photography & instagram

visual storytelling – the wider picture


Visual storytelling has been around for a very long time, you could argue as long as photography itself. Although the term may be popular now the idea is age old. A single image is all it takes, one picture can stir the emotions in oh so many ways, and that single image most definitely has it’s place. Though what I am looking at today is compiling a series of related images to create a photo story – whether for a website, blog or to print for your own memories.

visual storytelling | humprey & grace

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Henry David Thoreau

It doesn’t have to be a complicated thing and a handful of beautiful frames is all it takes. Simply think about capturing details with purpose – of making reference to the interaction between the elements both in each frame and in several frames. Of how they fit together. It matters little what your subject is, more the way you capture it. Everything can be seen in an interesting way!

Earlier this month Millie and I went for an evening walk on the South Downs. Millie had the book she was reading at the time and the light was just beautiful. Although I forgot my lens hood I like the sun flare in these photos as it adds to the sparkle somehow. In these frames we have Millie, bright light, shadows, a book, long grass and wild flowers (oh that chubby caterpillar makes me chuckle). There is also movement and stillness.

golden fields | humphrey & grace

To create a story a mixture of frames can be used. By which I mean get close up as with the flowers above, use mid frames like the images at the top and bottom of this post, and then some wider frames with more information like this below. The focus may be on the grass (and the handy sun flare that highlights it) but there are also the rolls of the hills beyond and Millie standing to the right. Lot’s to see if you look closely.

I think each of these frames is lovely enough but when put together they tell a much bigger story. They give a picture of the evening, of how it felt. You can almost hear the grasshoppers singing…

golden fields | humphrey & grace

In these photos I see a peace and freedom, the ease of childhood mixed with gentle nature of my girl. It was a carefree evening with her that I will cherish for a long while to come, none of the photo’s are posed, I just watched her for a while.

golden fields | humphrey & grace

visual storytelling in a handful of frames

– remember the basic photography principles I spoke about here

– mix up your framing, from close ups to wide angles and some in between, try to capture the whole scene. This applies whether you are taking in a landscape or a tablescape, with portraits and all other subjects besides. Of course you can mix up the subjects too, if you are taking a day trip includes different elements of it! Food, sights, people, there really is no limit.

– mix up the angle of your frame, low/mid/high. Or look up and down. All these elements create interest for your story.

– what is your main focus? How would you like your story to read? Use more frames with your main subject and a few spacer frames with the details. Or wider angles around your main subject. My story is about Millie. But also the feeling of summer evenings and all they encompass.

visual storytelling – the wider picture

Although easiest to see the way this works for blogs and websites, or maybe even expanded into photo books, building a visual story can also be applied to Instagram. I don’t know what your gallery looks like, I know I tell several stories at once (what’s on the table/what’s flowering now/where I have been). Others are really focussed on a single subject. But whichever is your style the same theory applies. Mix it up a little, change your framing because it keeps the observer interested. And – in my humble opinion – an interested person is much more likely to hang around and engage with you.

Not so long ago I wrote this post sharing tips for storytelling in a single styled photo, and many of the tips I wrote apply here. Creating a bigger story can also be done with a styled set up. Perhaps photographing it several ways, concentrating on a single detail or a smaller section in some photos and using the wider shots to encompass the whole.

Creating stories is so much fun!

J x

golden fields | humphrey & grace


4 comments on “visual storytelling – the wider picture”

  1. Gorgeous pictures Julia. I love collections – sometimes I feel disappointed after a shoot that I don’t have that “stand out” shot, but then I look at them together and they transform. I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy blogging and putting photobooks together so much. I think your tips apply equally to videoing, where the storytelling is even more evident/important. My other half is doing one of Xanthe’s courses at the moment, so we’ve been discussing this lots lately. Really enjoyed this post – thank you!

    1. Thanks Zoë, you don’t always need a standout shot if the whole compliment each other, the bigger picture can be just as lovely! Hope he enjoys the course xx

  2. Such a great post Julia! I have never thought of what we do in this way, but I love the term “visual storytelling”. These pictures are heavenly too..xx

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