Telling a story using only photographs isn’t as simple as it seems. One cannot simply snap a photo every few seconds, put them in a gallery and expect the job to be done. Photographic storytelling requires quite a bit of planning, luck, adapting and presence. Most importantly, the story that you are trying to tell must be visually and contextually compelling enough to get the viewer’s attention at any given point. Snapshots, cliche compositions and tons of photos just won’t work.
When you are telling a story or writing one, you aren’t choosing the simplest and most commonly used sentences, but you are trying to use a more artistic approach to the express yourself in order to amplify the emotions and describe the scenes as accurately as possible. If you don’t do that, then the story loses value, the listeners/readers lose their attention and you fail to deliver the message.
The same principles work for visual storytelling. You need to capture every important moment with the right surroundings while filtering out the noise – and by noise, I don’t mean image noise, I am referring to information noise – in order to present new part of the story with every consecutive image.
However, problems arise since you don’t always have the privilege of planning up front, and just shoot afterwards. As in every story, there are plot twists and unpredictable elements (such as the human factor, weather, and so on) which will call for changes on the go. You will shoot way more than you will actually need, but when it comes to the final product you will have to select smartly.
When I read a story, my mind often generates images with the words I read, but those images aren’t similar to short movies, but it is more like a series of photographs, each describing the most compelling parts of the story. That is how one photo story should look like. One photo should represent a bigger part of the story. That means there is no place for alternative angles or unnecessary photos.
Retouching should be top notch. Removing all unnecessary elements, distractions and imperfections are crucial since everything that can take away from the viewer’s attention will do so and it will hurt your storytelling skills and portfolio.
Once you have the photos it is time to make the selection, and if you follow the guidelines mentioned before you’ll come up with 1/10th of the photos shot. Now the key part is presenting them properly. If you are making an online gallery, make sure the photos appear large, in high definition and in the correct order. On the other hand, if you are planning to print them for a photo book or an exhibition, make sure you prepare the photos right for print and print them in the highest quality possible.
There is no point bothering to do a photo story if you mix up the order, or if the pictures are just good enough. I am aware that all this might sound too complicated and too strict – that is because it is. Visual storytelling is a demanding style, but widely known and recognised one, too. Nicely put story brings lots of attention, credibility, and coverage which pretty much could boost your portfolio sky high.