5 Tips for Finding a Great Story Idea

During my time speaking at universities and schools across China and in the US, I am often asked how I find stories to work on. I thought it was time I jotted down a few of these ideas here on the blog.

So, to start with, here are 5 tips for finding great stories from a photography/journalism perspective:

1. Go Local – You don’t need to travel half way across the world to find a great story. Look in your backyard and you will find many great leads and potential subjects. If you are interested in a larger issue, look for one or two people in your local community who represent that issue and tell the story through them. Perhaps the story is health related and you are interested in doing a piece about rising national levels of heart disease. It shouldn’t take you too long to find someone in your community who is affected. Tell the story though individuals on a local level, to represent the bigger picture.

2. Read, Read, Read – One of the best things you can do, whether you are working on a story at a local, national, or even international level, is to read. Whether you are consuming your news through the printed press or online, you can immediately gauge what people are talking about by being aware of what if being printed in the news. Keep tabs on story/subject trending and write down/bookmark ideas, or cut out articles to help you remember potential story ideas. Don’t just read the news though. Great stories can be found by breaking out of your comfort zone and consuming new magazine articles, scientific journals and novels.

3. Stay Connected – Your contacts and connections, on a personal and/or professional level, can prove to be an invaluable source of ideas. These connections do not have to be photography/journalism related. Talk to people in the community you are working in and listen to what they have to say. Are there any recent events, activities, incidents etc., that might relate to an interesting story? Are people talking about issues that haven’t appeared in the press recently? You can get many great ideas just from listening to what’s happening on the ground. Be personable. Make friends. Keep connected.

4. Get Inspired – Don’t lock yourself away in the world of photography and journalism. Break out and immerse yourself in the worlds of film, music, art and science. Get out of your comfort zone again and explore and discover new ways of storytelling through watching movies, listening to great music, taking in an art or science exhibit at the local museum or gallery. Search for new ways to be inspired and it will directly filter back into your photography and/or writing.

5. Look in the MirrorWhat do I really care about? This is one of the first questions you should ask yourself. Find a subject matter that you are genuinely passionate about, or interested in. Perhaps the subject matter is directly related to your life experiences, or connected to an interest you have outside the world of photography and journalism. Avoid choosing subject matters that you believe others will take you seriously for, should you cover it. The best work comes from working on subject matter that you genuinely care about and you will put in the extra effort for.

What has worked for you? Please feel free to share your story-finding ideas below!

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One Comment

  1. Sean – You are most right here. Reading is very important. In order to be a member of your society you must be informed. Even local news, as mundane as that can be at times, holds hidden stories that you can work on and in some cases turn into personal projects.

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