As an NYC fashion photographer, Matthew Mills is no stranger to telling visual stories through his images, and here, he gives his top eight tips to help you to create a story with your photographs.
Whether you’re a hobby photographer hoping to attract more attention, or a professional seeking to help brands to stand out from the crowd by showcasing their marketing story, this expert advice will point you in the right direction to move forwards towards your photography storytelling aims.
1.Including Small Details
If you’re trying to tell a visual story for an individual, how can it be done? The answer lies in the detail. Just a portrait barely touches the sides of the story. Instead, you need to focus on what makes that person tick. For example, a close-up on a gardener’s hands will show dirt from their favorite pastime, or a messy desk covered in paperwork might sum up the life of a harassed business person. When you’re taking photos of a person, include the small details of their life inside the frame to add more depth to their narrative.
2.Aiming For Variety
When you’re taking a series of different shots, you need to aim for lots of variety. Taking many different image styles of a single subject or situation is an excellent way to capture the story of the moment in full. Whether you’re shooting a birthday party, a bustling marketplace or a wedding, focusing on a single photo type won’t be able to give the full flavor of the story. You need wide-angle shots, portraits, shots from down low and up high, action shots and zoomed-in detail. When these are all combined, a full picture of the narrative can be portrayed.
3.Control The Whole Frame
Remember that you aren’t just a photographer – you’re a storyteller. Part of this role involves controlling the entire frame. Thinking about the positioning of your subject isn’t enough. You also need to be aware of everything inside the frame.
No matter the subject of your shoot, you need to plan for success. A shot list is an ideal way to prepare. Just jot a few notes down about shots, subjects and angles and then you’ll know how to get started once you arrive at your shooting location.
5.Narrow Down, Exclude And Trim
Taking hundreds of identical photos and then uploading them all to social media is going to immediately turn any viewer off. You need to be selective. If every shot is similar in setting and theme, even if they’re taken from different angles they’re going to lose the viewer’s attention rapidly. Narrow down your photo library to just your best ten storytelling shots. If you’re selective and share only the very best images, this will give your work a better edge.
Emotions are a vital component in the storytelling process. So, how can you capture them effectively? Faces and people are vital for this. But you can also communicate emotions well through body language. Therefore, capturing entire bodies can work sometimes too.
7.Lighting And Composition Matter
Although storytelling is the main aim of the game here, it’s important to not forget about lighting and composition. It can be very easy to overlook these vital elements when you’re focusing on telling the narrative of your shots, but if you forget these key attributes your images won’t be the best that they could be.
Perhaps the most complex element of storytelling through your photography is the use of narrative structure. To harness its potential, think about how traditional movies and novels work. They’re stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. When you’re taking photographs with a focus on telling a story, bear this traditional structure in mind. How can you get started with this? Why not begin with chronological storytelling?
Try to tell the story of one day – perhaps of an individual, or of a place that you’re very familiar with. Begin in the morning, then continue to take images through the day. You can capture the changes in light as the day progress through to sunset, evening and then night.
Finding Inspiration For Your Storytelling Shots
As a fashion photographer, Matthew finds his inspiration from many different places, using his unique perspective to tell a visual story through his work. If you’re ready to try his storytelling narrative through imagery techniques, the advice and top eight tips that he has provided here should get you off to the best possible start. By following the steps outlined, you should have a good idea of what does into telling a narrative through your shots and how you can capture the full potential of each subject that you shoot to reveal its inner tale.