Storytelling isn’t much different than using words. It’s just that we’ve spent our whole lives talking and hearing that we haven’t needed to rely on frozen moments to convey messages. Storytelling in photography is a more documentary approach to create emotion in the viewer and create impactful images. This is a much different approach in photography from the traditional and normal posed shots. Rather, this is to help your clients freeze feelings and experiences in time. There are 3 things I’ve implemented into my work that I’m going to share with you to help you become a better storyteller:
Your process for storytelling doesn’t start when you step behind the camera. It should actually start from the very first step; the inquiry. Your contact form should be a means for you to get to know your clients, or better put, what they are looking for. And your client communication leading up to the day of is going to make or break their ability to open up to you. Be their friend!
Every client is different and when your approach with each client is catered to them specifically, this adds a new lens to your perspective so you can see them with fresh eyes. Getting to know your clients will help you create with them and becoming their friend will open the door for them to trust in being vulnerable with you. It takes all parties to create outside the box so involve them in the process.
Ask them, “What do you want to feel when you look back at your pictures?” Or, craft a story and allow them room to come up with the story themselves when they receive their pictures. There is a saying that a photograph can tell more about the photographer than the subject. I personally like to look at all of the human emotions. I experience a lot of the ups and the downs and use that to guide the prompts I give my clients during our time together.
Visualization is “the practice of imagining what you want to achieve in the future. It involves all five senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and hearing. The process of visualizing directs your subconscious to be aware of the end goal you have in mind.”
I adopted this idea from my training in free diving and it’s actually used in many sports and all over the world. It’s a powerful tool for improving skills and awareness. And upon further research I found it’s a skill photographers have been using for a very long time and practicing this skill will amplify your ability for storytelling in photography.
Apply visualization into your creation process during your shoot and include your clients in that process. What do you see, smell, taste, touch and hear? Allow yourself time to visualize different images and concepts with your clients so that might look like longer sessions. Some people create better under the pressure of a time crunch and just trying to get as many photos as possible. But I’ve found that the more time I have to visualize, the better the pictures are and I am all about quality over quantity. I’d rather have the “WOW”.
When you’re storytelling in photography, there are a few perspectives you can look at documenting:
One of the concepts/laws in creating a compelling film is that you need to assume each “character” has a voice. Only in photography, there are no voices. There are perspectives and feelings. The scenery/location
3. The scenery & Location
4. Details & Elements
The art of storytelling will keep you inspired and creating original work outside comfort zones. If you try these out, let me know! I’d love to see your work.
Itching to shoot together? Check out my mentor sessions!
I'm Tay, a photographer and educator based in Hawaii. My passions are sharing stories of love, from couples to adventure elopements. And I am also an underwater and brand photographer with a heart for creating impact.
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