3 Tips for Telling Stories with Your Photography

Some people tell stories with their words. Some tell them with their lyrics. I tell stories with my pictures.

And you can, too.

Photography is perfect for story telling. The main story line. The subtitles. The accents. My daughter’s first grade teacher would tell her to pick a part of her story and “zoom in,” getting all of the tiny details expressed in words. Well! Pictures can do that perfectly! Here are three tips for getting the whole story told.

1) Plan ahead. Think about what story you’re trying to tell. And from whose perspective. What is going to happen at this event or on this vacation? What can you photograph to add the details to the main story line? And write it out. Your planning will also help you see more of the story in real time.

2) Get the obvious pictures … as well as those that are less obvious. Let’s use wedding photography as an example. Certainly you’re going to want the pictures of the bride and groom. And the bride and her parents. And the ceremony. And the toasts. Check, check, check. But wedding photographers would also never miss the pictures of the rings, the tables, the flowers, the place cards and so on. Each of those images, standing alone, may not be the one that you frame on your wall (unless you’re the florist). But you definitely include them in your album! Because they round out the story of the day. So look for the details.

3) Zoom in. In writing as well as in pictures, zooming in (or out) is extremely valuable in telling a story. Taking a big step back with a wide angle lens tells you the big picture. Imagine all of those people dancing on the dance floor with the band in one image. Or taking a big step in to capture the genuine emotion the bride feels when hearing her mom’s toast. And look at the different angles and viewpoints. So many sides to your story.

Here is an example of an amazing story that I was privileged to tell. I was invited to a photograph a day at a summer camp here in Chicago. It’s called Summer City Adventures and the campers were hosting lemonade stands across the city to raise money for childhood cancer research. Telling the whole story — from the set up, to the sales, to the fun, to the counting the money at the end — was critical to capturing the day. And what a day it was! I was honored to be a part of it.

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