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How Storytelling Can Change Your Photography

I have recently read a lot of views about the difference between taking and making a photograph.

Opinions are divided, even among professional photographers, many of whom insist they ‘take’ a photograph despite the fact that a lot of work goes into achieving the final result.

Personally, when I look at the work of many talented photographers, I believe that their images are created, or made, rather than just taken. The work of Simon Booth is one case in point. In a recent video he shows the process involved in creating a beautiful image of a simple flower, and I believe that this process is more than just 'taking a photograph.'

I have no doubt that this argument will continually surface from time to time.

There is also considerable debate about what actually constitutes a photograph and how it differs from a snapshot.

If we go out with the intention of taking photographs, and pay attention to composition, subject, light and focal length, this does differentiate out images from shots captured randomly just because we happen to see something we like. Yet it is still hard to know when a shot becomes a photograph rather than a snapshot.

One thing that helps me see my shots as photographs is when I try to tell a story through my images.

My recent visit to an abandoned folk park is an example of this.

The former tourist attraction was a huge draw to the South East of Ireland in the past with features such as a working windmill, herbal walk and an animal corner with some rare animal breeds.

This place was once a hive of activity, showcasing farming methods over 200 years and giving a taste of the history, geology and culture of the surrounding area.

Among the other attractions was a restored farmhouse with authentic open fire, an abundance of flora and fauna walks, an original schoolhouse, a tiny four-pew church and a genealogy centre. Also on the site are the remains of a forge and a thatched cottage.

Due to a number of factors the exhibition has been closed for several years and after suffering some fire damage following a blaze in 2019 it has fallen into disrepair.

The former exhibition site is open to the public for walks and there are allotments in use by local residents.

My walk took me through the nature trails, along gurgling streams, past the remains of thatched buildings and up to the ruined windmill.

All of my photos tell the story of this place - the perennial beauty of nature, tales of bygone days and a sense of nostalgia for something that could have remained as a reminder of our past but due to a combination of unfortunate events, financial and otherwise, is likely to remain permanently closed.

In my view, storytelling through photography gives a purpose to our images and changes them from being simple snapshots to being intentional photographs.

When storytelling through photography, there will be a desire to choose relevant subjects, to compose well and to show the subjects to their best advantage.

On this occasion I was hampered by poor light but since I was just visiting the area for a short time I made the best of conditions.

Although it is certainly possible to tell a story with just one image, I like to create a story through a set of related images, even if these images may vary greatly in their look.

There is an added interest and purpose to a storytelling photography shoot which I enjoy.



This video is from well-known photographer Mads Peter Iversen in which he asks the question Do You Take or Make a Photograph? and offers some interesting views on the topic.


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