While there are no "rules" that you must follow in order to create your photo documentary the following are a few guidelines and suggestions. 

When creating a photo documentary always keep in mind that you are trying to tell a story through pictures. For this scholarship, photo skills are not as important as how clearly the story is told in 12 to 20 images. That doesn’t mean that photo skills are not taken into consideration. For example, if there are two stories being considered for the award, if one has better quality photos that may determine the final outcome. But to get to the finalist position the story must be clear and well told by the photos.

What if a magazine tells you they are giving you six pages with two to three images on a page, and room for a 500 word essay about your story. What would you give them?

When photographing your project create as many images as you feel are necessary, keeping in mind that you will need to choose 12 to 20 to clearly tell your story, with more not necessarily being better. If you can tell your entire story in 12 photos, then don’t feel you need to pad it with 8 more.

Because you are limited to no more than 20 photos try not to repeat yourself. In a story about a town the applicant grew up in, they included two photos of the same unidentified man: in one he was looking out to sea; in the other he had his back turned to the camera. The man did not appear to be especially important. It is better to show 12 good and unique images than 20 that are repetitious unless there is a clear reason for the repetition.

Try to get the viewer to feel what you feel, to see what you see. If you’re documenting the town you live in, try to give the viewer a feeling of what it’s like to be there. If you’re documenting a friends illness, try to help the viewer understand how you feel when you visit them in the hospital, or even better, how your friend feels. Get the viewer to want to donate money to cancer research!

Use your essay to fill in the gaps and help the viewer better understand the meaning and importance of your essay.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Never repeat yourself. Each image should be unique.
  • Each image should have a purpose for being in the story, even if it is only a transition to the next series of images.
  • Try not to lose your direction. You have a story to tell, don’t meander.
  • Place your photos in an exact order that leads the viewer to understand what you are trying to say.
  • Make a statement with your photos.