It is the story that makes a photo special, and it is one of the base requirements for fine art photography. But it is also that area where landscape photographers seem to struggle most.
In my latest video on YouTube, I show why storytelling is one of the most important things in landscape photography or even generally in photography. You can nail the focus and the exposure, you can use a 100-megapixel camera and the most expensive lens on the market. But your image is worthless when it doesn’t say anything. A story is a foundation for getting emotion in the viewers. And isn’t this a reason why someone would like to hang up an image on his wall?
Landscapes Can’t Tell Stories?
When I mention in my landscape photography workshops that storytelling is one of the most important things, I often get asked how landscapes could tell a story when there are no people to see. I don’t know why this is, but many people seem to think that stories can only be told by a person in a photograph, as the viewer can easily recognize it or could interpret how the person feels due to facial expressions.
But landscapes can tell amazing stories, especially in combination with weather and light. The goal of storytelling is to engage the viewer, but also to evoke emotions. There are different things we can use to tell a story in landscape photography. Most important is to use a composition that supports the story. The composition holds everything together, as do how weather and light interact with the scene. Sometimes, we also need the right timing, like in the photograph above. The image title is “Ray of Hope.” I took this photograph right at that moment the light broke through a tiny gap in the clouds.
How to Implant a Story Into a Landscape Photograph?
In my video about how to implant a story in landscape photography, I show that so many landscape photographers struggle exactly with that. They build up a technically clean composition, they get the focus right, they start to think about implanting a story into the composition. But it doesn’t work that way. The composition has to support the story. And so the trick is: we just need to have the story already before we just think about the composition. So, the question of how to implant a story is wrong. I would recommend much more to ask how to find a story out in the field.
In the video, I reveal two different methods of how I look for stories that I use all the time in fine art photography. Which one I use depends on the artistry base concept. And if I finally have found a story, I just have to think about the characters I want to include to tell it.
The image above tells the story of self-confidence. The birch on the left side is shy and hides behind the conifer tree like a little child behind its mother. This is why it was important to include the trees on the left side. But the two birches on the right side are important for this story as well. They underline that the little birch in the center is different from all the other trees due to its golden hair, the yellow foliage. The others don’t have this or at least not that conspicuously. The little birch stands how it is; it is self-confident and doesn’t need to hide behind anyone.
All the methods of how to tell a story in landscape photography along with more details about storytelling and lots of tips are revealed in the above-linked video.