Storytelling photography: Learn from the masters

March 3, 2014

When I help people prepare for media interviews, I commonly tell people to analyze interviews in that same format – TV, radio or print – that they find very persuasive. What was it about their soundbite that got your attention? How did they use a story to transport you in time and space to the event they described? What made that NPR story a driveway moment?

Studying great interviews is a superb way to identify the techniques that can raise your own interviewing skills up a notch. The same is true with public speaking. Watch a few of the most popular TED talks before you prepare your next presentation. Those very same principles apply to your visual communication, or rather, your storytelling photography.

While eating lunch at my desk the other day, I stumbled across the finalists for the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards. Wow, this is some visual gorge. Don’t wait until lunch to treat yourself to 23 of the best photos from last year as determined by the Sony judges. The shortlist was culled from 139,544 photos from no less than 166 of the 196 countries in the world today!

Study these photos, asking yourself, what makes each of them stand out? What emotion was captured in a particular photo? What made it so riveting? What made your eyes linger on it a bit longer than you normally would? How did the photographer take what could have been a completely ordinary scene and make it interesting?

Jot a few notes down to remind yourself of what can set your photos apart from the crowd the next time you are “on assignment.”

Liz Banse

More on using photography for visual storytelling
Interview: Gary Braasch, climate change photographer
From being heard to being felt: Reflections of a photoactivist
Visuals: Your brain’s Post-it notes