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How to Put Together a Photo Story | Storytelling Photography

by Photoh (follow)
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storytelling photography how to what is

What is Storytelling Photography?
Storytelling photography is the art of capturing a scene or a passage of time in a series of frames. When these frames are presented together as a photo essay, one after the other, sometimes as a collage or an album, they can tell a story in a much more emotive way than a single shot can.
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Many of us might encounter a photo story on a daily basis, presented to you as news in a newspaper, or a feature in a magazine or on a website. It's always interesting to take a deeper look at these and see how the story is portrayed to you through the images. Has the photographer used a certain angle on the story to reflect the subject in a certain light?

Sometimes there are only 2 or 3 photos published alongside an article to visually illustrate a story, which when you think about it, could be a real challenge.

So where do you start?

Finding a story worth telling
In this era of social media everyone is uploading photos and snippets of their daily life all the time; from Instagram stories to Facebook statuses. But not everyone wants to know about what someone had for dinner, or what outfit they're wearing today, so how can you find an actual story or narrative to delve into with your camera?

Storytelling photography can also be described as photojournalism, due to the fact that it can be used to show an event or news story. But there's no need to put yourself on the front line as there are plenty of very worthy stories happening all around us, all the time.

storytelling photography how to what is

The trick is to think outside the box a little bit.

What are you personally interested in? Perhaps you are an avid sports photographer and follow your local team? Maybe you love learning about people's stories and history? What about the events going on in your local area? Have you got a friend who has an interesting hobby or job?

Once you've realised what gets your creative juices going, you can then hone in on some ideas that would work as a photo story.

As an example, let's say you're interested in the history of your local area. You could start by collecting together all of the tidbits of information you've seen or heard, and pinpointing them to an area that you could explore with your camera.

Doing further research will help you come up with ideas of what the actual narrative or point will be, and how you could get that across with your camera.

Shooting the story

storytelling photography how to what is

Now it's time for the fun bit - heading out with your camera!

Unless you're a photojournalist working for a newspaper and have been given a tight deadline because a story is being published in an hour, then there's absolutely no need to rush yourself.

Photographers can sometimes spend weeks, months, heck even years on a photo story to gradually build up knowledge and a portfolio of the subject they're shooting. You've chosen your subject because it interests you, so do it a favour and take your time to explore it. No quick tourist snapshots here!

Think how you would introduce a person (who's never encountered your subject) to your story; what would you want to show them, and how would you want them to experience it? What should they see first? What time of day is best?

storytelling photography how to what is

Also think about what you might not want them to see. Our eyes can see everything in front of us, but the beauty of a camera is that you can carefully pick the composition. Photographing your local area? Be mindful of what is creeping into the frame, as bins, litter etc does not contribute much to a photo. Unless your photo story is all about the increase of litter in your town, then by all means make it your focal point!

Ensure you take photos from a good variety of angles and viewpoints so that you've got plenty of different style shots to choose from later.

A great way to ensure you have a varied collection is to start by taking wide angle or 'wider picture' shots to establish the scene, then gradually over the course of your shoot start to zoom in/get closer and closer until you are taking small detail shots.

Feeling a bit lost with it all? Try placing yourself in the shoes of a person who has no idea about your chosen subject, and try to imagine what they would be experiencing.

Making the selection
When you get home after some time shooting, try to give it a day or at least a good few hours before uploading and reviewing your photos. This way you'll be seeing them with a fresh set of eyes, and more as if you were a viewer.

storytelling photography how to what is

Once uploaded, carefully go through each shot and select the ones that you are happy with and move them to a new folder or tag them. Go through them again and aim to get rid of 50%.

Be harsh with yourself! It can be so easy to get attached to photos, but good photographers should be able to self-critique and spot when something isn't quite up to scratch. Let's say you took 150 photos on the day, and the challenge would be to get those down to 5 images. Yes it's tough!

Now it's time to put them in an order that would help the viewer travel through the narrative or themes in your story.

Have you got a hero shot?
When you were out shooting, you should have used a range of different viewpoints so that you have a mix of wide scene shots and smaller details. Generally speaking, it's usually best to use a wide scene photo as your 'hero shot', which is the first image, or figuratively speaking, the one your photo editor would use on the front cover.

This shot needs to clearly establish what the viewer can expect from the next few photos, and perhaps create some intrigue.

With your chosen 5 shots on your computer screen, pull and drag them around into different orders to see how they would work next to one another. If something doesn't feel quite right, go back to your folder of previously disregarded shots and see if there are any that would be a better fit.

How will you present the story?

storytelling photography how to what is

Now that you've settled on the shots that tells your story, it's time to decide how you'll be presenting it.

Do any of the photos require captions? Traditionally you'll almost always see captions on photos published in newspapers or magazines, and they can be 1 or 2 sentences to succinctly describe who/what/where or when is in the shot.

You could create a collage of the photos so that it's saved as one file (ensure you keep copies of the individual photos too!). This is a great way of showing all of the story on a platform such as social media.

You're done!
Relish in the fact that your first photo story is complete....or is it? You might find that you continue to add and edit the story for weeks or months to come, which can be a fantastic project and a great joy to work on.

So, what story will you be capturing?

storytelling photography how to what is

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