4 Tips To Help You Tell Captivating Visual Stories With Your Photography

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Flight to Rose Harbour, Gwaii Haanas

Flight to Rose Harbour, Gwaii Haanas (by Dale Simonson)

Visual storytelling is not unlike making a movie–you need to create a series of shots that, when viewed as a series, conveys a story about the subject matter. As a still photographer, you lose the advantage of having spoken dialog. That means you may have to put in a little extra effort to make strong images that draw a viewer in and clearly convey the story. Are you ready to take on the challenge? Use these four tips to help you take captivating photos that tell a story seamlessly:

1. Shoot What You Love

Beaver landing, between the squalls

Beaver landing, between the squalls (by Dale Simonson)

You’ve probably heard this advice a thousand times already, but there’s a valid reason it keeps getting repeated. It works. Find something you are passionate about, whether it be a sport, cultural preservation, the environment, your family, or anything else you might fancy. If you already feel strongly about something, chances are you are able to connect with it and see it in a way that everyone else may not see. Shooting what you love is setting yourself up for success. You likely won’t lose interest in it and you’ll naturally seek out ways to familiarize yourself with it even more–this process of interacting with your passion via photography will produce countless opportunities to take original photos using your unique point of view.

2. Have A Plan

unloading provisions from the Beaver as another squall hits

Unloading provisions from the Beaver as another squall hits (by Dale Simonson)

If you’re not already familiar with your subject matter, take the time to do so in advance. Getting to know and understand your subject is essential. You have to know your subject’s story in order to tell it in an effective way. Think of each photo as a chapter in the story–each one should offer the viewer insight and tell a different part of the story.

Make a list of possible shots or key points you think are important to the story. While you may not be able to work out the specifics of each shot in advance, having some idea of the kinds of things you want to capture will keep you focused and help ensure your collection of photos are working together to show the viewer the bigger picture.

3. Establish A Connection With The Viewer

first task: catch some halibut for dinner

First task: catch some halibut for dinner. (by Dale Simonson)

You need to make sure each photo is interesting and grabs your viewers attention. There are several ways to go about this. For example, if there are people involved in your story, try capture photos where they are expressing emotion. A recent study by the National Press Photographers Association shows photos which show interactions between two or more people are also among some of the most captivating. As viewers, we like to scan a photo back and forth between the people in it to help us establish an idea of what they are doing.

Something to think about after you’ve taken the photo is to include a caption. While you want your photos to be able to stand on their own as a means to tell a story, the study also showed that viewers are more likely to spend extra time with a photos when it has a caption. When we are looking at photos, we tend to look at the photo for a first impression, read the caption, then go back to the photo to take a harder look at it. Sometimes all it take to get someone to really look at your image is to write a brief caption for it.

Bonus Tip: Editing Style Is Important

halibut hand-lining gear

Halibut hand-lining gear. (by Dale Simonson)

Another thing you’ll want to think about is the overall style of the photos. The style of the photos that make up the collection should all be similar to help make the story more cohesive and create a flow as the viewer looks through them. This needs to be thought about when you are composing the photos as well as during post production. Try to use the same editing style on all of the photos–a great way to ensure a consistent look is to use a preset that you can apply to all the photos. Of course, feel free to adjust some of the settings to fine tune each individual image–just don’t stray too far from overall appearance of the preset.