Why Storytelling is Important in Photography

In Photography Basics by Stefano CaioniLeave a Comment

Are you a budding photographer and you have amazing ideas in mind, but lack the right method to express them? Well, I have good news for you!

You can tell your story with a single photo or a series of photographs. The best part is that you don’t have to be a professional photographer to create a story using photos. You just need to arrange your images in a specific way to evoke emotions and captivate your audience. What’s more amazing is that no words are necessary, given that the photos speak for themselves. 

You don’t even have to search far for a tangible example. If you read storybooks like ‘The Purple Teddy Bear’ or ‘The Little Princess’  during your childhood, or you have read magazines like National Geographic, you definitely have a clearer picture of what storytelling using photos is all about.

So what are the fundamentals of storytelling through photography? Well, here are a few points that you need to consider to create moving stories using photographs.

Plan Your Message

Planning is critical in storytelling photography. In essence, you must create a viable plan on how you are going to visualize and convey your message using photos.

That’s why it is always crucial to answer the question why is photography important to you? What message you want to give?

Depending on your audience, your plan should include themes, colors, objects, and locations to establish a message that your viewers can relate to.

Ideally, you should select a topic and carry out a thorough research on it before capturing your shots. Even though you may not capture the photos in the precise sequence as planned, early preparation will help avoid chaos that may arise during the editing stage.

The beauty of photography is that the viewers have a chance to interpret the story in their own way. For instance, a hug at the airport could either be a sad goodbye, or a warm welcome. Essentially, the image should be open to different interpretations.

Be Original as Possible

For you to create captivating visual stories, you need to be as original as possible. No one will bother to view your photos if the images and scenarios are all too familiar. Although it might be hard to come up with original ideas, you can find solace in the fact that even the most experienced photographers go through a similar challenge. 

However, this does not mean that you should rest in your comfort zone. Instead, you should harness your creativity to come up with new, unique ideas that can help you stand out. Adding a new dimension to an existing idea can go a long way to enhance your uniqueness.

Most importantly, make sure your photos are not redundant. You therefore need to use different types of images to create the ideal setting for original, visual stories.

Evoke Strong Emotions in Your Work

The essence of storytelling photography is to create stories that evoke emotions. In any case, humans are naturally emotional, and they tend to relate more to stories that stir up specific emotions in them. 

Essentially, you are more likely to remember stories that made you happy, just as much as tales that made you sad. Considering this, it is imperative to create images that induce strong emotions such as happiness, excitement, loneliness, sadness and darkness, among others.

Notably, evoking emotions is easy and challenging in equal measure. For instance, you create a feeling of happiness by shooting a photo of your kids smiling. However, a forced smile might create an entirely different story than the one you planned for in the first place.

Aim for Variety

Besides introducing original ideas to your photo stories, you should also aim for variety in order to stimulate the imagination of your viewers. Focusing on the same themes, backgrounds, and images will not tell the whole story.

Ideally, you should try out different shots and add a variety of dramatic effects to achieve the correct mood. You can choose from portrait shots, wide shots, close-up shots to detailed shots to captivate and engage your audience.

Craft a Unique Visual Voice

Visual storytelling does not involve words. However, this does not mean that your photos should not have a voice. Believe it or not. Every photograph has a voice, only heard by the viewer. Considering this, you should strive to craft a unique visual voice that not only highlights the important elements of your story, but also augurs well with your audience, psychologically.

Start by asking yourself why you take photos in the first place, and what story you would want to convey through these images. By answering these questions, you will be able to understand and create your unique voice and point of view in photography.

Form a Chronological Narrative Structure

The narrative structure is one of the most critical elements in visual storytelling. Essentially, how you structure your photo narration will determine whether the message will get to the viewer or not. 

As with any other story, a photo story must have a beginning and an end. With this in mind, you must create a chronological narrative structure that provides the flow of your story, making it easier for the viewer to follow. 

On the same breath, you must determine whether your narration will consist of a single shot or a series of photographs. A single photo might deliver a powerful message, but it might not be enough to convey the whole story. Considering this, most photographers prefer using a series of photos to tell their stories.

The Takeaway

Inside any photography is an exciting story waiting to be told. If a picture does not have a story, then it is just a superficial image. Essentially, you may capture all the stunning images in the world, but if you do not have great storytelling photography ideas, the beautiful photos may not speak to your audience.

With that said, it is imperative to search for gestures and interactions that will capture the attention of your viewers. In effect, you should give the viewer a cornerstone from when they can work through your image. Above all, incorporate crucial elements of storytelling photography to bring your photos to life.

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