Consider some of the very most iconic images in history – the sailor kissing the girl in a packed street by Alfred Eisenstaedt, the Migrant Mother holding her children through the depression by Dorothea Lange, Clearing Winter Storm by Ansel Adams. They are all powerful images that tell a story with impact.
Sometimes we want to tell more of a story of a location or an event, where we can take many images and tell far more of the story. This permits us to include extra detail elements, wider scene-setting shots, and have the action covered from different angles or points of view.
Doing this allows new challenges. The entire story needs to produce sense, have a beginning/middle/end sequence, as well as involve some action or conflict and possibly resolution. So the process is not only to take enough images to cover what is happening, but to then blend them into a coherent story helping to make sense to the viewer.
What is visual storytelling?Here are some tips to help you increase the visual storytelling aspects of your images.
1. Answer the five key questions
- What's happening?
- Who's there?
- Exactly why is it happening?
- Where's it happening?
- When could it be happening?
2. Framing a sequence of eventsIn place of attempting to cram everything into one big image, where it can be confusing, shoot a series of more specific shots that relate to one another and tell the story that way.
Sequencing – will there be a group of images you can come up with that tell their own story?
3. Story structureYour visual storytelling needs certain elements included to help it sound right, tell the story you want it to, and engage the viewer. That is called narrative
.Essential elements of story structure include:
- Introduction – Sets the scene, introduces important characters, sets the tone and theme.
- Plot – What's happening, who is it happening to, what are the outcomes?
- Themes – Your images must be linked in obvious, but subtle ways, to one another and this can be done in other ways:
- Visual – Repeating elements (e.g. street signs), color (have a limited color palette or always show some a single color in each image).
- Style – Have a consistent style in the way the images are shot or are processed, using a specific focal length or lens.
- Consistency – Shooting exactly the same subject however in different places or situations (e.g. interesting doorways, statues, manhole covers, all in different cities or countries) or shooting exactly the same subject as time passes (a pregnancy story, or engagement to wedding story).
- Relationships – Between people or elements within an environment.
4. ContextThe connection of all of the images to one another provide the entire context for the story to be structured within and therefore viewed. So when you are building your visual story you must have a notion of the context to frame all of it within. Otherwise, it might be seemingly a group of random images which could or may possibly not be visually related in certain way.
It might be that the short textual description or explanation sets the scene and provides the viewer with enough context to assimilate the images within. However, that option may not at all times be available so plan your story such that it can standalone alone visual merits.