Why Take Pictures?
Photographers create images for many reasons:
- Fine Art
- Professional Clients
- Personal Pleasure
We can discuss whether a single photograph is compelling or boring. Yet we live in an age of almost infinite visual images. Why do we look at an image? Because our friends or family or someone we find interesting posted it on Instagram? Do we like photos because of qualities in the photography? Or because we like, or want to be liked, by the person who took it? How long do you look at a photo on Instagram? More than one second? Or less?
In fields like
- Social Documentary
- Art Installation
photographers and artists still try to create individually powerful and aesthetic images, but what becomes more important is that each image is part of telling some larger story.
Your Photo Storytelling Project
This week, use any camera, Phone, Mirrorless, DSLR, Film, etc., to tell some story you care about.
Your non-fiction story can be a document of something.
- Your grandfather the tax accountant. What’s his life like? Does he work with clients F2F or on Zoom? You can create a photo story that shows some of the moments of his day.
- Your pandemic or post-pandemic day. Are you in all day? Have you “reopened” and gone back into the world? However you’re handling this moment, documenting this can be meaningful and valuable for your future self.
- And so on! There’s an endless list of things you can document with 6-12 photographs.
Instead of creating a non-fiction photo story, you can make something up. You can cast yourself, or your family, or friends in any story you want to tell.
It also doesn’t have to be people. You could tell a day in your dog’s life. Your Dog Story could be fiction or non-fiction. You might try to accurately depict how your dog lives. Or you might be a bit more whimsical, imagining your dog as a superhero and the Mail Carrier as an evil alien invader.
You can choose any topic. It might be a story with Personal, Campus, City, State, National, or Global interest.
- Your campus group
- Wetlands preservation near Long Beach
- Surfing in Seal Beach
- California Wildfires
- SoCal Drought
- Life in a Family
- One small DACA story
- Climate Change
- or anything else you care about
Take your time to compose each photo in your story. If you go to a big march or rally, you’ll mostly be documenting what you see there. Try to use different camera angles:
- High angle
- Low angle
- Close up
- Wide shot
- “Reverse angle” – when you have more than one image a simple but powerful thing you can do is to show reactions. If a Police Reform Protester is interacting with a Police Officer, you might get that in a single wide photograph. If you have a chance to get close, you can also show body language or facial expressions. If your tiny dog is barking ferociously at a much bigger dog, again, the juxtaposition of their sizes in a single frame can be powerful, but you can also have a close image looking down on your tiny dog and a close image looking up on the big dog.
Even if your story is big, try to keep it small, local, personal. If you want to do a story on Climage Change or Youth Climate Strikes, you probably won’t have the chance to spend time with Greta Thunberg, but if your friends are making posters for a march, or working on how to have smaller carbon footprints, you can create a Photo Story about them.
Your Photostory Project
- 6-12 Images
- 1 (or more) sentence captions for each image
- Post on Canvas
Your photos should have captions. Two sentences are enough. Or, if you’re inspired, you could write more. For non-fiction, your two sentences should answer The 5 W’s:
- Why & How
You can focus your first sentence on the facts of the first 4 W’s: who’s in the photo, what’s going on, when and where was it taken? Your 2nd sentence can cover the Why & How. Explain what we’re looking at. Not every caption has to be unique for non-fiction. You can repeat information if it’s the same in 2 frames.
If your photo story is a fictional story, your captions can be more free form. You might still like to do the 5 W’s if it’s relevant to the way you want to tell your story. But for a fictional story, it might be nice to write narrative captions that guide your viewer-readers along. Your captions might be your dog’s inner monologue as s/he’s going through the day.
Your Canvas Post
- Share your Photostory with Captions.
- Explain why you chose this story?
- How do you think you did?
- Which image do you think is the individually “best” image in your story? Why?
- Does your photostory contain an image that you think is not by itself a “great” image, but that is nonetheless important because it helps to tell your story? How does that image function?
- What would you do different next time?
- Are there other Photo Stories you might like to tell?
We live in a visual world. I’m sure you know the value of video. It’s well worth mastering! But video is time-based. Maybe I don’t want to watch a 5 or 10 or 30-minute video. A photo story is random access and viewer-paced. I can go through your 15 images in 15 seconds or 15 minutes. It depends on what I’m interested in. I can also look at the first 5 images in 5 seconds and then stare at image #6 for longer because it fascinates me, or because it’s important for my role in our work project.
Whether you’re an Industrial Designer, a Dancer, a Sociologist, a Health Care Administrator, an Astronautical Engineer, a Fashion Merchandiser, or a Psychologist, we all have the need to communicate and tell stories. Sometimes storytelling can be a much more engaging way of getting information out. Remember that just because we’re working on a project, and we’re professionals, and we’re getting paid, bored people still don’t retain much. Whatever you have to communicate, if it can be engaging, you will communicate much more effectively.
By mastering the Photo Story you will add one more technique to your Professional Communications Toolkit that you can use to achieve project goals and advance your career.