All three elements are very important in any written story.
These same elements can also heighten the emotions felt by the viewer of a photograph. If we seek to understand these elements better, we can visualize, then create more captivating images.
I have talked previously about elements of story in photos. Check out my post: What the Heck are Focal Points? to read up about subjects/focal points and their importance in your photos. Also, If you haven’t yet taken advantage of my FREE video, click on the button below! This video will teach you about Capturing the Image You Visualize.
I have really been enjoying David duChemin’s eBook, The Photographic Story. He covers several elements of story that can be captured in photos. duChemin says that action might be in the past, present, or future but without the possibility of some kind of action, there can be no story.
Suppose there is some action playing out before you. You have your camera in hand ready to capture the moment. That moment is key! If you can give the action its best expression, someone can look at the resulting photo and know or even feel what just happened, is happening, or is about to happen. Look at this photo by duChemin to see a great example of capturing action.
But how can you catch that perfect moment? One tool that I have recently been exploring on my iPhone is using the burst feature. This is where you just hold the shutter down and many sequential images are taken. You can then analyze these individually, deleting those that don’t “work” and keeping those that have possibilities.
In other instances, look at the scene and the direction the action is about to take place. Where in the frame you catch this action makes all the difference. By leaving some “white space” or empty space in front of where the action is going to happen gives the action room to happen. Strive to make the action as clear as possible but don’t show too much that there is no room for the imagination or for asking questions about the image.
According to duChemin, finding a way to show the relationships between subjects in your photos is key to a story that is shown AND felt! Check out the above links to duChemin’s portfolio to see outstanding examples of this. All of these photos grab you and you can FEEL the relationship between the subjects. In the last one, it’s what is not there that implies a relationship between the man and someone else!
I think there are 2 subject areas where relationships can really be exploited and captured well. That is relationships between members of families and at weddings.
Here is one a photo you may have seen before but does a great job in expressing (implying) relationship
This is my grandson, Lewis, and his other grandma. The fact that you can’t see their faces doesn’t detract from the capture, but enables you to FEEL the connection between them. The light coming in from the window was used wonderfully so we just see mainly silhouettes. Silhouettes can elicit a sense of mystery, a subject we will cover next.
Practically speaking, don’t be afraid to get down on the floor to capture that beautiful moment between 2 siblings (or even the moment where they are fighting!). Fill the frame with their faces so you can see the emotions on their faces. Capture the subjects from a totally different point of view that makes the moment more unique.
Capturing intimacy between a bride and groom can really make a wedding photo special. Check out this photo of my great grandparents on the day of their wedding. This is absolutely my favorite photo of them. I never knew them in person, but other photos I have seen of them really confirm the intimacy you see in this photo and enable me to FEEL their love for one another.
Here is a worthwhile quote of duChemin’s from his chapter on Mystery:
“If I’ve just spent the last 6 chapters arguing for the most intentional use of visual clues and the choices of the photographer to create those to tell a clear story, this is where I remind you again that the most powerful tool you have is the imagination of the reader. How you engage that imagination could be an entirely separate book, but there is a good starting place: mystery.”
He continues to say that the very best stories are the ones that don’t tell us everything but leave something up to the imagination of the viewer and give him/her an opportunity to connect with their own stories. To carry this over into your photography, it means showing less, not more. Check out this photo of a Mysterious man
You as the storyteller, must choose which information you leave the viewer without. If you leave out something important that would help the viewer care about the character, it won’t hook your viewer and you’ll lose his attention.
This is where, stopping to analyze the situation, not just snapping the first picture you see, can help you see (visualize) what would be the best capture. Put your camera up to your eye and move it around putting different parts of the scene in your viewfinder. If you are using a DSLR, don’t use the Live View mode but get your eye right up to the viewfinder!
Put it into Practice
I would highly recommend that you visit duChemin’s portfolio and take some time to really study his photos. Look for how he captures action, expresses relationships, and gives an air of mystery to his images.
Then, the next time you are out taking photos at a wedding, a family reunion, or on the street, try to look for ways to best capture action, relationships, and mystery in your images. Have your camera/iPhone ready, slow down, visualize and tell your stories! Please share your photos below! I am here to help so if you have any questions, use the comment section below.