The most powerful photograph is the one that connects with both the heart and mind of the reader. It’s the image that our imaginations keep returning to, and keep asking questions about; the image that stirs something in our emotions. That captivation is what prolongs our experience of the photograph, it’s what grabs our souls and won’t let go. It’s more human. And more than ever we need photographs that are deeply human, empathetic, insightful.
We’re drowning in megapixels – beautiful, sharp, megapixels – by the billions. The more photographs that get flung into the world, mostly online, the harder it’s going to be for any single image to connect, to resonate, and to never let go. Our best hope is that we can push past the size of our photographs and create depth. Not bit depth. Emotional depth. Depth of connection. Those will be the images to which we cling, the images that resonate with us and stick.
Once you’ve got your exposure figured out, and can competently focus an image, two things the camera is getting very good at doing, the only thing left is to create something that connects. That’s the human task, the part that requires creativity, soul, and something to say. We do that with composition, with colour, with our choice of moments, and we do it with storytelling.
“Our best hope is that we can push past the size of our photographs and create depth. Not bit depth. Emotional depth. Depth of connection. Those will be the images to which we cling, the images that resonate with us and stick.”
Human beings are storytelling creatures. We find meaning there, we find hope. It’s how we change minds and stir hearts to action. And knowing how to use your camera won’t help you with this. This part of the photographic journey is done with the heart and the imagination, because it’s the heart and the imagination to which we speak on the other side of the image.
In all the gloom about how hard it is to make a living as a photographer, and how de-valued our craft has become, there is hope. That hope is that we have always, and will always, hunger for stories. That hunger is hard-wired into us. You couldn’t stop it if you tried. For the photographer wanting to find deeper relevance and connection to his audience, there are ways to do that powerfully, one of those is storytelling. The more human, the more honest and vulnerable the better.
What story does your work tell? With what bigger story do you feed your audience – on gallery walls, your portfolio, your Instagram feed? How could you tighten that story, edit it down, reduce it to its most powerful elements? How can we make it a little more universal and a little less about ourselves?
Next week I’ll be releasing my latest project, a resource I’ve been working a long time on called The Photographic Story, How To Use Storytelling To Make More Powerful Photographs. It’s an eBook and Companion video designed to help you understand the elements of storytelling and how they can be used to tell more compelling visual stories. I hope it’ll help you push a little deeper in your craft and spark some new ideas. The timing is intentional because the next day I get on a plane for Kenya. I’ve got a couple safaris to photograph then two weeks up north to continue my work with the BOMA Project. So you won’t hear much from me until I’m home and this will give you something to work through. When I get back I’d like to spend some time on Facebook answering your questions and discussing the book, so I’ve set aside February 23 for that. You write questions – about storytelling or any other photographic topic, and I’ll reply as best I can.
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