Stories are integral to human culture, and storytelling is a timeline. In photographic practice, visual storytelling is often called a photo essay or photo story. It’s a way for a photographer to narrate a story with a series of photographs.
If we consider storytelling as art then, as Leo Tolstoy said, it should be utterly infectious, where it infects the viewer with the feelings, he or she has lived through so that other people are affected in turn by these experiences. The phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words itself justifies the art of visual storytelling. However, this doesn’t mean all photographs narrate a story.
In visual storytelling, images are ordered in a specific way, either chronologically or as a series, with the aim of ‘infecting’ the viewer’s vision and mind. Captions are also an integral part of a photo story that should help the viewer understand each image. That said, it is important to remember that while captions may expand your understanding of an image, it’s the image itself that should tell the story never the other way round.
1: Plan, plan and plan some more
Planning is an essential part of the process for visual storytelling. “What your mind does not know, your eyes can’t see.” This is probably most apt when planning your photo essay. You must plan well ahead to visualize the story. Taking these steps beforehand will give the structure you need for your narrative. Your images won’t be completed without understanding the light, composition, and choice of photo gear for your chosen subject.
2: Single shot or a series?
Often ‘it’s a point of discussion on photography forums whether one narrates better stories with a single image versus a series of images. In this regard, ‘it’s important to remember that a single image is only a “half-truth” because it never tells you the fundamental of a story.
3: Be original
Originality in photography seems to be becoming secondary for some photographers. It’s not always easy to create something unique with the huge number of images that are created these days. However, it’s good practice to strive for originality. Why? Well, there’s really no satisfaction in copying someone else’s work. We’ve all copied someone else’s idea, or been inspired by an image we’ve found online or in a magazine, it’s a human trait, although to stand out from the crowd one should keep this in mind when shooting especially if you want your photo series to stand out.