How to Tell a Story Using Photos

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There are times when an activity or event needs more than a single image to tell the whole story. A photo essay or photo story provides the means to reveal several facets of the narrative in visually interesting and dynamic ways.

You don’t have to be a photojournalist to practice these techniques. You can apply these simple principles when you are photographing a family event, sports or a social occasion.

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Create an Establishing Shot

Using a wide-focal length, create an image that establishes where the main action is taking place. Remember to think of setting as being as much of a character as the people.

Have a Point of Focus

Create an image that establishes who this story is about, preferably within in the context of the activity. It can be an individual or a group, but have an idea who your main “characters” are.

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Show Action

Make images of people doing something. Don’t have people pose for the camera, but rather focus on their interaction with people or things. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, but something that gives us a sense of who the person is and what he/she does.

Look for Details

Photograph small details of the subject or the scene. These close-up views can be invaluable in providing the viewer insight into the person and the activity.

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Work from Varying Distances

Zoom with your feet to avoid photographing everything from the same distance. Get close to the subject to create more intimate images.

Use a Wide Angle Zoom

Use a zoom like a 16-35mm zoom, which can help you to produce more intimate photographs. Working close to the subject will allow you to emphasize the subject while still including important details of their environment.

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Try Unusual Perspectives

Photograph at more than eye-level. Position yourself above and below your subject.

Be Conscious of the Light

Stay aware of where the light is coming from and use that to your advantage. Choose your camera position to take advantage of front light, side light and back light.

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Pace Yourself

Don’t photograph willy-nilly. Be thoughtful about what and how you photograph a scene and a subject. Think of how the image will fit the entire story.

Practice

Photograph with a story in mind as much as possible. It will help you to not only create effective photo essays, but also stronger individual photographs.