The 12 Tips of Christmas - Part 4

This past Christmas, I posting 12 tips to improve your photography on my Facebook page ( As Facebook has limited room to post, I'm expanding those tips in this blog. Stay tuned for all twelve tips (some by themselves and some combined), and if you want even more, join me for one of my photo courses!

The Twelve Tips of Christmas

Tip # 9 - Tell a Story

"Photography is not about operating a camera. It is about capturing your subject. Andre Kertesz said "Seeing is not enough, you have to feel what you photograph". Photography is as much about how you see your subject as it is about the subject in your photo. All of this is to say your photo tells a story. Consider what that story is before you click the shutter. The world is not just filled with smiling faces, and neither should your photos be. Capture your subjects in a way that tells their story - as you see it."

Now that you have the basics of operating your camera down, I get to tell you that Photography is not really about operating the camera. 

Let me use the piano analogy again... playing the piano is not about hitting the keys in the right order and at the right time, although that's important to it's operation. Playing the piano is about creating great music that inspires and moves people. 

In the same way, photography is about creating great images that inspire and move people. And whether that be music, drama, art, or photography, we do that by telling a story.

Before you click the shutter (with the right aperture, shutter speed and ISO), consider what you are looking at? Does it inspire you? Does it tell you something about the human condition? Is it something that you are going to look at and be uplifted, challenged, or inspired?

So often, we use our camera to take snapshots of people - say "cheese" and click. But the world is filled with all kinds of emotions, not just smiles. Sometimes the tears can be more inspirational than the smiles. Think of the photos you remember most. A little girl running away from the horror of a nuclear explosion in Japan perhaps. Perhaps a remote location in the mountains with a beautiful lake in the foreground and a majestic peak behind.

Ask yourself: what is the story you are trying to tell in the image you are capturing, and how can the image you are capturing tell that story best?

The simplicity of this image, it's rendering in black and white, the use of the rule of thirds and
the subject itself all come together to tell a story of this lonely abandoned diesel pump.
When you look at the image, what is the story it tells you?

Tip # 8 - Keep it Simple

"If your image is telling a story, you don't want it to be telling too many stories at the same time. Keep it simple - just one subject, just one story. Use techniques to keep your background simple, or blurred (adjust aperture)."

One of the things writers learn to do is to cut out all the pieces of the story that don't really tell the story. Anything that is just "extra" and is unnecessary is removed to leave only what is important. Sculptors have been quoted as saying that the sculpture is inside the marble, all they have to do is chip away the parts that shouldn't be there.

In photography, it is important to remove the parts of the image that can be distracting to the story.

Some of the ways you can do this are by:

- Using Bokah to blur the background of an image so that does not draw attention from the subject.
- Cropping the image closer to the subject to remove any "other" stories that are creaping in.
- Using contrast or colour to draw more attention to your story.

Using the rules of composition, the tools of your camera, and your imagination, you can simplify your image so that it tells your story more clearly and effectively, without competition from the little side stories that happen everywhere.

Of course, this is another rule that is made to be broken, and although keeping your image simple is true most of the time, there are occasions where the complexity of an image can be a large part of the story itself - like a "where's Waldo" image, the myriad parts become the story rather than the individual subject.

Look at some of the images you have created. Pick the ones you like the best and ask yourself what is the story this image is telling me? What story was I trying to tell?

Read more on any of the other Tips:

Part 1 - Get to know your gear
Part 2 - Use your camera tools
Part 3 - Use Composition Rules
Part 4 - Tell a Story, and Keep it Simple
Part 5 - Put yourself in a good spot, Be creative
Part 6 - Change it up, Make it Unique
Part 7 - Get the shot quick, be brutal and show your best work

(c) 2014 Gary Scott - Gary's Lens Photography


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