A picture is worth a thousand words. So does that mean 3 pictures are worth 3000 words? If the photos tell a story, than arguably, the answer is yes. One of the great things about photography is that it can really allow the photographer to tell a story in a series of images that might need hundreds of words to describe. That is why magazines spend time choosing the perfect photos for front covers or to illustrate features, but capturing a series of images to tell a story isn’t easy. You need to avoid repetition whilst ensuring the story or theme is followed through in every photo. One of the best ways to practice and train to do this is using a technique called a 3 picture story where you tell a story in a set of just 3 photographs.
Here’s how it works:
The Big Picture
Your first image will usually be the wide angle photo that captures the general scene. For example, if you are photographing in a market, this might be a photo of the market showing the different stalls. Remember, this needs to work as set of 3 images so it should still convey the story you are telling. Even though you are capturing a wide scene, still keep it relevant to the story. This should be your ‘wow’ photo and often the one that a feature would start with as the opening spread.
Once you’ve captured the wider picture it’s time to start getting more focused on the main subject of the story. This photo should begin to tell the viewer what the main story is focused on. Using the market as an example, if the first photo captures the whole of the market, this photo focuses on one of the market sellers. You need to ensure that it isn’t repetition of the wider photo by just zooming in; think about how you can make the two completely different but part of the same story.
The Close-up photograph
The final photo needs to be a close-up of what is going on and this highlights the key detail of the story. This means you need to get up close to your subject which in turn means having to interact if it is a person (great practice for anyone who is shy). Try to think about what the single focal point of the story is and then think about how best to show it. For example, it could be the person’s hands if they are making something, or it could be the final plate of food that has been made.
The great thing about this technique is that it requires you to use a wide range of photographic technical elements and usually will push people beyond their comfort zone on one of the photos. For example, if you struggle in close-ups, this is a great way to practice to improve. Once you have mastered the 3 photos, you can look to add a fourth or fifth photo if the story requires it, but be aware of repetition. The key is to make sure every photo different and to stand on its own merits whilst also feeling part of the same theme.
Telling a story in a set of photos isn’t easy but can be one of the most effective ways of showing a story. Think about all the times you have looked and newspapers and magazines and got a sense of the story without even reading the words. Like any type of photography, with practice, over time you will get better at creating stories using this technique.
Now it’s your turn. Show us your photo stories below?
Photo Credits: Kav Dadfar (All rights reserved).
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