A Story In A Still

“A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words.” This being said, does one that conveys the complete essence of a story mean it’s worth a million? It’s true that every photo has a story. It’s true that text can be written to detail every image. It’s true that every photo can trigger thoughts to be translated into words. But not every photo can stand on its own merits and convey the complete account of the moment. Hence the challenge to create a single image that speaks volumes.

Challenge # 1: The Moment - Think of the speed at which photographs are made. In a nutshell, it boggles the mind. The captured moment is often recorded at 1/250th of a second. Now think about this: If asked if a half second of time in the grand scheme of things is fast or slow, the majority of people would respond, “Extremely fast.” Yet photographically, the difference in time between 1/250 and 1/2 second is an eternity. With this in mind, it becomes obvious that the timing of the “moment” is critical. Think about the photo of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima. Had it been made a few seconds earlier or later, the dynamic angle and lines of the soldiers and flag would have been totally different and certainly not as interesting. Capturing the perfect moment means keeping your eye glued to the viewfinder, your shutter finger and brain engaged, and your camera on motor drive.

Challenge # 2: The Emotion - The higher the emotional impact of the image, the greater the potential to tell a story. Think about the times you’ve viewed a photo of an adorable baby and went, “Ahhhhh.” Think about the images you’ve seen that depict famine and were motivated to make a donation. Think about the great sports shots that show the game-winning touchdown, bottom-of-the-9th home run or a three-pointer buzzer beater from the perimeter. A photo that stimulates emotion, feeling, exhilaration or excitement is sure to tell a story. When photographing people, look for expression in the eyes. If it’s a sporting event, shoot often because it’s hard to predict when a key event will occur. If it’s a family vacation, concentrate on candids. When possible, try to predict what will happen and be ready for it. The more familiar you become with your subjects, the easier this becomes.

Challenge # 3: The Story - Simplicity is often the key to telling a story with a photo. If it’s cluttered, busy or has background distractions, the subject gets lost in the chaos. If the subject is lost, it’s hard to convey the story. Reduce the components to just the basics. Find the angle where the subject stands out from the background. Use shallow depth of field to try to throw the background out of focus. Use a different lens to minimize the chaos. Get down low to use the sky as a backdrop or get up high to find a more-pleasing angle. The bottom line is you want the subject and what he or she does to be the primary focal point.

Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography tours.

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