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Three Secrets You Need to Know to Tell a Story With a Picture

One of the differences between a great image and a snapshot is story telling. If your picture doesn’t narrate anything, it won’t serve any purpose. It’s crucial that your viewers understand what you tried to say with your work, but it's not always an easy task! Thanks to Joe McNally, we now have three tips to keep in mind for stronger journalistic images.

In the video above, McNally gives us the three key points he believes helps tell a story when taking a picture. His secrets are quite straight forward and most enthusiasts and pro photographers probably already know them. But I’m certain most of us also forget them quite quickly as well.


Before you go on a shoot, do your research. Find out more about your subject and location. It helps tremendously to know a little about people and where they live when trying to connect with them. Learning about the local culture can also be paramount to avoid doing anything inappropriate.


McNally summed it up extremely well: busyness is the enemy of clarity. Keep your images simple and use only the most powerful elements. It’s easy to create an overly complicated image, but quite difficult to keep it simple. Concentrate on what’s important and leave the rest out of your frame.


I like to compare photography to driving a manual car. You won’t ever be able to concentrate on the road until you know how to change gear. It's the same with photography: you won’t ever be able to focus on your subject and framing until you know your craft. Learn your equipment, how it reacts, how it handles certain situations so that you are ready for anything, and can concentrate on what’s in front of your lens. Also be sure to use the appropriate settings to tell your story. The depth of field and shutter speed can significantly impact the feeling and story you want to convey.

These are the three tips McNally offers in the video above. But I’d love to hear your opinion and tips. What are some of the things you believe to be important when trying to tell a story with your images?

Quentin Decaillet's picture

Quentin Décaillet is a photographer and retoucher based in Switzerland specializing in portrait and wedding photography.

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