Environmental activists like Louise Gund use photographs to capture the public’s attention and build awareness by telling a story. Humans learn best through stories and if you want people to support your cause, visual storytelling is a good way to build that support. Through careful planning, use of emotional impact, one-of-a-kind shots and building a story through narrative structure, activists can us their photographs more effectively.
Plan Your Shots
Just as a novelist creates an outline when planning the plot of a book, photographers need to take time to plan their shots. What is the story that you want to tell, and what images will move that story along most effectively? Like a writer, you will need to do some research on your topic, scout out locations and plan for the best time of day to get the shots. You must also plan what equipment you will need to have with you because there is nothing worse than missing a perfect shot because you didn’t have the right equipment.
Pull the Viewers in
Good stories have an emotional impact and the same is true of good images. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words because images stay in our minds longer than passages of prose. When that image evokes strong emotion, that will help the cause you are trying to champion. Taking images with layers of meaning is another visual storytelling technique that gives viewers more to think about and holds their attention for a long time. Give viewers a reason to linger over your photographs to tease out the meaning.
Unique and Original
Just as writers are cautioned to avoid cliches, photographers should strive to make their images unique and original. There is always a new perspective to capture if you look for it. One way to avoid cliched images is to look for different aspects of composition or shoot the subject from a different angle. If you want viewers to remember your photos and your cause, give them something new and memorable to look at. Who knows? Perhaps your photo will become iconic.
Stories have what is called a narrative structure. That means that they have a beginning, a middle and an end, and so do photographic series. In order to portray that structure, you will need to decide if you are going to use one single image or a series of shots. You can arrange your shots in historical or chronological order, or you can set them up according to the amount of emotional impact from least to most–save the best for last. You can create a sense of story in a single image by capturing a significant gesture or movement. Make your viewers use their imaginations to decide what happens next.
Using photographs to tell a story helps activists get their message across to the general public in a way that is easier to understand and remember. Use careful planning, emotional impact, creativity and story structure to build support for your cause through visual images that will make your issue uppermost in their minds.