Tell a Story Photography Ideas

It has often been said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. It’s certainly true that an image is capable of expressing deep and complex ideas and emotions that would require many words to adequately describe. 

Take a look at the tell a story photography ideas that express complex ideas and emotions through photographic imagery.

Use these tips in addition to basic photography techniques to compose your image to tell a story.

tell a story with photography
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CAMERA GEAR FOR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY

DOWNLOAD: Camera Gear Checklist 

  • Camera: check out the compact travel cameras we recommend!
  • Tripod: take a look at these compact and lightweight travel tripods!
  • Camera Bag: protect your camera from sand and water → We use Lowepro camera backpacks for outdoor photography.
  • Neutral density filter: to compensate for variance of light you’ll need to use a neutral density filter.  → Check out the Kase magnetic filters we use!
  • Camera cleaning kit: remove dust or water that WILL get on your lens. NOTE: this is not for cleaning the sensor.  
  • Memory cards: purchase name brand memory cards since you’re trusting your images to the card!  → We use Lexar and Sandisk!
  • External hard drive: copy photos to a portable external hard drive ‘just in case’. 
  • Headlamp: use when taking sunrise and sunset photos!

Tell a Story Photography Ideas

Take a look at these photo ideas that tell a story, shared by members of our Facebook Group, Your Photography Journey.

Use the tips and ideas for inspiration to capture your own photos that tell a story.

Thematic

The power of images to describe a theme in a way that is immediately relatable is significant. William Davis addresses a specific and identifiable thematic element in this interesting photograph.

William Davis - Thematic tell a story photo idea

The story of our lives is recorded in our hands. They are expressive of our vocations, interests and experiences.

William filled the frame to focus on the wrinkles, scars, calluses, and stains that are part of a personal story.

Mood

Photographic imagery is a powerful medium for evoking mood. William Holmes’ impactful capture sets a distinct mood that is easily identified with and may carry us to moments of serenity experienced in our own lives. 

William Holmes - Mood tell a story photo tip

The tones, shadows, and contrasts of this image set a time and beauty that marries perfectly with subject and environment in a wonderful capture of  idyllic memory. Color and tone are strong mood-establishing tools for artistic expression.

Emotion

Powerful emotion is a gateway to establishing strong impact and story in an image. This awesome capture by Nadine Meyer is powerful in its expression of raw human emotion. 

Nadine Meyer emotion tell a story

The details of the story or moment are not known to the viewer, but strong and tender emotion leaps out of the photograph to capture and hold our attention. We can all easily identify with powerful emotional human moments.

Elements in a Scene

Elements or subjects within an image may be used to evoke specific messages or understanding. The wagon depicted in Tina Brasington’s awesome photograph at once establishes an aged timelessness and carries us to an era long gone. 

Tina Brasington - Elements in a scene tell a story

The faded paint, aged wood, and sunken wheels deliver a strong message about the passage of time.  At the same time the wagon set within the door frame of the structure, before a pathway leading into a snowy landscape, reflects a time when travel was conducted by more primitive means than we are typically accustomed to.

All the elements in each layer of the composition work together, seamlessly communicating the photographer’s story.

Elements or subjects within an image may also carry a universal expression. Marilyn Switzer’s interesting photograph contains specific objects that are universally recognized, and establish distinct parts of the composition’s story. 

Marilyn Williams Switzer - Universal Elements tell a story

The road signs standing in the water, the white leading lines into the water from the foreground, and the framing of the trees all identify what is hidden under the flood waters. These elements immediately convey the story that has taken place and are universally understood.

Specificity is an important component of compositional organization. What specific elements should be emphasized to tell the envisioned story, and how should they be organized within the frame of the image? 

Jeff Hall - Specificity to tell a story

Jeff Hall has captured three subjects engaged in an activity. The activity or action taking place is an important element of the story and holds central placement in the composition. 

Angle and Perspective

This impactful photograph by Jaclyn Sanford tells a wonderful story and evokes powerful emotion. The high angle from which this image was captured establishes a submissiveness in the subject that delivers an important component of the story told. 

Jaclyn Sanford - High Angle to tell a story

Capturing a subject from a high perspective may express a feeling of dominance, importance or status over the subject. The opposite effect may be expressed by taking a lower angle to the subject that places the viewer in a submissive space.

Perspective can be a very interesting way to tell the story you envision in your photographic images.  Jason Stedry has taken an original approach in the composition and editing of this stunning photograph. 

Jason Stedry - perspective to tell a story

The scene is a location that possesses emotional connection for many people and is frequently visited.  Composing the scene with a unique angle and framing adds interest to the story conveyed.

Body Language

Body language is an essential component of communication for human beings, wildlife and pets!

Roy Goldsberry - body language to tell a story

Roy Goldsberry has captured a wonderful image that shows the power of body language in a photograph. The closed eyes, open mouth and body stance of the dog communicate specific feelings.  We can feel the emotion of the subject’s experience in its body language. 

Live Action

Capturing live action or movement containing one or more subjects is a great way to convey story in a photograph. Richey Oliver shows us how it’s done in this cool capture. 

Richey Oliver - Live Action to tell a story

The train, the engineer, the tracks and the perspective all combine to communicate the story of the action taking place in the scene.

Capturing an uncommon subject or event will add interest in a photographic story. People are immediately interested in compositions that contain elements or techniques outside routine experience, a variation from individual norm. 

Gerardo Trevino - subject variety to tell a story

Gerardo Trevino’s amazing capture of sparring moose tells a story that is uncommon to most viewers.  As such, an element of interest is contained within the photograph that draws us into its story.

Were you inspired by these photos?

Every week in our Facebook group (Your Photography Journey), we have a challenge that focuses on an element of composition. Understanding these simple elements will help you improve your photography skills!

→ DOWNLOAD our 52 Week Photography Challenge List!

We also do live video Photo Reviews each week to discuss compositional elements on the photos group members want us to review, similar to the video we included in this article.

Our group members find the reviews very helpful – see what they have to say! We’d love to have you join us!

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