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Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Lesson 6 of 12

How To Build Your Story - Mind Mapping

Ron Haviv

Your Photojournalism Survival Kit

Ron Haviv

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Lesson Info

6. How To Build Your Story - Mind Mapping

Lesson Info

How To Build Your Story - Mind Mapping

We'll talk about this concept called mind mapping, which some people are super familiar with and others have never really no idea what I'm talking about. So that's a map it's, not of my mind, but it's the idea, it's really actually a super simple idea and it's a really great exercise, whether you're doing a one day shoot or or the projects, and the idea is basically to do this is to take the assignment, the concept and build on it. And so this is an example of a story about beer and super easy, and they're software programs that do this and books about this, so this is, like, really, like, basic basic, but basically this is both for can be for your overall idea can be for something specific, I want to kind of get, too, and it can also be for your shot list, like how what we need to photograph to talk about x so beer chosen topic and I literally did this in fifteen minutes, and you just kind of start to, like, free flow, like, what is beer mean to you? Okay, so bars brewery has it affec...

t all these different things culture, economy, and then you start to go off into all these different places, so you start to see, like, there's three overall story of beer and you can do all these things if you're doing like a huge kind of national geographic story, but maybe like you really want to kind of zoom into just the effect of of beer on teens, and then that means, like you need to photograph teens at school teams at a party teams at home, so on, they start to kind of just, like, start to figure out all these different things and it's, such an easy and super helpful exercise really can can taking so many different ways, and there are times also that I found when I've done this, where I start off with an idea and I start my mapping that all son, I get to a point where, like, wait a minute, the place that I just got on the my map is actually the story that's where I want to be and then all something like, you do another mind map from that place, but, you know, it's kind of going this is along the same lines of you're doing this simultaneously with your research, or maybe you're doing this before the research and helped you bring yourself to where you want to research, but it's like it's, a super, super simple exercise that you continue in fifteen minutes, you can all son feel like going from a story that you have absolutely no idea how to start to to address to, like, actually having instructions and one of the things that for photographers, at least for myself, like you come up with an idea, but then it's just like it's, it's, unwieldy and you don't like, how do we do it? How do we do differently and like, how do you take that first step? Is always like that first step is the hardest step then once you kind of get moving, things start to brake breakdown and enable you to kind of see it much more clearly. So the mind map exercises really, really a great way, uh, and a great tool to be able to kind of help you really focus and see what you want you and then also like when you start listening it like when you really get to the subject that you want to do and you have a shot list it's like these were things that I absolutely need to address visually or address an interview or however you're going to present your story, but these things thes air the really key elements of of the story, and you'll always have that. And so you have you have these instructions that you're giving to yourself like this is what these elements I need to do to get to make a successful story and then when you go out into the field and you start to do them, then you're gonna find that will lead you to other places, so this is not like the end of it. This is like the structure and the beginning, but it's not like once you do it, that's it there are other places that is going to take you to when you're working on your story, then that's that's where you go? Any questions about this? Yeah, I mean, I think it's so cool, tio, here you talk about some of these actionable things that we can do when were lost on the my map is brilliant. So you talked about when you're thinking about how to start creating this story and then using those that for shot lists, which I also think is brilliant, what else might you use the mind map for through the process of a particular story? Well, I think it's, this idea of you're continuing to be interacting with your story in real time and going going with your flow, so and you mention this earlier, but, you know, there's the benefits of the multi platform presentation of thinking about it, but the same time you can't pre think too much great you is a photographer have to be flexible enough to have a structure which can come from the multi multi platforming or the mind mapping but at the same time you need to be able to adjust in real time to whatever you're seeing so like I talked about your present how we came to bosnia this idea about the book in terms of structure but the same time he was flexible enough photography that if he's going to be leading in different way he would allow that to happen so you know, one of the things for myself is photographer I have an idea or I get a call from the editor I want you to go off and do this or that and then immediately I start thinking about you start thinking about what are those pictures gonna look like like what? What what what's like the best photograph that I can get from this situation and that can be super helpful and you should do that but you have to be really, really careful that you don't take it to the point where that's the only thing you're looking for because if you do that there could be amazing things happen in front of you but because you weren't thinking about that, you totally miss it so it's always like in many of these things is kind of finding that balance between having structure an idea but also being open enough to like too interpret whatever's happening in front of you think about do you remind matt for do you kind of change that the actual mind, mac, go back and redo it as you are finding and discovering new aspects of the story? Yeah, absolutely. So I think this exercise can continuously benefit you and can't happen, and so if you start shifting in different directions, and maybe you have to go back and looking at my mother, go, you know, this is not maybe I've learned more about it, and I need to do it in a different direction and just it's another tool to have in your arsenal to use to help you really be able to maximize your time and take advantage of what's happening in front of you in trump's story, orating again and comment came in, can't the mind map also serve as a rough outline for putting together some of the images after their captured building? That final story? So kind of returning back to that? Absolutely, it is good for that, and, of course, is also going to be good. We're going to talk about it in a bit about helping your pitch letter, because between your used here to translate this into actual sentences, you put the words together and say, like, okay, we're going to spend time with teenagers at school, in their social lives and so on, and explore the aspects of beer, culture or whatever. So these air going also the my map is also going to help you with your pitch letter as well. Obviously, as as the photography. So he's going to show you guys a short film, kind of using kind of both e my mapping idea and also the most like platform. So I told you guys, I went to haiti. I did a story on the earthquake when I did the book and the exhibition, and then I continue to go back working in haiti. I was working primarily for people magazine, which done probably the most stories, surprisingly enough, the most stories of any magazine about haiti after the earthquake. And we're back for the cholera epidemic, and I spent a lot of time ah, working with a writer. And he was really, really affected by by what he was seeing. And he and his wife had decided that they wanted to do something more than then journalism. They want to have, like, riel like amazing impact. So they decided to adopt two two haitian kids after after the earthquake. And so people asked me to, um, to document their adoption process. Uh, and they asked me first to do just to do a still story. To do a photo essay and as I was spending more time, I kept telling people like you know, this is like there's more here we should do more with this we should really do we should do a film also and it took like months and months of convincing people to invest the money into doing a film on it. But eventually they said yes and so after two years and they finally were able to adopt their family and so this is, uh this is the piece that came out of that a major earthquake shook the caribbean nation of haiti late today it hit just fourteen miles in the capital city party that way good for you, I e I was covering the earth quake and I knew that I wanted to do something after seeing all the trouble that was going on here, all the suffering we figured that donate or get involved with some charitable organization, but then he kept going back to haiti more times I was sent back here, and the more times I saw all these children and orphanages, I thought, you know, maybe this is what we should do maybe it's time to adopt all these infants that we're just being left thiss place their women were coming there and having babies and figuring well, these people can take care of the baby better than I can so my wife and I talked about it and we went on and on and there were a lot of discussions about it and we thought, yeah, let's go ahead and adopt a child from haiti and that was the beginning of how we got here god e I think that the kids are excited, I think they're also terrified that goes for all of us. We did have a lot of times of stress a lot of times that you know, we wouldn't work see, I I had a lot of times were angry with the whole system for taking so long, so we got very impatient and and it was it was a really difficult time to really have the faith that they would come on one way. Wait dear lord, thank you so much that everybody made it home safe that we're together as a family, they don't have a concept of how the average american kid lives thiss morning I caught her just kind of staring at the whole pile of toys there first day being ripped away, I thought that there would be more pining away for what they've lost on dh there was nothing like that. I'm happy because I woke up today I'm happy because you're still blood and my things I'm happy because flower pots drop every day bananas on me, yet I have definitely as time has gone on me kind of home the routine about how we get the day today things done I like that I'm using up all my energy every day doing something I think is generally work teo hey there named for me with shouting we were already a strong family I would say this just expanding the scope of our family is our family does way ae I don't think that I think that I wasted it wei have finally gotten to a place where our family could be a little bit mobile. It was also nice because I realized but I was starting to feel the same way about watching these kids discover the world around them that I had felt about my biological kids discovering the world I think it was a really good bonding experience. Ah yeah that's probably they saying in the most surprising it's almost like they don't remember life before the kids came home way were so worried about them and we really didn't need to be wei have a family of eight different people with eight different personalities who all come together as parents emma and I are trying teo steer a ship with eight people growing in different directions way hope that we can be the parents that they deserve I hope that they can look back at this time a cz change that made their life is possible wait this is for life and we are their family forever so there was, like, a good example, actually, of my mapping because of such a on the flyer continuously, because the story kept changing and kept going and had these different elements. And so especially when adding the motion side, then the magazine started saying, like, okay, we need the parents talking about this because this is an important subject, and we need to illustrate that and show that. And so it was kind of like this constantly, uh, organic and growing and growing experience. Uh, and so it's again, like kind of being very nimble and being very, you know, willing to not always stick like originally, the idea was like, it was gonna be a few months they're gonna come home was going to be like this and then wound up lasting more than two years and in all these different elements that came came into play and that's, you know, those are your skills as as journalists primarily, but obviously also his visuals to retailers. So you guys have any more, any questions more about my napping? Hello, ron. First of all, thank you for sharing that captured grace by aaron says, I'm in tears thank you for telling the story it's so beautiful and a question about this is from swanny back mondano when doing video and photographing at the same time, how do you manage to see what would work on stills and won't work on video and do you shoot both at the same time? That's that's a great question and this is something that all of us are dealing with, especially with this concept of of the one man band like, oh well, you've got a camera that shoots video so go off and shoot video and then shoot some stills and then do some audio and then do this and then do that and like this and like that and this is this is a lot right? And so there are times where you have to actually say to the clients like, you know, like, this is not like for your budget in your time period that I can give it to you, but it's not the quality is not going to be there uh and I think that it's amount of understanding like what you need to do. So on this particular assignment I was able to say to people like, you need to give me more time, I'm going to dedicate days that are primarily going to be motion and daisy are primarily going to be stills and I think that often can be incredibly helpful if you're going to be the on ly person doing the project but remember earlier we were talking about collaboration collaboration is really, really key when you're doing motion and the first thing with collaboration emotion is is sound photographers and film makers themselves that are only doing film sound is one of the biggest problems and biggest issues like if your sound is not good, it doesn't matter how good your visuals are, you're going to have serious problems so isn't if you have the opportunity and this is starting to become a little bit more acceptable where editorial clients and other people are starting to understand this concept higher get a budget to hire sound person it is incredibly liberating when you're shooting motion where you don't have to worry about sound at the same time so if you have the ability to do that, you should try to do that for sure if you don't make sure you really understand how to use your gear, how do you sound? Well you're using labs, the mikes, whatever system you're using, whether using p s lars or the other cameras are there all these different aspects that are important? But I think what is starting to happen is the clients are starting to appreciate because of the power video actually in some places and more powerful then stills on the web they want to produce good video it's not everywhere and certainly not the majority but it's starting to become some so for instance on this project with people and this is like the third film that I've done done for them I said ok, you don't pay for sound but I need to pay for an editor I need editor I mean I can add it I can't sit there and do it but it's be great to work with somebody that has a different eye that's looking at it in a different way coming from not being within this story but from outside and that's the best way to do it and they said okay, we'll have a budget for an editor and that made I think a huge for me made a huge difference um so there are multiple things to take into conversation because more more you're going to be asked to do both stills and and motion and for the most part even though it's starting to change you can extract especially with when you're shooting for key video you can extract still stills from the video there's still a lot of limitations on doing that so still photography is still going to have it's roland very important plus the way the mind works and so on but in terms of when you're talking to the editors you have to really say like I'm very happy it's my idea for motions idea for stills maybe we'll use both together like we did in this and the other pieces that I've done that our motion on lee and their other pieces like yugoslavia's pieces earlier, which just steals an audio. So again, it's kind of going to that idea of like, how do you want that to come out and then proposing the best project scenario for that client that works for that client and for that audience? That's also really important to know that what works for people magazine might not work for geographic works for geographic might not work for vice. So understanding your clients and their desire and what they're doing with motion and stills is also really, really important and it's a very it's, very fluid and live conversation and something that most of you are probably already dealing with and it's important to understand your capabilities, make sure your client understands it and also understand what budgets are and what you're willing and what you're willing to do. And I think that hopefully for all of us as clients who are appreciating all the different ways that we can tell stories more and more that they're going to have at least expenses the budget for the expenses to do so.

Class Description

Capturing a story on film is a complex process. It demands an understanding of the issue at hand as well as the ability to condense, package, and pitch the story to a distributor. Successful photojournalists make a job of nailing down the details before a shoot and being prepared for anything.

In Your Photojournalism Survival Kit, Ron Haviv brings two decades of experience in building a photojournalism career on carefully laid groundwork. 

In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to identify a captivating story and organize a plan for shooting it 
  • How to create a budget and a pitch letter
  • How to plan for any eventuality during the shoot, and cope with setbacks when they strike
Ron Haviv draws on his long career for anecdotes and suggestions for aspiring photographers. He’ll teach you that your assignment starts before you leave your house; planning, packing and preparing for even the best-laid plans to go awry is essential. You’ll learn tricks for assessing your preparedness, safety, and support while on assignment in the field.

Your Photojournalism Survival Kit is crucial for beginners, and for current photojournalists who may need to brush up on their checklists. Learn from Ron Haviv’s early-career mistakes, and lay the foundations of your own successful, impactful enterprise in visual storytelling.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Budget and Invoice Template

Medical Kit Supplies

Resource Guide

Resources Mentioned In Class

Workshop Print Sale

Pitch Letter Template

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


KAren OLlis

Thank you Ron and Creative Live for the thoughtful and expansive course. Even for a pro, the information was often enlightening and definitely inspirational. The best way to learn is from a seasoned professional who knows how to teach in an organized manner. Appreciate the support materials as well. Will be out shooting stories no doubt! All the best, Karen Ollis, Karen Ollis Photo

Connie Kennedy

Ron Haviv presents his generous insights and experience in a wonderfully paced and very clearly delivered manner. Combine him with the Creative Live platform and you have a magical educational experience. I'm so grateful to attend this course. I wish I had heard a presentation like this years back; it would have spared me some mistakes. If you're sitting on the fence buy this course. Tap into his wisdom. Enjoy.


I've been a following Ron Haviv for years. Love his expressions in delivering explanations. It's amazing to see and hear from the photographer behind the photos. Well structured course. Having Kenna's facilitation makes this workshop so worth watching. Thank you creativeLive for this great sensory experience!