6 Tips for Storytelling Photography

Although I love to take posed portrait images, my main photography inspiration comes from my desire to capture those mundane, everyday moments with my son. I want these photographs to be able to transport me back to the day the photo was taken, to that very moment in time. Whilst most definitely a single image can do that, I regularly find myself telling these everyday “stories” through several shots. When viewed together, these images allow me to create a more meaningful collection of memories than a single image could. There are several types of images that I try to take when storytelling, which I thought I would share with you today.

1. The Introductory Shot
First off, I usually take a couple of shots help set the scene. Generally, this is a wider shot that shows where the activity is taking place – a pullback of sorts that shows where we are and what we are doing. However, this can be of a photo of just one detail – for example the box of cake mix if we are baking cakes, or the table set with paints and blank paper.

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch

2. The Detail Shot
I love detail shots and will generally take a few of these, depending on how much time I have and how many things I want to capture. This could be little hands holding the paintbrush, or pictures of the paints themselves, or a brow furrowed in concentration – anything that shows the smaller elements of the story that can help to pull everything together.

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch-2

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch-3

3. The Portrait Shot
I nearly always try to get a clear shot of my son’s face – the more natural this is, the better, so I will never ask him to look at the camera for this. However, I will try to position myself so that the light on his face is the most flattering it can be. Many times when shooting indoors, the background is pretty messy (and I generally don’t tidy up, for photos, or in life for that matter) so I normally use a very shallow depth of field to blur out what’s going on in the background.

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch-4

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch-5

4. The Moment Shot
This can take a bit of patience! This is the shot where you get a great expression, or a momentary connection between two people, or capture the apex of an activity. In the photo below, it’s my son’s expression and the fact that he is in mid bite that makes this as a “moment” shot for me.

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch-6

5. The End Shot
I always try to remember to wrap up the story with a final photograph. This could be photographing the end result, such as the finished picture we were painting, or the mess that was left behind, or the cakes cooling on the rack. This can be of whatever seems like a natural place to end your story, in this case, his half finished lunch.

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch-7

6. Getting it all in ONE shot
Some times, less is more. If moving in and around my subject would disturb the scene too much, or I can say everything I wanted in one shot, then I will leave it at one. For example the photo below has everything I need to remember that moment – the pajamas tell me it’s morning, the toast in his hand that he’s eating breakfast, the wideness of the shot shows me he’s up on my dryer looking out into the garden through the window. I don’t even need to see his face to know that he is content. Whilst this would make an excellent introduction shot, and from here I could have gone to photograph his face, his toast, his feet etc. – doing so would have ruined the peaceful mood, and therefore changed the very thing I wanted to capture.

Storytelling photography by Audrey Yates via Click it Up a Notch-8

Some other tips to help with your storytelling:

-A “story” doesn’t need to be of a special day or a big adventure – even small insignificant moments (like having eggs for lunch ) can be told as a story. Our most cherished memories are often from everyday moments.

-You can tell long stories (for example a day in the life project) or short ones like the one shown above, which happen over just a few minutes.

-Shoot from a variety of angles– above, below and from both sides, wide and close up. Mix it up!

-Rather than trying to remember the above as a shot list, simply think about having a beginning, middle and an end, or even the classic storytelling principles of who, where, when, what and why.

-Try to position yourself and your subjects so you have the most flattering light. Shooting indoors always means high ISO’s for me so I try to over-expose a touch to keep noise at a minimum.

-I don’t tidy up around my subjects, because I want the scene to be as real as possible – but if you do, make sure that you are not removing elements that help tell the full story or just add something to it.

-Shoot from the heart. When you try to photograph to a formula, your photos won’t have the same resonance when you look back on them in ten or twenty year’s time. The above series is far from being technically or compositionally perfect, but it works for me because I can both see and feel that moment in time in these images, despite all the things I could or should have done differently.

Read more about storytelling photography

- Creativity Photography Exercise: Perspective for Storytelling
- Creating a photo essay

Audrey YatesAudrey – Guest Writer
Hi! I’m a stay-at-home mom and hobbyist photographer, who loves to try to capture the beauty in simple everyday moments and things. Life has a habit of flying past you without you even realizing it, so photography is my way of slowing it down and soaking up as much of it as I can.
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Hiring a Photographer Abroad


Have you read our two previous posts on travel photography? Be sure to check those out.
Travel photography: What to pack
Travel photography: 12 Tips for Europe

Shortly after we booked our trip to Europe, I knew I wanted to hire a photographer to capture my husband and I in Paris. After all, we were going to celebrate our 10 year anniversary and I have always dreamed of having photos taken in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Why hire a photographer abroad?

You have seen the typical vacation photos, one person in the picture in front of the Eiffel Tower, then the other person in the picture in front of the Eiffel Tower. I knew I wanted images of my husband together in Paris. At cafes, in front of the Eiffel Tower, and walking around. I wanted to have our time their captured in a way that I knew I wouldn’t be able to do.

I didn’t have to worry about making sure I always handed over my camera to have proof that I was there because we had a photography session. Not only was there proof but there was proof we enjoyed our time.

Plus, I was spending all that money to go on the trip, I wanted proof that we were there. I plan on hiring a photographer each time we travel abroad to capture our time in different cities.

Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch
Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch

What to look for when hiring a photographer abroad

1. Find someone who speaks your language.
I knew we needed to find a photographer who spoke English. What little French I took in high school, I knew it wouldn’t be enough to communicate with the photographer. I quickly searched “English speaking Paris Photographer”. Besides Google, Clickin’ Moms CMPro section has a place for you to look for photographer by location and speciality.

2. Ask for recommendations.
The first photographer I found, I really liked. I emailed her but she was booked when we would be in town. She kindly recommended three of her friends and I’m so thankful she did. That is how we found our AMAZING photographer, Katie Donnelly.

3. Pick a date towards the end of your trip.
If possible, choose to do your photo shoot towards the end of your trip. This allows you to go back to any of your favorite locations to have your photos taken there.

4. Plan on waking up early.
If you are in a big city and want photos in front of a huge tourist attraction, then you will want to get their early.

5. Communicate your vision.
Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer for location suggestions. I loved that Katie gave us some ideas of some places off the beaten path. I didn’t want to only capture the big tourist attractions but I wanted to capture a little of the uniqueness that is Paris.

6. Create a Pinterest board of THEIR work
I pinned images from her website. I was hiring Katie because I adored her work, so why would I pin things from other photographers? I went back through her blog and galleries to look at past sessions. The posing, location, light, and feel and pinned those images. Then I emailed her my pin board to help give her a clear vision of what I loved about her work and what I was hoping to be able to capture in my own images. If you can’t find at least 5-10 images that you adore of theirs that you could pin, maybe that isn’t the photographer for you.

7. Don’t forget about what you are wearing.
I packed light for Europe, like super light. But I sure did pack a pair of black high heels that I only wore for the photo shoot. I know it sounds crazy but I wanted pretty pictures of me in Paris in heels. Crazy? Probably, but I don’t care. It’s okay to pack a separate outfit that you may only wear for your photos. Need help coming up with ideas of what to wear? Read – 11 tips for what to wear in family photos

Like I said before, I LOVED our photographer Katie Donnelly. If you are heading to Paris, you should really consider hiring her. She was a pleasure to work with and I can’t wait to frame my images. I also plan on making a photo book of the images from our session. You better believe these images aren’t going to live on my computer.

If you do decide to hire Katie, tell her you found her on Click it Up a Notch and receive 10% off your session if booked and photographed by March 1, 2015.

Here are a few more images from our session in Paris with Katie.
Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch

Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch

Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch

Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch

Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch

Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch

Hiring a photographer abroad via Click it Up a Notch

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