Look, Listen, Tell, and Show: Soundslides Assignment

Soundslides: Audio + Photos

When you gather audio and photos for a news story, you are making the story more marketable. And as our guest speakers have told us, telling stories in multiple ways makes the story more accessible to your audience. Your story can now be told with images, with sound, or with both. Not only will you have captions for your photos, but you’ll have a voice and ambient noise that compliment the captions.

We’ll be working with Soundslides to combine our audio and photography skills. You’ll be working in groups to get an idea of how to balance everything. It will help to have one person focusing on photography and one person on audio. However, in a future job position, you may to do both tasks, so don’t neglect learning about your partner’s task. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions or comments to your partner if you think it will improve the story. At the end of the experience, ask your partner for their advice and tips so that you can excel at the task you didn’t do this time around.

The topic can be on anything! It can be about sports, science, the environment, technology, health, politics, economics, community affairs, the university, or a personality profile.

For story ideas, you can check out UW’s calendar of events, UW’s public outreach, UW’s news and announcements, WyoVocal, The Branding Iron, and the Laramie Boomerang. The story does not have to be university-related, but that’s where many of you may want to start brainstorming.

Basically, you’re doing an audio story with photos. The audio should tell the story in an engaging way and your photos and captions should compliment your audio story. Of course, your audio story should answer the the who, what, where, and when. But, more importantly, your audio should relay information that is compelling and emotional. It should also tell us how and why. It should make us think and feel the story.

Remember that the audience is more forgiving with the photography compared to the audio. If the audio is done poorly with harsh edits and a confusing storyline, then the audience loses interest and forgets about the great photos you have.

The captions should have all the essential information of the photo: who, what, where, and when. A reader should be able to read the captions and understand the basics of the story without listening to the audio.

Let’s take a look at the Blog Post 8 – Soundslides Project assignment details.


Here are some student examples of Soundslides stories.

Brooke Eades (The Nutcracker)
Egla Negussie (Dangers of I-80)
Dyann Diercks (UW band)
Jessica Romero and Hailey Hawkes (about Roller Derby)

Tips for Gathering Audio and Photos

When you’re on-location and reporting the story, you should consider what to gather first: the audio or the photos. Of course, if you go to report the story with your partner, then you both can get started at the same time. The photographer can take relevant photos while the audio journalist interviews the subject.

However, when you are working alone in the future…

Collect the photos first if:

  1. You think the light is perfect
  2. You think the light will soon fade
  3. You think the subject is quiet and needs to loosen up before the audio interview
  4. You want to get a feel for the subject’s job, hobby, etc. before interviewing them about it.


Collect the audio first if:

  1. You find the subject is nervous about getting their picture taken
  2. The subject is very chatty and is eager to talk with you
  3. The light is not great and you want to wait to see if the light improves


When working alone, you have to accept the fact that you’ll probably miss a great photo while gathering audio, and you’ll likely miss a great quote while gathering photos.

And that’s OK.

More tips to remember for gathering photo and audio together:

Gather more information than you think you need.
If you need to gather a second round of photos, then don’t be afraid to do so. If you need to re-interview the subject after first collecting audio and then taking photos, then don’t afraid to ask for 5 more minutes of their time.

Importance of matching photos with audio.
If you collect a great quote, then be sure to also get supporting photos for the quote. If you collect a great photo, be sure to gather audio from the subject that is related to the photo.

Plan for having one photo for every 7 to 9 seconds of audio.
That will help you determine how many great shots you need while on assignment. Thus, for a 2-minute story, you’ll need about 15 photos on the screen for 8 seconds each. For a 3-minute story, you’ll need about 22 photos. And for a 4-minute story, you’ll need 30 photos. For this assignment, your story needs to be between 2 and 4 minutes.

Keep track of what you shoot and what you record.
If you get a photo of a truck driver starting up his semi, then collect audio of the hum and roar of the semi’s engine. Finally, record the truck driver’s answer to your question of how he copes with the loud noises associated with trucking.

You’ll notice that some of your photos lead to more interview questions and ideas of what kind of audio to collect. You’ll notice that some of your audio and ambient noise lead to more photo ideas.

This blog post was based on MediaStorm’s tips on collecting audio and photos. Check them out for more information.

And please see the Soundslides tutorial on YouTube if you need help with the technology. Here’s another help page for Soundslides as well.

Download a free trial of Soundslides so you can work from home, too.

About The Author

I'm a faculty member in Communication & Journalism at the University of Wyoming. At UW, I have taught online journalism, advanced new media, introduction to mass media, politics and media, and alternative media. At Ohio State, where I got my PhD, I taught research methods, news reporting and writing, visual communication, and persuasion. My reserach focuses on political communication, emerging media platforms, and entertainment media. In my spare time, I love to play with my daughters, hang out with my family, cook, hike, jog, read, and blog.