Telling Stories through Images

Storytelling is an integral part of journalism in both the text itself and accompanying images

By Sarah Wells, Sandpoint High School

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Capturing a moment can be as simple as pressing the shutter button or as complex as composing a shot to tell a story through the image itself. In journalism, allowing photos to tell a story alongside the text can be a powerful medium for expressing the visual story of an event. Some basic tips for storytelling through photos include utilizing emotion, shooting a sequence of photos, and making the audience relate or care about the event being depicted.

Utilizing emotion involves capturing a moment at the height of emotional response for the subject of the photo. Viewers can relate to the expressions made by subjects as a form of telling the emotional story of an event. At sporting events, shooting toward the crowd shortly after a point is scored or toward the scorer can yield emotionally-charged photographs. In student life or news photography, looking for peaks in emotion during the event or while with a student subject can yield storytelling photographs as well.

Brianna Jordan, a junior, focuses on the details in her artwork. Even capturing non-typical expressions (not joy, sadness, anger, etc.) like the concentration portrayed here is a method of telling the emotional story of the subject.

Photo by Sarah Wells
Brianna Jordan, a junior, focuses on the details in her artwork. Even capturing non-typical expressions (not joy, sadness, anger, etc.) like the concentration portrayed here is a method of telling the emotional story of the subject.

Amy Shepard, a senior, cheers at the annual Sandpoint v. Bonners Ferry spirit competition, Moose Madness. Crowd photos are sometimes neglected in sporting events, but often a great deal of emotional response can be captured here as well.

Photo by Sarah Wells
Amy Shepard, a senior, cheers at the annual Sandpoint v. Bonners Ferry spirit competition, Moose Madness. Crowd photos are sometimes neglected in sporting events, but often a great deal of emotional response can be captured here as well.

Shooting a sequence allows the photographer to capture a succession of shots that depict action unfolding or show a series of changes. These photographs are also very successful at telling stories when run together in a story.

[Left to Right in Photo] Cooper King (11), Preston Cole (12), and Jackson Russo (12) before Sandpoint High School’s prom. In the left-hand image, King is not taking the “serious photo” seriously; at center, Cole and Russo react to King; at right, a final photo depicts the end result of the shoot. Sequences can be used effectively in sports photography or other fast-action photos, but also in emotional situations like this one. Make sure to depict a beginning-middle-end in these photos as a plot can be captured in a sequence.

Photo by Sarah Wells
[Left to Right in Photo] Cooper King (11), Preston Cole (12), and Jackson Russo (12) before Sandpoint High School’s prom. In the left-hand image, King is not taking the “serious photo” seriously; at center, Cole and Russo react to King; at right, a final photo depicts the end result of the shoot. Sequences can be used effectively in sports photography or other fast-action photos, but also in emotional situations like this one. Make sure to depict a beginning-middle-end in these photos as a plot can be captured in a sequence.

Making the audience care is a subjective concept, but generally entails capturing a situation where the viewer can relate or “care about” the subject in the photo. Photographing an athlete and a coach in an emotionally-charged situation or another close relationship between subjects is one way to do this.

Andy McGinnis, a senior, enters the finishing chute at the home cross country meet. Coach Angie Brass cheers McGinnis on from the left hand side of the image. The audience is persuaded to care about this photograph and the story being told due to the setting of the home meet finishing chute and the connection between coach and athlete.

Photo by Sarah Wells
Andy McGinnis, a senior, enters the finishing chute at the home cross country meet. Coach Angie Brass cheers McGinnis on from the left hand side of the image. The audience is persuaded to care about this photograph and the story being told due to the setting of the home meet finishing chute and the connection between coach and athlete.

Storytelling in photography has the ability to heighten both the emotional response to photographs and build a stronger connection between the reader and the event described itself. While this effect is sometimes overlooked in journalism photography, by using emotion, shooting a sequence, or establishing a reason for the audience to care about the image, storytelling can become an integral part of any photographer’s images.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Telling Stories through Images”

  1. Michelle Harmon on June 4th, 2015 2:50 pm

    Sarah, I really like the three tips on which you focused, and I especially appreciate the example photos you used to convey your suggestions. All are great photos, but I especially liked the prom photo, as I would never have thought about a “grip and grin” photo op turning into a photojournalistic moment if taken in a series. Excellent article!

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