Four Ways to Tell Stronger Stories

David duChemin

One of the ways we can make our photographs connect more powerfully with an audience is to tell stories. Stories have been used by humans to create order from chaos, assign meaning to events, and to entertain, for thousands of years. We are, many have said, storytelling creatures. How we tell stories with our photographs is a much broader discussion than one blog post could cover, but here are four things you might want to consider as you seek to tell better stories.
Great Characters
All stories have characters, but the best stories have characters we can empathize with, characters we care about, or find interesting. Those characters don’t have to be human; they can be dogs, trees, even inanimate objects, but they do have to arrest our attention in some way. If we don’t care for one reason or another, the story won’t land. Characters that are doing something, or through which some action is implied, will be stronger than characters where nothing is happening - story always has action, or change. 
 
Great Settings
A great background is like a great stage. It still needs characters if it’s going to tell a story (remember, not all photographs have to tell stories; story is only one way of connecting to an audience). A great setting is one that has some kind of connection to the characters. It gives us more information, provides visual clues about the story, or even provides juxtapositions or contrasts that draw our curiosity. If you find a great background, it’s worth waiting around until the characters appear. 
Conflict or Contrast
Stories always have conflict of some kind. No conflict, no story. In the single still image this can be hard to achieve unless you’re photographing actual conflict. But conflict can appear in the contrasts of an image. Where dark meets light. Where happy emotion meets anger. Where girl meets boy or young meets old. It’s in the differences that we find the suggestion of story, and the stronger those differences the greater the potential of arousing the readers curiosity and imagination, which are the strongest tools we have as story tellers. 
Theme
Stories are always about something. Know what your photograph is about, and you’ll be closer to knowing how to make the story stronger by including or excluding the right elements. For example, if your photograph is of your children, but you want it to be about play or childhood, you will choose certain backgrounds, light, perspectives, and moments to best tell that story. Wedding photographers do this well when the moment is so strong and the mood is so striking that the image becomes about more than one particular couple; it becomes about love and intimacy itself. The more human and more universal the theme, the larger the audience who will meaningfully experience the photograph. I might not resonate with a photograph of two of your friends getting married because I don’t know them, but with the right moment and emotion creating a sense of story about love, I can enjoy the image and never know the people represented.

David duChemin is the founder and Chief Executive Nomad of Craft & Vision. A world and humanitarian photographer, best-selling author, speaker, and adventurer, David can be found at DavidduChemin.com

Craft & Technique David duChemin

← Older Post Newer Post →


Comments


  • Great article! This is a topic I am really focusing on this year.

    Jerry Hildeman on
  • Nice to watch your vlog. great picture i am a photographer in noida

    ram on

Leave a comment

  1. Understanding The Stages
  2. Conceptually Speaking: A Word With Claire Rosen
  3. Best Places
  4. Thinking Less Literally
  5. Vision Is Better, Ep. 63
  6. An Iconic Photograph, or a Photographed Icon?
  7. Thinking in Monochrome
  8. Vision Is Better, Ep.62
  9. Vision Is Better, Ep.61
  10. Making the Image: Kathleen Clemons
  11. Night Ranger: A Word With David Kingham
  12. Understanding the Night Sky
  13. Vision Is Better, Ep.60
  14. The Value of Critique
  15. Capturing the Moment
  16. Vision Is Better, Ep.59
  17. Five Key Elements of Food Photography
  18. Using Flash That Doesn't Look Lit
  19. Vision Is Better, Ep.58
  20. Using Flash To Improve Your Photographs
  21. Five Tips for Using Off-Camera Flash
  22. Vision Is Better, Ep.57
  23. Finding Critics
  24. Street Life: A Word With Libby Holmsen
  25. Using the Frame
  26. The Photographer's Tools
  27. Backlight: The Art of Silhouettes
  28. Vision Is Better, Ep.56
  29. Understanding Perspective
  30. Vision Is Better, Ep.55
  31. In Conversation: Sharon Covert
  32. Create Projects + Collaborate
  33. Mirrors or Windows?
  34. 2018 Mentor Series Workshop: Varanasi, India
  35. F/ The Rules
  36. Drawing the Eye With Selective Focus
  37. In Conversation: Willem Wernsen
  38. Exposing for Highlights
  39. Using Fill Light to Create Dramatic Portraits
  40. Cameras Don't Make Photographs
  41. Shooting with Your Final Image in Mind
  42. 10 Ways to Make Better Black and White Photographs
  43. 2018 Maasai Mara Photographic Safari
  44. 2018 Mentor Series Workshop: Lalibela, Ethiopia
  45. Start With the Corners
  46. Creating Painterly Images with Movement and Multiple Exposures
  47. Using the Guided Upright Tool in Lightroom
  48. The Power of Photographing Icons
  49. In Conversation: Susan Burnstine (Part II)
  50. In Conversation: Susan Burnstine (Part I)
  51. Controlling Your Edit with Lightroom's Tone Curve
  52. Making the Image: David duChemin
  53. 3 Ways to Make More Honest Portraits
  54. The Adjective-Driven Approach to Photography
  55. In Conversation: Oded Wagenstein
  56. Making the Zone System Work for You
  57. Ten (More) Ways to Improve Your Craft
  58. Reference View: A New Way to See in the Lightroom Develop Module
  59. In Conversation: Laurent Breillat
  60. The Best 3 Filters for Landscape Photography
  61. Creating Classical Portraits with Simple Lighting
  62. Photographic Processing and Believability
  63. Visual Storytelling: An Introduction
  64. Making the Image: Piet Van den Eynde
  65. In Conversation: Satoki Nagata
  66. Use Repeating Elements for Stronger Images
  67. In Conversation: Kate Densmore
  68. One (More) Reason To Use Adobe's Creative Cloud
  69. Three Ways to Use Backlight
  70. 2017 Rome Mentor Series Workshop
  71. 2017 Venice Mentor Series Workshops
  72. Controlling Foreground to Background Presence
  73. Making the Image: David Adam Edelstein
  74. In Conversation: David Adam Edelstein
  75. Using Contrast for Stronger Images
  76. Three Ways to Make Better Portraits
  77. How to Direct the Eye in Your Photographs
  78. How to Improve Your Street Photography
  79. In Conversation: Piet Van den Eynde
  80. Starting Your Next Personal Project
  81. Five (More) Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography
  82. Five Creative Exercises to Improve Your Photography
  83. Three (More) Ways To Discover Your Vision
  84. Four Ways to Discover Your Vision (Part I)
  85. Three Ways to Make Stronger Black & White Images in Lightroom
  86. In Conversation: Cristina Mittermeier
  87. How to Add Mood to Infrared (and other) Photographs
  88. In Conversation: Paul Nicklen
  89. Four Ways to Tell Stronger Stories
  90. In Conversation: John Paul Caponigro
  91. Master the Art of Seeing and Improve Your Photography
  92. Adding Light with the Radial Filter in Lightroom
  93. The Power of Abstraction
  94. In Conversation: Anja Büehrer
  95. Five Ways to Add More Depth to Your Portraits
  96. Four Ways to Make Stronger Travel Photographs
  97. In Conversation: Martin Bailey
  98. Learn to Isolate
  99. Gear Is Good
  100. In Conversation: Dave Brosha
  101. For the Love of Your Photographs
  102. Working with Target Collections in Lightroom
  103. Review: Epson P800
  104. Seeing: Receptive & Observant
  105. Better Questions
  106. Siri? Ask Lightroom!
  107. Wake Up.
  108. In Conversation: David Jackson
  109. Photographic Skills: Patience
  110. In Conversation: David duChemin
  111. 2017 Jodhpur Mentoring Workshop
  112. 2017 Maasai Mara Safari
  113. Rome 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  114. Florence 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  115. Venice 2016 Mentoring Workshop
  116. Vision Is Better, Ep.54
  117. Vision Is Better, Ep.53
  118. Vision Is Better, Ep.52
  119. Vision Is Better, Ep.51
  120. Vision Is Better, Ep.50
  121. Vision Is Better, Ep.49
  122. Vision Is Better, Ep.48
  123. Vision Is Better, Ep.47
  124. Vision Is Better, Ep.46
  125. Vision Is Better, Ep.45
  126. Vision Is Better, Ep.44
  127. Vision Is Better, Ep.43
  128. Vision Is Better, Ep.42
  129. Vision Is Better, Ep.41
  130. Vision Is Better, Ep.40
  131. Vision Is Better, Ep.39
  132. Vision Is Better, Ep.38
  133. Vision Is Better, Ep.37
  134. Vision Is Better, Ep.36
  135. Vision Is Better, Ep.35
  136. Vision Is Better, Ep.34
  137. Vision Is Better, Ep.33
  138. Vision Is Better, Ep.32
  139. Vision Is Better, Ep.31
  140. Vision Is Better, Ep.30
  141. Vision Is Better, Ep.29
  142. Vision Is Better, Ep.28
  143. Vision Is Better, Ep.27
  144. Vision Is Better, Ep.26
  145. Vision Is Better, Ep.25
  146. Vision Is Better, Ep.24
  147. Vision Is Better, Ep.23
  148. Vision is Better, Ep.22
  149. Vision is Better, Ep.21
  150. Vision is Better, Ep.20
  151. Vision is Better, Ep.19
  152. Vision is Better, Ep.18
  153. Vision is Better, Ep.17
  154. Vision is Better, Ep.16
  155. Vision is Better, Ep.15
  156. Vision Is Better, Ep.11
  157. Vision Is Better, Ep.10
  158. Vision Is Better, Ep.09
  159. Vision Is Better, Ep.08
  160. Vision Is Better, Ep.07
  161. Vision Is Better, Ep.06
  162. Vision Is Better, Ep.05
  163. Vision Is Better, Ep.04
  164. Vision Is Better, Ep.03
  165. Vision Is Better, Ep.02
  166. Vision Is Better, Ep.01

Related Articles

Related Resources


Categories
Adam Blasberg Adobe Alexandre Buisse Andrew S. Gibson Andy Biggs Anja Büehrer Bret Edge Bruce Percy Claire Rosen Craft & Technique Creative Cloud Creativity Cristina Mittermeier Dave Brosha David Adam Edelstein David duChemin David Kingham Duncan Fawkes Guy Tal Henry Fernando Interview Jason Bradley John Paul Caponigro Kate Densmore Kathleen Clemons Laurent Breillat Libby Holmsen Lightroom & Photoshop Making the Image Martin Bailey Michael Frye Nathan Wirth Natural Light Oded Wagenstein Paul Nicklen Piet Van den Eynde Podcast Project Nimbus Rafael Rojas Satoki Nagata Sean McCormack Sharon Covert Sherri Koop Simi Jois Street Photography Susan Burnstine Vision is Better Show visual storytelling Willem Wernsen Workshop Younes Bounhar Zone System