I recently wrote a how-to article about multimedia for photographers for IdeasMag, and you can now read a slightly extended version here:
Do your research…
This is crucial for any project format, however, particularly when working with different media at the same time, you want to make sure you know and understand the ins and outs of the story. Italian photographer Marco Casino, who produced still and moving images, recorded audio and gathered archival materials for his World Press Photo multimedia award winning work Staff Riding, says research helps him “pre-imagine what story I want to tell”, plan the basic plot and choose the right equipment.
…but don’t over-plan
Especially if you’re working on a documentary project, make sure you leave enough room for spontaneous creativity. Finland-based photographer Matt Lindén describes his working process as “cyclical, rather than linear.” He prefers to document events as they unfold, but often re-visits the scenes once he has a better idea of the overall storyline. He also points out that interviews are great tools for shaping the narrative of your multimedia.
Choose your media
Multimedia is a “burst of fresh air in the world of photojournalism”, says Marco, but don’t just do it because you can. “It’s important to know how to take advantage of the potential of the audio-visual narrative to capture the essence of the story,” stresses Maria-Teresa Salvati, director of Slideluck Europe, who organise events where photographers present slideshows and screen multimedia work. Think carefully about the most suitable combination of media, keeping in mind that “still photography captures moments, allowing you to slow down and reflect, while video is often better suited for action”.
If you’re planning to record still and moving images, as well as sound, make sure your kit is light and, if possible, multifunctional. “I work almost exclusively with rangefinder cameras for more intimate storytelling”, says Marco, who finds “Leica M to be perfect for taking both photographs and video, while being lightweight and unobtrusive”. Matt usually packs “a DSLR with two or three lenses and a lightweight tripod for interviews. Flashgun for stills and a pack of lights for video can make things a lot easier, but are not essential”.
Matt continues: “The most important and often overlooked bit of kit is the sound equipment. Most people can bear watching bad quality video footage, but will not tolerate poor sound recording. Even a budget option like Zoom H1 can make an incredible difference to the quality and feel of your work.”
Show, don’t tell
Remember, this is a visual medium, so don’t replace images with words. “The most common mistake in multimedia production is the use of very long texts that don’t fit the pace of the film, or pop music that often distracts from the story,” says Maria-Teresa. If using music, “cut your shots to the rhythm of the beats, and be conscious of the highs and lows of the song and how they relate to the emotions of the story”.
Be prepared to leave out a lot of audio material, says Matt, “especially with foreign-language dialogue that require subtitles”.
“Creating each element of the story yourself is a great learning curve”, says Matt, who independently produced his multimedia project about transgender people in Nepal. But bringing people on board who specialise in areas that are new to you can also be fruitful. As Marco points out, “the opportunity to be confronted with people from different backgrounds can give life to ideas and techniques that fall outside the photojournalistic language”.
Editing is the process that gives the story its shape and structure, so it can be extremely beneficial to collaborate with an editor or at least get external opinion during this stage of production. You are likely to have more good material than can be included into the story, so be prepared to “kill your babies”.
Get on with it
“You can get a degree in photography, or film, or sound production, or editing”, says Matt, “or you can just go and make a multimedia piece! Think of a subject, get a character, take photographs, record video and sound, then stick them together, play around and see what you get”. The internet is the best source of information on multimedia production with online courses like Lynda that give all you need to know to get started and organisations such as World Press Photo and Duckrabbit offering plenty of inspiration.