Use The 8 Classic Shots Of Photo Essays To Tell Better Stories

Every picture tells a story. Combine pictures to form an essay, and your storytelling options multiply. This is one way to tell a more complete story, add depth, complexity, counterpoint, nuance, show change over time, and so much more. A photo essay transcends a single lucky shot. It demonstrates commitment, focus, versatility, and skills of another order. 

Essays have definite structures, with a clear beginning, middle, and end – often with standard components that flesh out and advance a story in critical ways. Journalists excel at this type of storytelling. Sometimes they even use cinematic conventions, components, and strategies. Moviemakers storyboard their creations before filming commences. Cinematographers and film editors ultimately develop their own styles with how they handle these devices, and they can also become a part of your style.

Identifying the necessary components of an essay is the first step. Once you know the types of images you need to tell your story, you’ll know what to shoot while you’re on location and maybe even when you need to be there. If you don’t identify these elements beforehand and make sure you come back with each of them, you may find you lack critical pieces. There will be holes in your story. And you may have to return to finish it – if you can. 

Even if your work isn’t narrative, learning these skills will help you create more images, be more versatile, make stronger comparisons and contrasts, and create more effective continuity and transitions between images.

These are the classic elements used to structure a photo essay presented in order of appearance.

1 Introduction
2 Set the Stage
3 Identify the Main Character
4 Significant Detail
5 Human Interest
6 Decisive Moment
7 Outcome
8 Conclusion 

You could say all other images included in an essay are just variations of these few types of images. I’d be surprised if exceptions couldn’t be found, but they would be exceptions. These are worth committing to memory and ultimately making second nature. If you do, you’ll become a more capable and versatile photographer.

What is the function of each image type? 


Insights Members can login to read the full article.
Email:
or Sign up

Use The Power Of Storyboarding To Structure Your Photographic Explorations

The first time I went to Namibia I used this storyboard to find more ideas and structure my thinking.

Find out how it worked out at the end of this article.

 

Movies are rarely shot without storyboarding them. Consider storyboarding your still photography projects too.

A storyboard is a hand-drawn map or timeline that identifies the various types of images needed to advance a story and the transitions between them. They identify the beginning, middle, and end of a story and the shots needed to move from one to the other. Storyboards create a guiding structure or framework that can help focus and strengthen your work. 

You can use storyboards to structure your thinking when you’re developing still photography projects. Storyboards can help you do many different things, including finding out what your story is, generating ideas, identifying the shots you need, creating stronger relationships between separate images, and telling your story in more compelling ways.

Creating a storyboard doesn’t take long. You can create a simple storyboard in as few as two sketches – before and after or beginning and end. Then you can continue adding more frames to develop your story further.


Insights Members can login to read the full article.
Email:
or Sign up

Every Picture Tells A Story … But How Does It Tell It?

Visual stories can be simple or complex, quiet or dramatic, short or long ... the possibilities are endless.

Even in abstract images things happen, at the very least formal elements interact.

Sometimes stories are told with images through their relationships with other images.

Every picture tells a story. Every picture? Every picture!

Even abstract images tell stories. The stories they tell are not about their subjects. By definition, they don’t have subjects. Or do they? They have themselves. So they tell stories about themselves. They tell stories about the things that make them – color, line, texture, shape, proportion, etc. How all of those things relate is a drama of form.

How many kinds of stories are there? There are scientific stories that tell us what things are and how they work. There are historical stories that tell us how things were, how they changed, and what they’ve become today – some even speculate about how things will be tomorrow. There are emotional stories that tell us how people respond emotionally to things. There may be more kinds of stories, but these are the big ones. When it comes to images, the stories they tell are usually only about a few kinds of things. The images themselves. The things images contain. The processes things go through. The feelings people have in response to things and processes. The concepts created through interpretation. Things: Nouns. Processes: Verbs. Feelings: Adjectives and Adverbs. Concepts: Abstract Ideas.

So if every picture tells a story, one way to determine the strength of an image is to ask, “How strong is the story?” Put another way, one way to improve your images is to tell stronger stories. A story doesn’t have to be big or dramatic to be strong; it just has to be told well. Tell stories strongly. Tell them with stronger form; tell them by more clearly delineating actions; tell them by disclosing emotional responses more passionately; tell them by inspiring us to find the bigger picture beyond each picture or group of pictures.


Insights Members can login to read the full article.
Email:
or Sign up

How To Use Association To Go Deeper With Your Photographs

My early curiosity about clouds displaying invisible forces at work, lead to associations of nephomancy (divination by clouds) and later clouds as divine messengers.

The working title for this series, Glory (later changed to Illumination) was drawn from religious iconography in western art history.

The working title for this series was Heaven's Breath but it was later released as Exhalation, leaving room for viewers' interpretations. The many personal associations I bring to my imagery remain subliminal but strongly felt giving them consistency and depth.

 

Our work is as deep as the relationships we have with it. Mastery involves much more than researching subjects and perfecting craft, it also means doing some soul searching. So how can you deepen your relationships with your work? How can you understand the inner life of your work better? One way is to associate freely.

Free association is a classic psychological technique that can be used to reveal and clarify internal relationships. While most association is done linguistically, you can use anything as a touchstone for association; sounds, gestures, tastes, smells, images, etc. Use one or more at the same time. Whatever you choose to associate with, record your associations with something that doesn’t get in the way of the free flow of your association process. If you use words, use the language that comes most easily to you. If you use something else (colors, sounds, images) make sure that collecting them can be done fast, fluidly, and flexibly. Do record your associations. If you don’t record them, you’ll forget most of them and the patterns they make will elude you. 

Simply observe what comes to mind. Don’t critique or censor yourself during the process; nothing shuts down this process faster. Let it all out. Be thoroughly spontaneous and utterly candid with yourself. You may or may not choose to do this with others. It’s your choice. Try different approaches and see how each influences the experience and results.

There are several ways to guide association.


Insights Members can login to read the full article.
Email:
or Sign up

How To Use Metaphor To Make Stronger Photographs

Zoomorphism animates and connects these images.

 

Photographs can often be well-crafted transcriptions of their subjects and nothing more. It’s usually that elusive ‘something more’ that makes great photographs, elevating them beyond craft to art. How can you bring more to your images? One way is to use a guiding metaphor.

What is a metaphor? In language, spoken or written, a simile implies a shared quality (This is like that.), while a metaphor states that two things are the same (This is that.). When a metaphor is used, it’s understood that poetic license is being taken. A metaphor isn’t used to create misinformation and confusion, it’s used to emphathetically draw attention to shared qualities.


Insights Members can login to read the full article.
Email:
or Sign up

Three Keys To Analyzing Images – Content, Form & Feeling

1 Realistic images emphasize content.

2 Graphic images emphasize form.

3 Expressionistic images emphasize feeling.

4 Impressionistic images may evoke content, form, and/or feeling.

 

Making verbal statements about visual images can be challenging. But, it’s also very useful. Learning to make useful statements about images can help you clarify the type of work you’re looking at or making. It can help you identify an artist’s intentions, including your own. It can help give you direction. It can help you improve your images. It can help you develop projects and predict outcomes. It can help you more effectively communicate with others. When it comes to appreciating and making images, words can be very useful. You don’t need to have a degree or be a professional writer to use words well. Sometimes, a few simple words can end up being the most useful – especially if they’re the right words.

One useful way to comment on images is to discuss three important and related aspects of images - content, form, and feeling. While all images have these dimensions, you can describe the kind of image a work of art is based on how it weights these three concerns. 

Here are several types of images that weigh these concerns differently.


Insights Members can login to read the full article.
Email:
or Sign up

Three Ways To Tell A Story More Creatively – It, I, You

Using words can help you find new perspectives that can be translated into images. How? Tell a story, from at least three different points of view – it, I, and you.

First, tell the story in the third person (it) as a distant observer – “Just the facts ma’am.” 

What images are needed to tell your viewers a complete story about your subject?

This perspective tends to be more objective, emphasizing facts and linear timelines so you do more research. It values clarity, balance (all sides of a story), and completeness (the whole story). It tends to avoid metaphor and stylistic distortion. It’s rarely the easiest way to build empathy for you subject. Be careful not to keep too much distance from your subject and find ways to make your viewers care.

Next, tell the story in the first person (I) as an involved participant – “How do I feel?” 

What images are needed to tell your viewers the story or you experience with your subject?

This perspective makes it personal and so draws your viewers closer to you by helping them to live vicariously. This viewpoint can become highly subjective and opens up a lot of room for interpretation. It can become like a journal. In translating this to images you might include the traces of things you do and leave behind or even yourself. (Go ahead and stand by or with your subject but be careful not to leave your subject behind.)

Finally, tell the story in the second person (you) as if you were the subject – “How does it feel to be you?” 

What images are needed to tell your subject’s story from the inside out?

This perspective encourages empathy, initially in you and later in your viewers. You can move deeper into this perspective by asking, “If I were you I would sense, think, and feel …” It might seem strange at first to do this with inanimate subjects – like rocks or buildings or roads. Remembering what it was like to be a kid playing these kinds of games will help you a great deal here. (We all know how creative kids can be, so have fun and play a little.) This perspective may encourage you to photograph from different perspectives; get closer or further, lower or higher, or turn around and photograph what your subject might see. Often, this voice will help you discover the most unusual perspectives.

 

Read more in my Storytelling resources.

Learn more in my Creativity & Photography workshops.

The Art Of Visual Storytelling

 

What makes your images yours is your point of view. To find your voice tell your story.

 

Plan Your Story

 

Every Picture Tells A Story
There are countless kinds of stories to tell and ways to tell them.

Make Plans    Free to Members
Increase your productivity and fulfillment by making a plan.

Define a Project    Free to Members
Focus your creative efforts and create an action list to achieve your goals.

Developing Personal Projects
Defining a project is one of the single best ways to develop your body of work.

Keep Your Current Projects Visible
What kinds of visual reminders would be helpful to you?

Perform An Annual Creative Review
At the beginning of every year I review the accomplishments of the past year.

The Benefits Of Performing An Annual Image Review
You’ll learn a great deal about your vision when you perform an annual image review.

The Benefits Of Selecting Your Top Images
Find your current best works and compare them to your past.

 

Discover & Develop Your Story

 

Finding Your Best Work  Free to Members
Find your best work efficiently.
.
Sleepers & Keepers
Our strongest images combine immediate impact and staying power.
.
A Singular Image    Free to Members
Identify the superstars in your work.
.
A Dominant Impression    Free to Members
How to find the “Dominant Impression” in your work.
.
A Train of Thought    Free to Members
Look for the ways you approach making photographs and think visually.
.
A Body of Work    Free to Members
Bodies of work add depth to and extend ways of seeing.
.
Outliers
They’re the images that don’t fit neatly into a body of work.
.
7 Benefits Of Returning To Locations
With so many wonderful places, why return to the same location more than once?

.

Structure Your Story

 

3 Great Books On Photographic Contact Sheets

Develop your thoughts faster and more clearly with collections.
.
Use The Power Of Storyboarding To Structure Your Photographic Explorations
Create a guiding structure to help focus and strengthen your work.
.
Use Storyboards To Improve Your Lightroom Collections | Coming
Create sequences to find what’s missing and new opportunities.
.

Use The 8 Classic Shots Of Photo Essays To Tell Better Stories
Develop your thoughts faster and more clearly with this structure.

Continuity   Free to Members
Develop your thoughts faster and more clearly with collections.
.
Arranging   Free to Members
Develop your thoughts faster and more clearly with collections.
.
Transitions   Free to Members
Develop your thoughts faster and more clearly with collections.
.
.

Expand Your Story

 

Association
Discover and develop underlying qualities and themes.

Metaphor
Work on more than one level simultaneously.

Variation    Free to Members
Find many ideas or turn one idea into many variations.

Combination    Free to Members
Create synergy between existing elements in your images.

Reversal
Use reversal to open new doors in your creative process.

Break The Rules
Unlock new creative possibilities.

 

Find Your Next Story

 

Your Next Story  | Coming

 

Sign up for Insights for news of new content!