Great photographers show – they don’t tell. The more I hear a photographer explain why or what their image is about, the less likely I am to think it’s compelling.
Every year I tackle this subject. It’s not nuts and bolts. It’s conceptual. It’s 30,000 feet thinking. But it’s important to those of you who really want to excel at image-making. Here are a few ideas to elevate the quality of your storytelling with your camera.
1. Make sure you admire the subject of your story. You don’t have to like them (it helps) but you have to admire them.
2. You need an area of focus or interest to key on. Most photographers include too much in their images. Eliminate anything that doesn’t add to the point you want to make.
3. Shoot your story from several points of view and shoot it again and again. You’ll get a better sense of what’s important if you have the perspective of time.
4. Don’t forget the basics. Subject, Attention, Simplify – what’s the subject of your image? How can you draw the viewer’s eye to that subject and then how can you simplify the whole thing?
5. Use tension in your photographs.
6. See the picture(s) in your mind BEFORE you press the shutter. Know what you want to say with your camera and what the final print would look like.
7. Great photographers know what NOT to include in their photos. When in doubt, leave it out.
8. Look at lots of pictures. See what’s being published. See what’s selling. See what you like. Use that to influence your decisions on what stories to tell.
9. Go back to a place five, 10 even 15 times. Make sure you are seeing everything there is to see so you can pick and choose the most important elements to use in your photos.
10. Ask yourself why. Ask why you are about to press the shutter. What is it about THIS photograph that is important? Why do people need to see it? Why do you need to make it?
These tips are just a starting point. If you start to think like a storyteller instead of a photographer, your photography will start to improve.
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