Narrative Photography

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Most photographic techniques involve telling a story, usually of a short time frame. They also try to document something about the subject such as who it is, what is happening.

However, very few photos can recount to its audience the 6 W's; what, who, when, where, why and how in one single image, doing this usually requires a series of images from which the audience is capable of interpreting the entire series of actions that compose an event; from beginning to end.

This may seem to be a simple undertaking at its surface, yet it can prove to be difficult. Not because you cannot demonstrate in photographs the who, maybe the what, but incorporating all elements may not be so easy.

Lets take for example a birthday party. The first shots should include the birthday boy or girl. The images should include something that notates the date of birth; a birth certificate, an ID, a birthday card with dates. Childhood photos are also good. This would make the who.

Then comes the what. The images should be composed of the birthday preparations, such as the cake, the gifts, birthday cards, invitations, decorations, the candles and the refreshments as well as the guests.

The why is very similar to the previous two, but should focus on the person, the personality; the questions of why is this person deserving of a birthday. Because he or she is a parent, has friends, is a generally amicable and well liked individual, a young person and elder. Or this theme could be as simple as why?, because its his/her birthday.

When can be rather easy, by capturing images that display the date, or the day of the week should do the trick. Birthday cards or invitations that show the time and date are excellent samples and don't forget newspaper editions with the date clearly visible as well as a regular calendar.

Where is also easy to represent with images of the location; the house, the park or rented hall should be sufficient. Make sure to include details of the where to give a sense of location and general atmosphere.

Also to be included are details about the geographical region and perhaps climate, such as near the beach, on a cold day, near the mountains in a city or a small town.

How carries with many subcategories, such as how is the party being prepared, how is everything going, how many people were present, how did it conclude, how many presents. Images of the gift wrappers, the gifts themselves should also be part. And off course the candle blowing ceremony as well as the singing of the birthday song.

Although it is not strictly necessary to follow a predetermined series of events when taking the shots, it makes the series easier to complete, and the presentation should definitely be in that order, since it allows the audience to follow a normal pattern.

Almost any event can be recorder this way. The World Series of Baseball for example can be subject for this theme; the what would be images of advertisement, banners etc.

The who would be comprised of the two teams, the why would also be to include news reports and images of the steps that lead each team to that day and that each had to overcome to get there, like the playoffs.

The when is to also show dates printed on articles, photos of tickets and so on.

Where is where you would record images of the locations, the ballparks and their surroundings as well as of fans, city life, preparations for the big game.

Finally the how; how did things go, how was the game played, various shots of plays, the score board, the final triumphant celebration by the winning team and the ecstasy of the fans.

This theme is a documentary effort, but with a more personal touch and a deeper emphasis on the subjects and the components themselves rather than the broader focus mainly used in documentaries.

Do make a plan, even if it's a rough one. Know when the event which you plan on covering is taking place, the time and the date, who are the participant, where is it taking place, the reasons and items involved as well as what items should be included to make the connections.

This is mostly done for family and friends and especial gatherings, but there are events that can be covered in this way and from a business perspective, with sports being the most obvious.

Weddings, corporate meetings and events, family reunions, and conventions following close behind. Corporate photographers are especially good at this.

Depending on the quality of the shots, but more so on the subject, some of these images are marketable to photographic stock houses, and general photography publications.

The key to success in the photograph business, if so is your intention, is to become a specialist in one or a couple of genres and to develop your own style and give your images your personal touch, avoiding the cliché "jack of all trades master of none" should be your aim.

With some effort and a bit of luck you may end up making a good living at it.

Creating a Narrative

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 6 comments

randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Interesting topic. As always, I love reading your hubs!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

randomcreative: Thank you very much, I'm happy that you enjoy my work.


Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 5 years ago

Very good hub! Many beginning photographers forget about the story behind the photo focusing instead on just getting a good shot. I worked in the public affairs office while I was enlisted and became the unofficial base photographer because of my ability to capture the whole picture. Thanks for writing this.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Chaotic Chica; Tahnks

BTW what was your branch and pay grade, I was stationed in Jacksonville as an E-6,store keeper.


Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 5 years ago

E-3, USN, NWS Yorktown. {I very reluctantly got out early due to health issues.} I loved every minute I was in!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Chaotic Chica: Good to know, I forgot to mention I was USN stationed at Naval Supply Depot-Jacks. Fl

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