So, you’ve traveled to the place of your dreams, shot lots of photos and couldn’t wait to upload them to your blog for your friends and families to see. You were hoping that they would be as excited as you are. What happened next however, really surprised you. You found that your friends and families were not as excited as you were when looking through your set of photos.
The only positive response you received was an occasional “that’s cool” comment, but for the most part, they seemed uninterested in the photos that you took, and you couldn’t figure out why.
Has this situation ever happened to you? If so, you might be interested in what I have to say. In this article, I will show you how to use effective storytelling techniques to create a more exciting photo series. I will show you how to capture the images, select the best ones, and present them to the world. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll be able to shoot and present more engaging photos to your friends and families.
What Makes a Good Story?
Before we get into the photography part, let’s discuss briefly about effective storytelling techniques and how they can help us in our photography. Basically, every good story follows a structure. So, what’s a good structure for telling a story? Your story should follow these time-tested elements: a strong introduction, conflict, and resolution.
1. Strong Introduction
The first few words that you tell your viewers are the most important ones. They will determine the level of interest that they have in your story. A strong introduction should answer this question “What is interesting about your story and why should someone spend their time reading it?”
To answer that question, you can tell people about a specific event or thing that led you to travel there, something incredible that happened to you while you were there, or anything else that can quickly grab their attention.
When it comes to photography, the first image that you show to your viewer is the most important one. Make sure you choose an image that can quickly grab your viewer’s attention and make them want to know more. This will greatly help you start your storytelling session with ease.
A good story always has some sort of conflict. Conflict in this instance simply means a contradiction. It can be as simple as highlighting what you expected and what really happened or it could also be the frustration that you had with the people, customs, or culture. The conflict can be as short or as long as you want it to be. This is the part where you’ll show most of your photos.
When showing your photos for this part, think about variation. You want to keep a consistent theme but you should vary the message in the photograph within that theme to show the conflict. It helps to think about adjectives and antonyms in this section. For instance, you might display a photo that shows the emotion of joy and then display another one that shows the emotion of sadness. The aim here is to show enough range and variation to your viewer to keep them engaged with your story.
Resolution is the remedy for the conflict. You create tension with conflict and you create ease with resolution. This is the part where you give meaning to your travel and end your story.
After your readers have seen enough photos in the conflict section, it’s time to wrap things up for them and tell them the meaning that you got from your travel. You do this by showing one or two photos that explain what you learned from your travel and then end your story. You should make your viewers feel as if they have gained something from your story and are excited to travel more!
Capturing The Photos
Now that you know how to structure your story, you can now start thinking about how to capture your photos. It helps if you can prepare a rough draft or shot list of this structure before you go out to shoot. Some online research can help with this.
Travel photography can be quite unexpected, so you won’t be able to predict exactly what your subject matter will be, but having a rough draft of your travel story can be a great guide to get you started.
When it comes to actually shooting photos, I usually follow a technique that’s used by Hollywood movie producers: show the big picture first and then move on to show the details.
You can accomplish this by using a wide-angle lens to capture the surrounding environment and then gradually switch to telephoto lens to capture the more interesting details.
To make your pictures more interesting, experiment with a lot of viewpoints. For instance, if you are in a market and want to show how crowded the market is, you can choose a high vantage point and shoot downwards. Here’s an example. Below is a picture that I took of Lhasa, Tibet’s capital city. I wanted to give my viewers a general feel of this city so I went to a two-story café and shot from the 2nd floor.
When it comes to shooting details, you have to rely on your instincts. Shoot whatever details you believe will contribute to the story you want to tell. Get close and personal with the subject.
I wanted to show how the people dressed and walked in Tibet so I shot the image below. I know there will be plenty of details to shoot. However, you need to remember that it’s always better to have more photos than you need at this stage. The more photos you have, the more options you will have when you’re selecting the photos later on.
Selecting the Photos
After you’ve captured all the images for your story, it’s time to select a few that best support your story. When it comes to photo selection, I always remember Ansel Adam’s quote: “Twelve pictures a year is a good crop.” This means you only need to show only your very best photos for your stories. Resist the temptation to show too many photos to your viewer.
I generally limit the photos that I show to 10-15 pictures per story or blog post. By limiting the number of photos that I include, I leave my viewer with a feeling of wanting to see more, and this is a good thing.
It also helps to put your photos in a storyline structure. For instance, you might choose 1 photo for the introduction, 6 photos for the conflict and 3 photos for the resolution.
You’ll need to choose the best photo for the introduction part. This photo needs to be the one that can immediately grab your viewer’s attention. A dramatic, unusual photo can do the job well.
Here’s a picture that I chose for the introduction on my Tibet story.
Editing Your Photos
Once you’re done with your selection, it’s time to edit them! My philosophy in photo editing is to make good photos look great, not to make bad photos look good. Photo editing should be done very subtly for maximum impact.
So, make sure you’re happy with your set of photos before you move on to edit them. Here’s a before and after example of my post processing.
The image looks much better after post processing but the amount of post processing that I used was very subtle.
To make your story believable and have more impact, you want people to think that the images that you took came straight out from the camera. This is why you shouldn’t over process your photos.
Presenting Your Photos
Now that you’re done with capturing, selecting and editing your photos, it’s time to share them with the world. Presenting your photos should be easy if you follow a good storytelling structure.
You want to arrange them so it’s easy for people to follow your story. Give them the whole view and then move on to the details. Do this for the introduction, conflict and resolution.