10 Ways to Tell a Story Through Photography

I’ve noticed that my photography voice and style change over the years and between seasons. One season I was all about the angles. Another season I was all about light and airy photography. Now, I’m all about dark and rustic photography. What will my voice and style be next season? At this moment, I’m not sure but I can promise you that I will embrace it and welcome the challenge. Why? Because those styles help me tell a story. How do you embrace your photography style to tell a story?

When it comes to photography, as Elliott Erwitt said:

“Photography is an art. It has little to do with the things that you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”


The beautiful thing about photography is that it is an expression. What you see and what I see might be the same in terms of objects and settings. However, the way we express those objects and settings on film might be completely different due to angles, story lines, mood, light, and exposure.

To put things into perspective, when it comes to:

Landscape Photography: You might focus on the overall landscape while I focus on a fence in the foreground.

Portrait Photography: You might focus on a person’s features while I focus on the lighting and how it casts shadows.

Food Photography: You might catch bright light while I highlight the rustic feeling of the dish by focusing on less light.

So, even though it’s a single setting with objects throughout the setting, each person, when holding a camera up to his or her eye, will focus on a different part of the object and/or setting. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The beautiful thing about photography is that the photographer has the ability to capture what is beautiful to him or her.

10 Ways Tell a Story Through Photography

1.) Embrace your emotions

Are you feeling happy or sad? More often than not, when you embrace your emotions, your photography will reveal those emotions and your photographs will not only have a deeper meaning to you but also to the viewers of the photograph.

2.) Slow down

Thanks to digital photography, people are shutter button happy. Click, click, click goes the shutter button with very little rhyme or reason. Instead of clicking away, take a step back and analyze the setting. Ask yourself what story you want to tell and what features you want to highlight in order to help tell the story. Don’t start photographing settings and objects until you have given some thought to the end result.

3.) Find the light

Photography is all about capturing the light. Why not use the light to help you tell your story? Also, you can use the light to help you embrace your emotions in your photography. A dark setting will exude cold emotions whereas a bright setting will reveal a lighter feel to the photograph’s setting. You can also use your camera’s setting to either crank up or decrease the amount of light that your camera captures. Lately, I tend to decrease the amount of light to give a more rustic feel to my photographs.

4.) Be yourself

There are so many different types and styles of photography. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If something speaks to you, photograph it. If something is meaningful to you, photograph it. If something reveals your emotions, photograph it. Always have a camera nearby and use it often. By being comfortable with your camera and having it nearby, you’ll have a better chance of capturing your story.

5.) Capture the perfectly imperfect

You don’t always have to capture the perfect smile or look. You don’t have to wait for the pedestrian to get out of your landscape photograph. You don’t have to clear away all of the crumbs in your food photography setting. Those perfectly imperfect imperfections are what help you tell a story in your photograph. Photographing a grumpy baby will capture the child in a state that is unforgettable. The pedestrian in the foreground of your landscape photograph will reveal where you’re at and the movement of the scene. The crumbs in the food photograph will set a scene that is welcoming, cozy, and rustic.

6.) Change your perspective

Everyone can hold a camera up to his or her eye, focus on the subject, and click the shutter button. That sounds boring, right? Instead, crouch down, kneel, stand up on a chair … think about your perspective and figure out a way to capture a unique angle to help you tell the story. Plus, you can squeeze in a few yoga poses while trying to capture the story. What’s not to love?

7.) Capture details

Instead of taking one photograph of the object or scene, add to that story by also capturing details of that scene. A few years ago while my husband and I were wine tasting in Napa Valley in celebration of his 30th birthday, we were at a winery enjoying a glass of (you guessed it) wine. When I told the owner that it was my husband’s birthday, he invited us to the back to get a lesson in wine making. He even pulled wine straight from the barrels to allow us to experience and taste the different steps that the wine goes through before being bottled. Talk about an unforgettable moment. The photos throughout this post tell the story of that incredible experience.

8.) Figure out the uniqueness

Think about the major landmarks of the world. From the the Eiffel Tower to the Grand Canyon, there are countless photos of these landmarks. Of course, you’ll want to capture the traditional photo of these landmarks. But, after you’ve captured that image, take a step back and try to find a unique aspect that hardly anyone captures on film. That unique feature will add so much to your photographic story.

9.) Shoot every day

The more comfortable you are with your equipment, the better you’ll become at capturing photos. Events, expressions, lighting tends to happen in an instant and then they are gone. Instead of missing that moment due to not being comfortable with your camera and settings, you’ll be at the ready to capture every element of your photographic story.

10.) Research styles

So many people can get stuck in a rut when it comes to photography. With websites like Pinterest, instead of getting stuck, look at what other people are doing with photography to help you find your style and voice. By looking at other works of photography, you can separate your likes from your dislikes, discover new perspectives, and uncover a new way to tell a story.

What’s your favorite photography storytelling tip?

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