On the heels of my “Short Film for Fun” series I wanted to know out what else I could do to improve my storytelling skills. I bet you probably guessed by now the answer was photography. I own a DSLR which I use almost exclusively for video, but its original purpose is to shoot drop dead gorgeous images. It got me thinking: I could practice with framing, leading lines, and multiple focal lengths. I wouldn’t need a crew or even an actor. So off I go with my camera and an open mind to capture some brilliant images. One problem… I didn’t exactly know where to start.
I work in a medium where you tell stories 24 frames a second, not just in one single frame. What makes a good image? How do I say 1,000 words with only one picture? Furthermore, what is interesting around me? I quickly found out the answer to the latter question is, well, everything! Structures, birds, people, closeups of tiny details, I took pictures of it all. Gigabytes and gigabytes worth. I was starting to discover what made good images with my hits and misses. Give two photographers the same subject and they will shoot it differently. What I’ve discovered is that it’s all about perspective and focus. What do you see and how does it speak to you?
Find something interesting to say about a subject and other people will find it just as engaging, possibly for completely different reasons. This is a normal grated walkway, but the perspective and focus applied to this photo make it intriguing; almost like one’s looking toward the end of a long journey. Maybe it means something different to you.
The most pleasant surprise of the day was when I met Joe.
Joe walks that long riverside walk once a day on doctor’s orders to stay active. As a result, he can now admire the nature around him. That really struck me, so I worked up the courage and asked to take his picture (above). This is an important lesson for photographers and videographers alike. There is beauty and meaning all around you. You don’t just have to put a building in frame. In a story a building can be a character. I bet you’ve seen TV shows where banks and other corporate buildings are shot with a low angle so you are literally looking up from the street at them. This is to show that the building represents power. Similarly you can frame a bird from a lower angle (you might not have a choice) because their ability to fly can symbolize freedom.
A couple of nature shoots later I had my first paid photography gig and a better grasp on how to tell stories. I have recently done my first ever storyboard for a short film. Using what I learned through photography, I am more in touch with how to depict subjects visually. More on that next time… I hope this post inspires you to look deeper to find the real story. I’ve been doing it for a month so far and I realize that even the simplest thing is more complex if you just take a closer look.