How To Tell A story Through Images – part 2


How To Tell A story Through Images – part 2

Beautiful portraits and landscape images have their place but sometimes you want to be able to tell a story in a photograph.  There are many approaches to storytelling through pictures and here are some tips to help you tell a story in a single image:

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    • Think about the story you want to tell before you frame your shot. Is the story about exploring the vastness of a forest?  Is about the way a child always clutches a favorite toy?  It is important to know exactly what the story you want to tell is so that you can frame your shot correctly.    Be specific!  If your story is a birthday celebration you will want to include many more elements in your frame than if your story is the excitement of the birthday girl.

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      • Shooting at a wide angle is the best way to capture an entire story with many elements in one shot. By stepping back and shooting wide you will be able to capture more of the story unfolding before you.   This is especially important if the setting is important to your story, whether it is a field kids love to play in, the church where a wedding is taking place, or a home’s kitchen.  Usually, shooting at a wide angle is the best way to tell a story through a single image.

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    • But, if your story involves a detail get in close and make sure nothing that is not relevant to your story is in the frame. If your entire frame is filled with a hand covered in paint of a child’s hand clutching a teddy bear the story is clear in an instant.

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    • Include several elements that support your story. If your story is about a mother and son baking cookies let the mess of the process show in your image.  A shot filled with only the mother and son will be cute, but won’t tell the story of an activity they like to do together as well as one that includes details that will give context to the story, like measuring cups and a stray chocolate chip or two.

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    • Pay attention to what is in the foreground and the background for the strongest possible storytelling image. For strong images, layer multiple elements in the foreground.  Keep relevant elements in the background, even if they are not completely in focus.  As long as they viewer can tell what they are they will add to the story.  For example, the story of an extended family welcoming a new baby will be clear if the grandparents can be seen in the background, even if they are a bit blurry.

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  • Leave out elements that do not support your story. Because you are telling a story in one image it is important that everything in the frame is relevant to the story.   Imagine you are telling the story of a child getting ready for the first day of school.   If there are wrapped gifts in the background it will not be clear why they are there and what role they play in the story, if at all.   To exclude elements that are not a part of the story change your angle so they are not visible or move them out of the frame so as not to cause confusion.

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  • Use Motion to your advantage. Motion, or a lack of motion, can be conveyed in an image in several ways to help tell a story.   If your story is about a child who never sits still or a chef preparing an elaborate dish use a slow shutter speed to incorporate some blur into your photo.  You can also use a fast shutter speed to show motion by capturing a child mid-jump or a bit of honey suspended in mid-air.  Similarly, the lack of motion expressed by a sleeping child or couple sitting holding hands shows the viewer a story that conveys a sense of calm in an instant.

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Jamie Davis Smith

Jamie Davis Smith is a photographer and mother of four based in Washington, DC. She loves capturing everyday moments with her children. She can be reached at jdavissmith03@gmail.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jamiedavissmithii
Twitter: @jamiedavissmith 
Instagram: @jamiedavissmith 

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