The ability to tell a story with your photographs can make the difference between money in the bank, and finding yourself just another starving artist when it comes to trying to make a living with your photography. Some photographers see things as a matter of old school versus new school style of photography. That is to say that today’s technology allows us to go way beyond what was ever possible in the past. This much is true of course, but some things haven’t changed, and that’s what buyers of both editorial photography and fine art want from YOUR photographs.
Let’s get down to business here and discuss the actual “doing” of creating photographs that tell a story. . .
As I mentioned in the two previous journal entries, this concept is somewhat abstract and certain the notion of what does and what does not tell a story is wholly subjective. There is no perfect formula for creating these types of photographs. However, we can certainly discuss and analyze the key concepts that go into these types of photograph.
- Environment. Animals artfully composed within their environment gives the viewer a since of place. Take that same animal and have it interacting with its environment somehow and you have something special to work with. This interaction could be trudging through deep snow, gazing at a beautiful sunset, struggling to climb a mountain, navigating a river, etc. . . All of these things tell the story of your wildlife subject. They show the viewer the reality of life in the wild for this animal. They show the everyday struggles for life, or beauty of life, that this animal must face on a seemingly daily basis.
- Interaction. Interaction between two animals, especially when those two animals are of two different species also helps to tell a story. Interaction is the key to our existence on Earth. We associate with it. We understand it on a cellular level. We can relate to it. Interaction tells a story, it gives the viewer something to pause over, use their own imagination in regards to what the interaction is over, and become immersed in the life and times of your subject.
- Action. Action can be a little bit of both of the above concepts. Action can be between two or more animals, or it can be solo but with the added punch of the environment. Two bear cubs standing on hind legs, mouths agape, is action. A duck blasting off of a golden pond at sunset is action. A wild horse galloping through water is action. Yes, a bird in flight is technically action, however unless there is something else going on in the photograph that helps to grab attention and interest of the viewer, it’s a static image with no story to tell.
For us wildlife photographers, telling a story with our image is all about showing the realities of life for our subjects. Some stories are stronger than others. Only time spent in the field with your subject will give you those truly powerful stories that will endure the test of time.
You see, telling a story with your images is much like telling a story with words. It has to be engaging, and there HAS TO BE A PLOT! If you look at your photograph and cannot make read a story out of it instantly, then its not going to capture the attention of photo buyers. Its like newspaper writing in a since. Newspaper journalists are taught to write the key points to a story right in the first paragraph in order to grab your attention and summarize for those in a hurry, all in one shot. Your photograph needs to be the same way in order for it to tell an effective story.