Part 1 of a 2 part Series: Learn how to tell a story with your camera:
Storytelling is one of the skills you can learn in photography that will take you to a whole new skill. We all strive to become a better photographer, but as we get good at photography, the one thing you will do is take your camera on a trip with your family and take lots and lots of pictures. Or you will take a weekend and spend a day at a beautiful area and take a lot of pictures somewhere. Or you will have a friend that wants you to take their engagement pictures, or something like that where you take a lot of pictures at one big moment. Why not turn that around and create a story out of this event. Storytelling is the single biggest photographic skill, that you can learn, that will make your work stand out from everyone else. Lets give you some special points that will help you achieve that story:
Plan, plan, plan, and plan some more:
One thing you have to think about is that you have to visualize before you can take the photos. What is your plan for the story?
What your mind does not know, your eyes can not see
Taking this step first will help you visualize what you are going to do.
Your plan should include selecting the topic, research on the topic, clarifying your topic, and finally planning your shots. If you are doing a story on an engagement couple, what type of photos are the best to show the story of a couple. You will probably use the same type of photos every time you use a story of a couple getting married. Be consistent, it will be easy to do that kind of story.
Often during a shoot, you may find that your pictures may not end up in the order that you want, but in the end when you put your photos together to put the end story together you can put them in the order that you want.
Also, many people may be looking at these photos in the end. Think of the equipment you will be using. Make sure you have the right equipment for this type of job, and you are familiar with using it all so it goes smoothly. Also, remember the composition rules. It will be much more impressive if you use the rules of composition. This is an art form as well, and people will recognize the quality of art work that you will be using in your photos.
Single shot or a series:
There will be stories you want to tell that may involve a series of photos rather than just one shot at a time. It will depend on how you put your final production together. If you have a narrative type of program, you may not need to. But, it will depend on how this type of story goes.
Often it’s a point of discussion on photography forums whether one narrates better stories with a single image versus a series of images. In this regard it’s important to remember that a single image is only a “half truth”, because it never tells you the fundamental of a story, which is, “Why?”.
What does this mean? When talking about photographs, an image might be partly true but it is only part of the whole truth and a snapshot of the bigger picture. This leaves part of our brain to interpret the image on its own, therefore making it difficult to always understand the photographer’s message. Not all single images tell a story. One must remember a photo essay is nothing but the compilation of multiple single images – these are the units of the visual narrative. Each single picture is a chapter in the story, and each chapter will unfold towards the climax.
On the other hand, a series of photographs allows the brain to process each image as a whole. A series of images emphasizes several ideas, whereas a single image usually emphasizes just one idea. Keep in mind that the first and last images in a series are the most important. These are called ‘goal images’ – the type of images that open and close the series to grab a viewer’s attention. It’s no different from judging a book by its cover – a strong opening shot will stop people and hold them in the story from start to finish.
Take Strong images:
The images you put in your story have to have impact. When someone looks at your photos, these photos have to create a deep feeling of emotion. So, take photos that will, maybe bring a tear to their eyes. For example: if you are doing a story of a couple, this is the time to let the world know that they truly love each other. Get them to look at each other and show intense love between the couple, and capture that moment. For other kind of stories, like a scenery shot, you have to wait for the perfect sunset, or sunrise that will make everyone go ahhhh. These images have to be beyond ordinary.
Trust your instincts:
Photography has the ability to capture and freeze moments in time that we may never have thought about until picking up the camera. These are the moments that inspire us as photographers, and can help us create our own unique vision. If you notice something in particular and think it may be a good photo opportunity, try not to assess the situation too much, rather trust your instincts and see how it unfolds. But, be safe in the process – common sense and respect should still be on your mind.
It is hard to be original. A lot of times we get our posing ideas from other photos we have seen. But, would it not be more satisfying if you found some original ways of posing people, and then found some people copying the way you did it. Flattery is the best form of compliments. But, you may use some ideas that you have seen, but, tweak it a bit to fit your personality or their personality. What I have found is as you take people pictures especially, in posing, is that you get people ready to pose, and tell them you are going to take their pictures on the count of 3 but take 3 or 4 photos before you get to 3, and 3 or 4 photos after the 3 count, and see what fun photos you get after that. That might make a great series of photos as well. That is a fun way to be original. Who does that (besides me)?
Don’t be afraid of failure:
You are going to fail sometimes. Remember that this is part of the process. Some of your clients are not going to like your photos. That is the part I hate about taking pictures of people. But, somebody is going to think that those are the most beautiful photos you have ever taken. You are the artist, and if they don’t like the photos, then they may not like Van Gogh either. So, put yourself up there with the artists of the great. As long as you feel that you have created some art work, then keep it. I remember once that I took some wedding photos, and the couple didn’t like them, and they had them at their wedding anyway, and they displayed them at their wedding because that was all they had, and they got so many compliments about their photos, that they decided that maybe they were the ones that were wrong about their judgement of the photos. There were more referrals from that wedding that they for sure realized that they were the ones missing the boat.
So, in conclusion: remember to plan what kind of storyline you want, plan ahead of how to get those photos, and then work with the people (if that is what you are doing) to help create the storyline, and make it happen. If you story does not include people, then you still need to plan, plan, plan, and get the details down so that you can get the right equipment, the right place in mind, and work to get that down to an art for you.
TOMORROW: Part 2 –
It is always great to get more input on how to make better composition. Now to take composition one step further and use it to tell a more compelling story.