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Photographic Storytelling

Photographic Storytelling

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words 

An English language adage that is used frequently in the photographic world. One that is hugely relevant when creating photographic storytelling, especially if a story needs to be conveyed within a single image.  It requires the skill of a creative photographer to introduce a start, middle and end with a narrative that takes the viewer on a journey.  

In the context of a short film story of say five minutes, at 24fps that generates 7,200 frames or images.

Telling Stories

Stories are an engaging way of communicating that can excite and inspire.  I remember the bedtime stories told by my father, each an invention of his imagination that would conjure up visualisations that I still recall vividly today.  That is the point! those visualisations are linked to an emotion, time and place, and remain memorable many years later.

I personally love telling stories, thinking them through, embellishing with creativity, enjoying the connection that they create with my audience.  As a photographer, this is my core purpose, to influence and engage the viewer with memorable (even iconic) visuals.  

How does a Photographer Tell a Story?

In a Single Frame?

The job of a single frame is to instantly capture the attention of the viewer, maybe make them gasp, but definitely to trigger a binding curiosity.  There is no clear story timeline, but the composition will support a visual flow that starts with a compelling initial focal point.  Once engaged, the journey through the image will depend on the viewers own personal interpretation.  Stimulated by their own life experiences, personal opinions and emotions.  

The viewer may also project beyond the single frame, continue the story for themselves based on their own imagination.

Single frame stories are popular with street photographers, they usually have one shot to capture the essence and often taken instinctively.

This is my street photography image of a couple engaged in conversation.  The water fountain in the foreground has visually frozen the moment but what is their story?  Are they simply taking time out in a busy city? Are they romantically a couple? Are they making up after an argument or his he asking her for a date for the very first time?  In which case, how did she respond?  Is the man sitting in the background looking at them, the photographer or nothing? 

A Series of Documentary Style Images?

The series is similar to the aforementioned short movie.  A set images that provides the narrative for the journey.  The purpose can be varied; a documentary of an event or perhaps to establish a lifestyle around a product or service.  

Each image needs to be impactful, capture a mini story ‘moment’ and maintain the interest of the viewer.  

For events, the use of documentary style photography is powerful.  

Documentation photography is a style used to capture real moments during and event.  They are often candid and a great way to capture the emotions of the people – think of a wedding or engagement at a business function. 

Business presentation and workshop.  What do you learn about the location? How passionate were the presenters about their topic? How engaged were the audience?  If you were looking to hire a company to deliver training, would you consider this business?

Photographs taken at High Wycombe Frogfest 2019.  What does it tell you about the event? Was it fun? Would you go want to attend in 2020?

Less is More

There is a commonality between the single frame and series.  That is; less is more.  Let me explain.

In a single frame, too many details in one shot can quickly feel chaotic making the story hard to determine for the viewer.  The majority will simply give up and move on or worst still not bother to invest their time.

In a series, it is important to aim for a variety of specific moments, maybe vary the edit style. Each image is a mini-story, will be more distinct whilst still maintaining the overall narrative.  Occasionally, you will see photographs posted from an event that include multiple images of a single performer, each image in a slightly different pose.  My advice; keep the best most impactful image and lose the rest.  You risk the viewer becoming bored flicking through what is fundamentally the same image.  Then you lose them.

Some Concluding Thoughts

Visual imagery is a very powerful medium commercially; think of successful brands, think of the imagery they use, and you will recall the stories being told that may have enticed a purchase.  

Alternatively, those of you who will remember the golden age of vinyl records.  How many times would you sit with the album cover looking at the images whilst listening to the music?  I bet that the experience was not just about the music!

As a business, are you using standard stock images to tell the story of your brand or are you using your own bespoke photography?  How would that help?

Storying telling is compelling.  For some it is talking about experiences or writing words, my passion is using a lexicon of imagery within photographic visualisations.  

Btw… I like the use of lexicon in this context 🙂

Emotional Visualisation

Emotional Visualisation

In almost all aspects of my life I am a visual person.  What exactly does that mean?  Well to explain, I have sat in numerous business presentations, PowerPoint decks full of words and in some cases delivered by a presenter re-iterating them verbatim.  Now I can read and listern as well as the next person but replace the words with an image I will immediately get it.

Think about some of the world problems humanity faces today.  How about our glorious oceans being filled with the plastic residue of our humanity, the innocent sea life living in a sullied environment not of their doing.  I have dedicated time reading articles and listening to experts on the news BUT nothing prepared me for the emotional response I had viewing graphic photographs. Images taken by photographers who are really passionate and relate to the essence of the issue. A fish eye view that hit home and left a lasting connection that absolutely visualises the impact and embodies me with the need to respond – a call to action.

 

 

As a photographer it is my purpose to deliver a strong emotional connection to my clients through imagery. They will engage me because they have a positive (hopefully) story to tell, a memory to capture or a key message to visualise and need my help.

When I first meet with a client, I will want to get to know them as a person, to understand the essence of what they want me to capture and story that have to communicate.  They will also have a context, how the images will be used, who the audience will be and what will achieve the greatest impact. Especially so in today’s fast paced connected world where powerful visualisation is critical on the pulse of the moment.  Once briefed, I will add value with my own adaptability, creativity and style to produce the shots that deliver and evoke the desired reaction. Put myself in the shoes of the viewer.

As well as a photographer, I have extensive experience in the commercial world of technology and business.  Having led many software product initiatives and web design projects, worked closely with product and marketing experts, I understand the mechanisms, context of impactful visualisation and power of the social communications platforms.  The right image with the right story to tell and at the right moment can deliver a powerful message, whether a call to action or that emotional trigger.

Previous engagements have included photographing festival events.  Arriving early at the venue to capture the anticipation of the set-up, providing teasing images of the prospect of a fun day out and establishing excitement on social media channels and generate interest. Pictures of the main acts are key but just as important is capturing the energy and fun of the crowds, documentary style images of people, conceptual and unique shots of the venue, branding and the little things that combined together form a narrative for the event.

 

 

As a professional photographer, I use professional camera equipment.  A bulky DSLR camera, weighty bag and lenses as the right tools for the right purpose.  Also, in my back pocket I carry my trusty iPhone loaded with a variety of camera apps and the rather brilliant Snapseed editing tool.  I apply my photographic expertise to take, edit and deliver (or post) creative visualisations within minutes. The ultimate resolution does not provide images for large-scale high-resolution reproduction, but the benefit of immediacy cannot be understated.  A subject perhaps for another blog!

 

 

I believe that this approach is important irrespective of the event; whether a commercial business event, a wedding, a stage shoot or a party.  It does not really matter, there is always a story to tell through creative images.

As a closing note.  Over the years I have posted many images of musicians.  My style is taking close shots with an editing approach to further amplify the raw emotion and individual character in the faces of each performer. These images have been ‘liked’ on social media but what is more important, they have attracted welcome responses and inspiring personal messages – perhaps even an emotional connection?

 

 

In short, I consume concepts visually and therefore I ensure my pictures do the talking.

You can view My Work and how I would Work With You then contact me on hello@neilmarshment.co.uk.

 

 

Snapseed is a complete and professional photo editor developed by Google.  It gives you a ‘darkroom’ in your pocket.

@Snapseed on Facebook.