Introduction to Visual Storytelling

Welcome to Introduction to Visual Storytelling

Use the six lessons below for an introduction to the theory and practice of visual journalism.

Lesson 1: Understanding Visual Stories
Lesson 2: Visual Ethics and the Challenges of Representation
Lesson 3: Controlling Exposure with a DSLR Camera
Lesson 4: Aesthetics and Composition
Lesson 5: Video Storytelling Basics
Lesson 6: The Modern Visual Ecosystem

About This Project

These six video-based storytelling lessons were produced with support from the Five Colleges and the Journalism Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Five College Consortium funds blended learning projects through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with the goal of "supplementing face-to-face interaction with self-paced learning that can occur outside the classroom." Here at UMass, these lessons augment a sixty-seat class called Introduction to Visual Storytelling.

Many of the credited images in these videos were taken by past photojournalism students at UMass Amherst, who graciously permitted their use. Contemporary images without a photo credit were taken by the instructor, Brian McDermott. Images from the collections of the Smith College Museum of Art, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and the California Museum of Photography are used here with permission, although we strongly suggest an in-person visit to these excellent teaching museums. Other images come from the public domain or are respectfully presented under the fair use doctrine.

All are welcome to use this website in any educational capacity. Additionally, there are Moodle exercises complementing each lesson, and we are happy to share these with any instructor interested in incorporating this curriculum into his or her own. Please contact Brian McDermott with requests, questions or comments.

About the Instructor

Brian McDermott is a Senior Lecturer in the Journalism Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He developed and taught the university's first Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) to acclaim in 2013 and won the College Outstanding Teaching Award in 2014. He teaches courses in photojournalism, video journalism, web design and data visualization, among others.

As a visual journalist, he's worked everywhere from the East Village of New York City to the Fort Peck Reservation in eastern Montana. You can see more of his work on his website.


Instructor and Content Producer
Brian McDermott

Amber Lira

Web Development
Bri Hermanson

Zoe Design Works

Kim Rosen

Drone Operator
Rodrigo Zamith

Vierte Heimat
Home Body