Too many times we (myself included) love to rush into the technical/production aspect of whatever we are trying to create, when we should really be focusing more on the quality of our story first. It’s a unique problem in ‘still-image’ visual arts (for example, writers don’t have this problem. They are completely focused on story). We love to create ‘the image’. Our mind is filled with color, or lighting, or mood, and often we use the creation of an image as the excuse for a particular technique. Have you ever thought “I just learned how to do x, so I should figure out an image I can use that technique for”. It may be cool and stimulating, but it’s not story-focused. How can we use story to enhance an image?
I’m going to rattle off some ideas for you to think about:
- Changing the angle of your presentation (i.e. camera angle, or the viewpoint of your artwork). - Alternate variations of color/tone in the image. Or one color. Or no color. How does one look impact story over the other? - What/who is the subject? What are they focused on? How would changing their gaze, pose, mood, etc. tell your story better? - Time of day. - Lighting. - Contrast or lack thereof. - Focus/depth-of-field or lack thereof.
These are technical solutions to a narrative problem: how to enhance our story.
Not everyone who likes your story will love your technique. And vice versa. There is a subset of people that will love both.
If you’ve tried variations of the list above and nothing works, your story isn’t strong enough. If multiple options work, pick the one that best-connects the viewer to your story.
People react to the stories of our images more than the techniques. Photographers might tell you your lighting is cool. But more people will connect with the idea that the boy in the photo looks scared and alone.
Don’t show technique. Show story.