Where there are people, there have always been stories. These stories are told by word of mouth, the written word, or through images.
An image can convey emotion or mood. It can have a narrative, or represent ideas. These are the same elements that we would expect of a written novel and are important aspects of storytelling. With photography we have the ability to tell stories, be they our own personal stories or something more broad about the world we live in.
Storytelling with Photography
The story that you tell with your images can be documentary style, photos of your every day life or the life of someone else. With documentary photographs your aim is to capture a real life story as it unfolds, to share it with others. It can also be a concept, made up by the photographer, but still tells a story of real issues and ideas.
The story you tell can also be entirely fiction, a fairytale. It could be a mixture of all of these, a fairytale that has elements of reality. As with the written word, the possibilities for storytelling through photography are almost endless. Next time you take a photograph, try asking yourself: “What story am I telling?”
Storytelling with a Series of Images
When telling a story through images, try not to include too many elements in one photograph. If you need to include multiple storytelling elements to be able to convey your meaning, try using a series of photos. The series can contain two photos, or it can be made up of hundreds. The images can be directly related and a part of the same shoot, or they can be separate images taken over time that build a broader story.
We do this more often than we think, we take multiple photos on vacation for example. Those vacation photos will tell the story of that little part of our life, documenting the places we visited, the food that we ate and the things that we did.
Before you begin shooting, you might want to consider the kind of shots that you would need to tell the story effectively. Wedding photographers often have a list of shots that they need to get during the day, these will include shots that the family have requested but will also include elements that bring together the story of the wedding day.
Think about the visual themes that you need to include in your images to tell the story. These can be things such as props, locations, style. When taking a series of photos to tell a story, often there will be one or two things that are consistent throughout. This can be a prop, or it can be a location or a concept… something that ties each image together.
Storytelling with a Single Image
Stories exist in different sizes, there are long novels and short ones. These short stories can be told with a single image, one that conveys the intended meaning in a smaller area. This doesn’t mean that a single image is any less powerful than a series, the story told may be a shorter one but that doesn’t make it any less important than a longer story.
You can include props to tell your story, often portrait painters would ask their subject to hold a personal item and include it in the painting so as to tell the viewer a little more about the subject. Think about context, what is happening around your subject that could further the story you are trying to tell?
You can convey meaning with a closer shot, a facial expression in a close up portrait for example. You might also need to take a wider shot to tell the story effectively, perhaps the surroundings play an important role. Remember, sometimes the story can be told just as effectively by what you have chosen to leave out of the frame. Unseen elements, or elements merely hinted at can add a lot to your story.
Next time you are out shooting, or planning a shoot, think about what story you would like to tell with your images and how you can best convey that story to the viewer.
I’m teaming up with Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud and Alicia of Project Alicia for another inspiring adventure as we photograph our way through spring with the Nurture Photography Challenge – a seasonal photo challenge series chock full of tips and tutorials, inspiring weekly prompts, personal feedback and encouragement.
Just a few details:
All are welcome regardless of skill level, camera equipment or geographic location.
Share your favorite images inspired by our weekly prompts each Friday and grab our lovely button while you’re at it!
The linky will remain open from 9am Friday – 9am Thursday CST. Don’t forget to visit and comment on the previous entry in the linky list.
We’re sharing the photography love and showcasing our talented photographers by pinning some of your lovely photos to our Nurture Photography Inspiration Board.
The Nurture Photography Challenge has taken to Facebook! Stop by, “like” our new Facebook fan page, ask questions and share your work on our wall as well.
We love Instagram just as much as you do! We’ll be on the lookout for your beautiful winter photos, so be sure to use the #nurturephoto hashtag. We’ll share a few favorites on Instagram each week, sending a little bit of love your way.