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Visual storytelling pictures are my favourite type of photos to create. I absolutely love photos that make me stop and really think about what is going on in the image. In my opinion, visual storytelling is the difference between a normal photo and art.
But what is a visual storytelling picture ? Different people may have different opinions, but my definition of visual storytelling is, put simply,: a photo that tells a story. It’s a photo that looks like it could be a movie still. It’s a photo that looks like a scene out of a novel. It’s a photo that implies something more is going on than just posing in front of a camera.
There are many different ways to story tell in your photos depending on what your strengths are and what you like doing the most! I personally like to story tell in a number of different ways and mix them all together to keep things interesting and exciting!
But before we get onto that, and before you even start creating a visual storytelling image, you first HAVE to ask yourself a very important question: What is the story you are trying to tell?
You need to have some sort of idea of what you want to say in your image. Otherwise, the photo loses all of its meaning. Knowing what story you want to tell will also help with everything else; the styling, what poses, your facial expressions, the location, etc.:
For example, if you want to tell a story of a woman running away from war in the 1940s, you’re probably not going to want to wear modern jeans and t-shirt. Similarly, if you want to do an Alice in Wonderland inspired photo, you will probably want to wear a blue dress in order to hone in on the theme.
Once you know what story you want to be telling, that’s when you can get onto the fun stuff.
Everything in your photo wants to make sense in the story, the clothes you are wearing, the location, the props – everything. I like all of my photos to have a vintage theme to them, so I will never be wearing modern looking clothes and hardly ever have anything modern in them. That’s just my style, but you can totally tell a story with a modern theme!
So here are my tips on creatine storytelling photos.
If you’re struggling with what story you want to be telling, start with props. Using a prop can make a world of difference and make a pretty ‘boring’ (for lack of a better word) photo into something with a story.
Take using an old camera as a prop for example. Using this old camera gives you something to do. You can be looking like you’re taking a photo of something in the distance that the viewer can’t see.
Don’t have to stop with just one prop either. Add a vintage suitcase to this shot with the old camera and it adds a whole new layer; where is this person going? Did they just stop at the side of the road to get a quick snap? What is this person doing?
Props are SO helpful when it comes to storytelling. You can either use a bunch or only use a couple, depending on what you prefer or what the story demands. I tend to keep my props minimal so there’s less to focus on, but there are times when I want to include more props. For example, to imply chaos.
Don’t underestimate the Styling!
Styling in visual Storytelling Pictures
I would argue that one of the most important parts of storytelling is what you are wearing and how you have styled yourself. Sometimes, you can just tell a story with the clothes you are wearing.
“What am I going to wear?” Is actually one of the first questions I ask myself. It’s sometimes a question that can take me hours to answer, and I sometimes might even have to do a reshoot as I don’t always get it right! I’ve been wearing dresses a lot recently as the movement can add a whole other dimension to the photo. However, dresses won’t always work for a photo. For my Sherlock series for example, I pretty much only wore suits and trousers – it all depends on what works best for your story!
One thing is for sure though, the styling has to match the story you are going for, or it can really pull the viewer out of the photo!
pOSING fOR visual STORYTELLING PICTURES
I think posing is a very personal thing. It needs to be something you are comfortable with otherwise your uncomfortable-ness will come across in the image.
Myself I am an introvert, so you will never see me doing ‘loud’ poses where I’m jumping about and looking happy. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it just isn’t my style. My images are always very ethereal and romantic, and I think a lot of that has to do with the poses I do.
When posing for your photo, think back to your story: What story am I telling? How could I put that across in my photo? What would I do in this situation?
What I find helps me pose is I come out of myself. I no longer am ‘Bronte’, I become a character. This helps stop me overthinking too much!
I also hardly every look right into the lens of the camera, as I feel this is a little bit like breaking the fourth wall in a movie, it brings the person out of the photo. You’ll usually find me looking down or looking off to the side as this gives the impression that you’ve just captured a candid moment and there is something else going on outside of the photo.
I also think photos taken of the back of you work super well too. This adds anonymity to the photo.
Location is also super important when it comes to creating a storytelling image.
Now obviously, we can’t always get to our dream locations in mind so you may have to do a bit of improvisation and get creative with your locations. I’m personally loving field locations at the moment because they could literally be anywhere in the world. But you may find the perfect location in a place you never thought of – you just have to keep an open mind! For example, I didn’t go to London once during my Sherlock themed photos. Instead, I used old parts of my home town and parts of the Crich Tramway Museum, and I think they worked so well!
Now I may be biased, but I would say that editing may be one of the most important parts of visual storytelling. It’s what brings the photo to life, it’s what creates the mood of the photo. It’s the finishing touch of an image!
I personally believe that editing is also a very personal experience. The way I like to edit may not be the way you like to edit, the way I like my colours may not be how I like my colours. Like I said, very personal!
However, there are some rules that I follow when I’m wanting to create a certain vibe in a photo. For example, If I want the photo to look super dreamy, I’ll give the photo a blue, pink, or purple tint as it adds a very ethereal look.
You can also create storytelling in Photoshop too! There’s been many times where I’ve added things that aren’t actually there in Photoshop in order to enhance a story, or create the story! If I feel like a photo is missing something, I’ll ask myself if there is anything I can add to make the photo look more interesting. This means I will usually add something into the sky, or change what the sky looks like in order to add a different vibe or create a story.