• Goy Le

5 tips for visual storytelling

Stories are considered as an essential part of our culture and the way of telling stories and adventures are seen to be timeless. But when it comes to photography nowadays, it is clearly about telling visual stories. In this way a photographer is given the chance to tell a story through his pictures. What few people know is that there is a difference between photographing and storytelling photography.


Visual storytelling about images uses a series of images or a single image to show the soul and spirit of the moment. Captions are also part of a story that can help the viewer understand the image.


But one should not forget that the image itself should tell the story and the captions are there to expand the understanding of a picture - never the other way around.



#1 Preparation


Planning is an important component for a visual storyteller. Don't plan the event down to the last detail. This often doesn't work in reality but good pre-planning gives a structure that is necessary for the narrative.


"What my mind can't see, my camera can't capture."


To tell a story in your own way, you should choose a theme, research it and plan your shots. Think about what kind of images you want to capture in order to tell your message through the photo. Position yourself in thoughts at different places in the environment and imagine what the picture might look like from an other point of view or a different angle. This makes it easier to capture your stories on the shooting day.



#2 Freezing special moments


In my opinion, the shots you take should involve emotions. This can be a laugh or just a glance from a person shot at the right moment. Not all images need to contain a human element to be emotional. It can be anything from objects to animals or people. As soon as I trust my gut feeling and sense that the moment is authentic and real, I press the trigger.


#3 Trust your instinct.


Imagine you go with the camera in a hectic city like Frankfurt and your storytelling project has the theme "Peace in Chaos". On the streets of Frankfurt you constantly hear honking horns, people try to get to work on time and push their cars through the streets. On the other side of the street you see people crossing the street hectically, behind you there are schoolchildren getting off the bus and next to you someone tries to promote a free credit card of a well-known provider. Everything is fast, hectic, loud and your heart is racing. A total flood of information. But in the middle of the chaos you discover a well dressed gentleman reading his newspaper in peace and drinking from his coffee cup. You come closer and lift your camera to your eye and press the trigger. The next minute you hear the sound of a bicycle bell stopping because you are in the way. You apologize and take two steps back, discovering an old lady slowly and smilingly crossing a zebra crossing on both sides, impatiently waiting for the cars to pass but all waiting for the old lady to cross the road completely. You frame this scene into a picture.


What you just read are two examples of how often I had to trust my instincts

In this case, keep your eyes open and take time and observe to find peace in chaos and then capture it.



Photography has the ability to capture and freeze moments that we may never have thought of until we take the pictures with the camera. These are moments that inspire me as a photographer and help me to shape my experience in the form of images. If you notice something specific and feel that it is a good opportunity for a photograph, trust your instinct and watch this scene evolve. But don't forget to respect others and a healthy mind should still be in your head if you want to photograph unknown people.


#4 Find your style


It is not easy to create something unique in this day and age because of the immense flood of photos in the offline and online world. In my opinion it is advisable to follow your own style. Why? Well, there's really no satisfaction in copying someone else's work. We've all copied someone else's ideas and styles or been inspired by others we've seen somewhere - it's not bad and completely human. But in order to stand out from the crowd later on, we should create our own unique style. Especially if we want to attract attention with our work.



#5 Don't be afraid of mistakes


The fear of mistakes is connected with the fear of rejection and criticism of others. But this is not the right way to think. Rather free yourself from negative thoughts. It is completely normal and healthy to fail. A good wise friend once told me: "Failure is the basis of success".

And if we look closely at all successful people, they have all failed somewhere and somehow in the past to be successful now. Making mistakes are a part of the improvement and the stairs to success. The same principle applies to photography. Failure helps you understand the formula that works best for you and ultimately pays off in your work with some perseverance and commitment. So go out into the world and photograph, fail, learn and grow!