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From the author of Tip 3: Tell a Story

Tip 3: Tell a Story

Before you read any further, try to think of a famous photo—one that made headlines, won awards, or just was really amazing. It's okay, I'll wait. You got one? Good. Okay, now look at (or think about) the photo very carefully. What draws you in? Why is it so interesting? I bet that you think about more than what's actually in the photo. Great photos tell a story, and those types of images stand out in our memories.

When I did this exercise, the image that pops into my head is Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother." Even if you don't recognize the title, there's a pretty good chance that you've seen the photo (do a quick image search online, and you'll find it right away). It's more than just a portrait of a mother and her children; there's a story behind this photo. It makes me wonder what she's thinking, what her life is like, and why she looks so sad. I feel compassion for her and her children. It's really only a photo of three people, but their expressions and poses make me see more than just the three people in the image.

Creating a photograph that tells a story can be as simple as changing an expression, adding a prop to the scene, or even removing elements. It might happen organically, or due to your direction or placement of your camera. It's one of those things that you may not even recognize until others look at your photos, but when it happens those images stand out, and people pay attention to them. The photo in Figure 3 was taken on a photo walk, when I asked the gentleman if I could take his picture. Two shots—that's all I took, and I got this image. When I posted it online, one person commented that it was "full of stories," and he or she was right! At first I saw this image for its composition, sharpness, colors, and lighting, but behind that was a story that I didn't even know was there.

Figure 3 The man's expression and the serious look in his eyes make this image more than just a simple portrait.

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