March 17: Digital Photo Essay Competition

Last season our Photo Essay Competition was interrupted by COVID-19.  Although some of us had print essays ready to go, lockdown prevented us from judging them.  Thus, we were digital-only last year…and again this year.  

I cannot encourage members enough to try their hand at a photo essay.  It’s creative, challenging and fun to put together, but it does take a little more time than shooting a few images and submitting them for competition.

So, what is a photo essay?  Finding a subject is all about finding your photo passion.  What do you love taking photos of?  Do you love a subject like flowers, dogs or horses?  Perhaps it’s a special place or event…photos from a trip to Yellowstone Park, Argentina or Nantucket?  Pull together your best shots around a topic and then create a slide show, video, time lapse, or all of the above. 

Building a slide show isn’t difficult. There are a number of programs you can use.  It doesn’t matter if you are on a Mac- or Windows-based computer.  Lightroom Classic includes a module for editing photos into a slide show complete with music and video.  The most popular program for creating slide shows on a PC has been ProShow Gold. Unfortunately, this software is no longer supported, but you can find it or alternatives on the web.

If you are a Mac user, then FotoMagico (by Boinx) is a popular slideshow builder and relatively easy to use.  

Look for software that allows you to control the pace of the slideshow and match the transitions to the music.  It may also allow for movement, called the Ken Burns effect, zooming in on your images to add impact.  Select music that fits the mood of your photos and set the pace of your images to also fit that mood.  Remember to use non-copyrighted or  “rights free” music since we will be broadcasting on Zoom and including the winners on YouTube.  Just Google search for “rights-free” music.  Some websites offer free music if you annotate the copyright holder.  

Our rules allow for photo essays up to 8 minutes, however, this is generally too long.  Optimum time would be 3-5 minutes.   For good flow, every image needs to earn its place in your slideshow.  Sadly, sometimes you have to remove an image you love.

Once you’re happy with your photo essay, save the file as either a .mov file (Mac QuickTime file) or the standard PC based .mp4 file.  Most of the programs offer a variety of file formats for saving your essay.  When it’s properly saved, send it to Dow Smith,  chair of the Photo Essay Competition at [email protected] using “dropbox” or any of the cloud-based services that handle large files.   

Take a look at the rules posted on the website if you have any questions: