cards, and make notes. After this, you sit with one of the instructors to review your work.

We ask you to identify each of the storyline elements 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: asking the audience a straightforward question and directions on how to get involved. Again, we are not teaching you to entertain with a story but rather to engage the audience until they take action and get involved somehow.
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 years and taking videos or photos to help missions or NGOs tell their stories. So we spend a lot of time helping them break bad habits and giving them the tools to help them do a better job as storytellers. 

Stages of Learning

 There are stages of learning. Here are the six primary steps, 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 unique situation)
  4. Analysis (breaking a communication down into its parts)
  5. Synthesis (creating something new by putting pieces 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 it 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 visuals to communicate and direct the audience to understand. You will see an example of each thing you learn, then you will also know why we do it a certain way, and then you get to practice those skills yourself. The good thing is each day, we give you feedback on how well you performed. If you fall short, we will send you back to fix it.  

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 2200, ƒ/4, 1/100

In the past few trips, we had some storytellers capture the workshop’s storyRob Llewellyn, who also works with ESPN, 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

Before we leave the country, we do a screening for the subject, the missionaries, and friends. The screening helps us realize there is an absolute deadline to complete this project. 

Photo by Rob Llewellyn

Here is a photo of Jeff Raymond, Team Leader; James Dockery, teacher; and Stanley Leary, a teacher in downtown Managua, Nicaragua. Please consider joining Stanley Leary and Gary S. Chapman in Honduras for a similar workshop from October 29 – November 5, 2016. Honduras Workshop information.  

We haven’t chosen a location or dates for the 2017 Storytellers Abroad workshops, but be sure to bookmark this in your browser and check back often to see about our future seminars.

We made a video 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 repeatedly found himself living the same day.

He is learning from his mistakes and even intentionally makes terrible 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 would come later.

The lesson of Groundhog Day was elementary; you don’t get 2nd chance, 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

From 1975 until a couple of years, this still holds pretty true. Moore’s law had an incredible impact on the rest of society and particularly on photography.

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 equipment.

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 about hands-on experience and the instructors speaking about 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 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 from January 9th – 16th, 2016.

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

Here 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 operates his own business in Charlotte, NC, where he is a 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. The students feel James’ passion for teaching as he spends time with each person being sure they are getting what they need to complete their projects.

Here James is working with a student going over her project. [Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 500, ƒ/1.8, 1/100]
James loves pastries, making the best of friends with 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 walking alongside them as they work much better than a lot of lecture time.

Be sure to go to the website, read more about it, and sign up. I am looking forward to seeing you in Mexico.