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