Visual storytelling: When photographs tell stories


Most of the time, photographs are more than just a capture of a fleeting moment. Sometimes motifs seem nothing but randomly chosen and like snapshots. But many photographs underlie a certain concept which is made to display and convey a story. There is a reason for the well-known saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Below, we are going to explain to you, how to take pictures with a strong impact and how to make your photographs more narrative.

Importance of individuality

If you want to tell a story via pictures, there are several aspects you need to pay attention to: Within every individual photograph and its story, you have to focus on a different feature, depending on the goal this picture should reach. However, the individuality and authenticity of every photo is essential. Without those, pictures can be replaced with similar shots and the behind story is lost.

How to tell a story

The story within a photo comes with details. For example, a person’s life story cannot be entirely written by a simple portrait. Details – such as facial wrinkles, grey hair, tatters on the hands, the texture of the clothing or the facial expression – are essential for breathing life into a photo. Details convey depth and give insight into a person’s life and stories. In the beginning, it is essential to set a destination where the journey should begin.

What stories can be told?

Photographs that tell stories are remembered and will be kept in mind. But what motif do we have to choose, if we want to tell the world about it? The following points will give you some examples of motifs which are well suited to be narrated.

Photographs or image documentation of cultural significance convey unique moments and offer a window into an unknown world. In order to represent a culture in its facets, it is important that habits, morale and customs can be seen on pictures. The differences that makes a culture unique have to be portrayed.

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Conflict potential: A picture does not have to be beautiful to tell a story. If a conflict is depicted or if the photo ignites an internal conflict within the beholder, it will spark interest and has the chance to be remembered.

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Emotions: Images that focus on feelings and empathy provide space for interpretation and speculation. For this reason, the portrayal of emotions is a good way to tell someone’s story.

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Basic motif: Stories are told to be heard, or in this case: seen. If the purpose of a photo is to communicate a specific message, this message should be obvious to the beholder at first sight.

If stories are told well, they give us the opportunity to immerse ourselves into them and to feel them as if it were ours. Thus, the imagination is set free and all senses can be activated by just one picture. At the end of the day, however, every story within every photo depends on the observer’s interpretation.

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