I’m a big fan of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
In fact, my love for the girl who could turn the world on with her smile led me to spend a college summer interning for a TV station in suburban Atlanta. To be honest, my newsroom experience ended up being next-to-nothing like Mary’s. Still, I learned a lot, some of which I continue to use in my adult life as a stay-at-home mom, some-time theatre professor, and obsessive Shutterfly photo book builder. One of the things that sticks with me most strongly, in fact, is the importance of something called “b-roll.”
“What’s ‘b-roll,’?” you ask. That’s the first thing I said to my Producer, too. Simply put, b-roll is the footage that plays when the camera cuts away from the anchor desk and shows video that illustrates what s/he’s talking about. It’s the footage of kids walking to class that plays under the reporter’s voiceover story about the school system; it’s images of the Colorado flooding that roll while an eyewitness describes it. In other words, it enhances the broadcast by showing us what’s up, instead of just telling us.
What may not be so clear is what in the world that has to do with Shutterfly. In my opinion, a good photo book is made up of more than just smiling faces. Sure, those are important, but just as important are what I call the “b-roll” pictures. These are shots of signage, scenery, sunsets – anything that jogs your memory or helps to illustrate the story you’re trying to tell. In fact, as much as I love flipping through the photo books I’ve built, reliving happy memories via photos of my family and friends, some of my favorite shots don’t have people in them at all.
Here are some examples of how I’ve used “b-roll” pictures in the past: on a trip to Hawaii, my extended family made multiple visits to the same restaurant JUST to eat its delicious Hula Pie. The slices were so huge that it only took two to feed all eight of us. Naturally, our Hawaii album has a shot of that pie we loved to share.
Here’s another: when I got married, I was able to work with one friend to design my dress, while another built it. My wedding scrapbook includes pictures of the original sketch, of the muslin “pattern” the tailor made, of the red shoes I wore with the dress, and more. Each of these shots is like a vehicle for riding back in time to the sweet, happy memories of my idyllic engagement period.
Maybe it’s the view from your room at the beach. Maybe it’s the exterior of your favorite restaurant. Maybe it’s a close-up of your son’s high school diploma. Whatever it is, open your mind to shots outside of smiles. For me, one of the strengths of shots like these are that they evoke the time and place of what happened instead of just capturing the people who were there. As such, they’re as much a part of your memories as the great big grin across your baby’s face – though, don’t get me wrong, I still take PLENTY of those, too!
Kristin’s blog Keeping Up With the Jonesie