“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an English language-idiom. It comes from the Chinese saying “一字值千金” It refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image or that an image of a subject conveys its meaning or essence more effectively than a description does. – Wikipedia
Whether you believe it or not, each photograph you take or you model for says something. A single push of a button captures a singular moment of time, freezing it forever. The question we must ask then, as a photographer or a model, is what does that moment mean? What is the story behind this image?
For many beginners, the idea of taking a photograph is about composition, lighting, and subject matter. Unfortunately, the ideas of subject matter seem to get lost in translation. We think of it as a person, a scene of nature, or an animal. Then we look at how we want to frame the image and what will make the best lighting. You’ve got the right elements, but where is the story?
This photograph is from over the summer. I was working on a new model and wanted to do something sport themed. Once the general concept was laid out with the model and a location was set, I spent the next few days to the shoot thinking about what it is I wanted to say with my image.
As you can see in the image, I took the time to frame the subject and use good lighting, but what makes the image good is the location and the action. A female putting her hair up is a normal activity that is done multiple times a day, but the location says that she’s doing this now for a reason. Her clothing tells you she isn’t going to a business meeting either.
I hope you got that this image is telling you that she is getting ready to workout or more likely to go running.
How to tell a story
If you’re still reading, then I will now give you my simple secrets to take an image of a girl standing against a wall and make it so much more dynamic.
Step 1: Know what you want to shoot
Sounds redundant, but it’s how we all start. With every assignment or art project, we have to know what we want to shoot first. So, for an example, we want to go out and shoot with a new model. Her goal is to be a sports model.
Step 2: Consider your equipment, locations and times
You should know what you can and cannot accomplish. If you have a massive budget, then good, but most don’t. Do you plan to be outside or in a gym for this shoot? Will you do this early in the day or late at night?
For our scenario, we decide to go outside and in the morning. Along with our camera, we’ll bring two strobes and an umbrella.
Step 3: What is the emotion?
How do you want people to feel when they look at the image? It can be determination, humor, sadness, curiosity, anger, happiness, or any range of emotions. While we may not be able to present it to all of our viewers, we can at least try leading them down that path.
So, our model is going to convey a more determined or happy feeling to the images.
Step 4: Go Shoot
Things change when you go out and do it, so be prepared to change what you do or how you do it. Communicate with your model if you’re using one. Remember to have fun.
The Final Product
As you see, our model gives you the feeling of happiness, all the while making a unique story for each person. For me, I see a girl relaxing, either getting ready or finishing with a run outside. Others may see something else, but the major points of the story are there.