Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why Don't More News Websites Supersize Pictures?

Print newspapers no longer have the physical space to accomodate large images, but high-speed internet and cheaper bandwidth certainly enhance the feasibility of big pictures on Websites.

And yet we rarely see news organizations put big pictures to good use. (Frankly, even in the heyday of print newspapers, when space constraints were less of an issue, big pictures were a rarity, and narrative stories told with a series of pictures even rarer still.)

Gradually some news sites are indeed launching big-picture galleries -- but most focus on individual shots (e.g. "picture of the day") and not a series of images on a unified theme that are sequenced to tell a tale with a dramatic arc.

Storytelling with still pictures, a la Life Magazine, sometimes feels like a lost art form. True, the advent of Soundslides software enabled audio-slideshows -- but most of those are nothing more than photographers talking about their pictures, or pictures of people talking about themselves. Rarely is the medium's potential for dramatic narrative -- complete with you-are-there natural sounds -- fully realized.

But even media organizations that aren't yet willing to dive into multimedia are still puzzlingly standoffish about using large-format photography for narrative stories... even now that bandwidth is no longer an issue.

Glowing exceptions include the Boston Globe's Big Picture, the Chicago Tribune's Assignment Chicago, the New York Times' Lens blog, the Los Angeles Times' Framework blog.

Spokane's Spokesman Review is the latest to join the bigger-is-better club with its Picture Stories. (We can hardly call it "jumping on the bandwagon," since it's still a relatively rare phenomenon.) Their staff's visual journalism guru Colin Mulvany succeeded in badgering the powers that be long enough to finally make it happen. (Read Mulvany's account on his Mastering Multimedia blog.)

Because Mulvany spearheaded the paper's forays into videojournalism, their Web gallery features not just big pictures but big picture stories. So while raindrops shot with a 60-mm macro lens make great eye candy, from our perspective it's memorable stories that make supersizing their images a worthwhile endeavour . For example, Carissa’s Journey (pictured above) tracks an 18-year-old girl battling cancer through her senior year in high school -- including her prom and graduation ceremony. That's a big story, best told with lots of big pictures.

What stories should your newspaper be telling on its Website with big pictures?

No comments: