Storytelling for photographers


If you are here it means you like good stories like me. 

You've for sure seen a lot of Disney movies as a kid. I love Toy Story, the King Lion or Mulan. 

There are many differences between a good story in a movie and in photography, but there is always a one common element, interesting plot with a beginning and an end. The aim is to make viewer feel that he is a part of a story.

Great storytelling is a key to attract people, with your music, photos, videos, business or your fanpage, no matter what you do. However, in this article I'm going to focus only on building a good story through your photos. 


I started photographing my trips and portraits focusing so much on my photography gear, camera setup, lighting conditions, perfect weather or ideal background. I've mastered photography basics and I've started shooting quite good pictures, but I still felt that there was something missing. Do you know what that was? It was a plot, a good story and emotions. We all saw those beautiful pictures with ideal models or landscapes and we only thought "What a nice picture" and that's it. So I've started thinking how I can achieve something more than just a nice picture. 

I'm going to show you few things you can do to build a really good photography story no matter if you are going to shoot only your holiday, street photography, life style or couple photo shoot.



Every story has a beginning and an end

Every story needs to have an introduction for a viewer, but eventually it ends somewhen. That's why it's really important to build a beginning and an end. It's quite tricky, because you need to use your imagination to know when your story ends before it will eventually end. While shooting you need to think not only about lighting, background and people, but also how you will lead it later during editing process.

Here are two very good tips how you can open and close your story:


1. Start with a wide angled shoot - It can be a landscape, a building, a city view, a wide shot with group of people. And then move your story into more detailed photos, but not too detailed. It can be a closer building shoot, a tree with blurred background or a portrait. Then move slightly to shoot some details. During a trip in a forest it can be close shot of moos. While shooting a city it can be a road sign or...someone's shoes. When you shoot couple it can be an engagement ring, hands, earrings or a really close portrait. 


2. Sunrise and sunset - Days start with a sunrise and ends with a sunset. Do the same with your story. Start with darker photos showing a moment right before sunrise. Move slightly to more bright and more bright photos until midday. End your story again with darker pictures symbolising a sunset. 

Don't worry if you don't have possibility to shoot during a sunrise or a sunset. Try to manipulate your story to start and end with darker photos. You can e.g. start in a dark room, edit in Black and White or just lower exposure in Lightroom. 


Experiment with different angles

Shoot as many angles as you can. If you saw me during a photo shoot you would see that I run around my couple like a crazy, laying on the ground or sometimes even climbing. You can shoot many beautiful situation just standing in one place using only one focal length, but it will be just boring for a viewer. The same situation refers to any other type of photography - street, weddings, travels, even landscapes. How can you shoot a landscape from another perspective? Obviously you would not be running around a mountain, but you can e.g. hide behind a tree and shoot experimenting with a frame.


Be consistent and lead your viewer

While building your story you need to be as much consistent as you can. It means that you need to lead your viewer through a story. If you shoot in a different location show how you've changed places. Think about it during shooting, because there is no coming back if you missed some shots. It's quite easy if you know that rule. You can shoot e.g. how you or someone walks to another location or how you leave a bus or when you enter the building.


Show story of places and things around you

It also doesn't matter if you shoot couple or just travel. There are so many interesting things and facts around us. Show your viewer interesting stories about some places and locations. It can be e.g. a wooden board telling a story about an old church or a street name you follow or a really interesting statue standing on a corner. Open your eyes and see things around you that you didn't pay attention to before and add those pearls to your story!


Show people around you. Catch funny moments. Add something personal

Show in your story how life looks like around you. Shoot people and catch what they do, how they speak, work, sleep or argue. Show emotions.

I could write about emotions another article, because it's something what I also love catching. Shoot as many as you can while photographing people! You never know when you catch this one beautiful moment when she is looking at him with tears in eyes.

Add something funny to your story. It can be a sleepy kitty or this cute kid who just ate a huge ice cream and has it on his whole face. 

Add something personal. If it's a trip you can show a map and point a finger on your destination point. If it's a wedding or an engagement photo shoot it can be a groom who just saw his wife for the first time in a wedding dress. 


Manipulate with chronology

This is a really interesting one. When I first heard about that I thought "Nooo waaaay".

Yea, unfortunately sometimes to make your story consistence you need to manipulate with chronology. It means that if it looks better in a story to put shots from a park and then place photos from a home at the end, even if in real it was just an opposite, you need to change this. The good news is that the only person who will know that is you...and your couple or models.



That's it! I hope you will take something valuable from this article. If you know any other ideas to build good stories I'm always open to learn, as storytelling is currently my favourite subject!


Keep calm and be a great storyteller!