One thing that many still photographers may not realize when creating a narrative audio slide show is that the audio comes before the pictures. I recently had the opportunity to spend time with friends and colleagues at the annual meeting of Aurora Photos, my agency, where I had many interesting conversations about multimedia. I noticed that some photographers new to multimedia didn’t realize the importance of audio, and that this is in fact where you start the workflow, not end it.
Unless I am creating a simple slideshow accompanied by music, or am doing something non-narrative that uses ambient sound together with images, when developing a narrative multimedia piece I start with the audio. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough: the audio drives the story, not the pictures. This doesn’t mean that the photos are unimportant. But it does mean that you must start with the audio to create the narrative script.
When I am developing a 2-3 minute profile feature, the first thing I do is record an audio interview with the subject, which typically lasts about an hour. I have that interview transcribed for reference, and then edit that hour down to 2-3 minutes. Once that is completed, I send it off to the client for approval. If needed at that point I will do additional iterations, but only after the audio line is approved do I begin to photograph. Once the audio track is laid down, I know exactly what scenes and topics I need to visually illustrate. Trying to photograph before I have this completed is a much less efficient way of working, and usually results in much more time wasted producing photos that will end up on the proverbial cutting room floor.
There have been occasions when the logistics of a project required me to photograph before the edited audio was completed, but even in those situations I always tried to at least do the interview prior to photographing. That way I knew the overall content of the subject’s story, and thus knew what I would need to illustrate. So just because we are photographers and are focused on the visuals, we can’t forget that the audio is critical. Get the audio first, and then go get some killer pictures to bring it to life.