What's the Story You Want to Tell? / by Oliver Asis

There is more than meets the eye in photography.  The activity of taking photos is more than just simply clicking the shutter and taking a picture.  In the few seconds before a photographer takes a picture there are countless decisions and choices that he or she makes.  Of theses decisions, I think the most important is; What's the story you want to tell?  With this question alone, it can be the driving force behind why and how you take the picture.

 Looking over the city of San Francisco, I scan over landscape to see what scene and story I want to tell.

Looking over the city of San Francisco, I scan over landscape to see what scene and story I want to tell.

When you consider the above question first in your decision process of taking a photo it will influence why and how you take it.  The reason that this is important is because without having a motivating motive / reason to the photo, the photo will lack focus that creates a compelling image that will satisfy both the photographer and the viewer.  this is easier said than done especially when you are just starting out.

in the early stages of learning photography there is the excitement of having a new tool to help you capture the pictures you want to take.  There are tons of features, buttons, menus, and things to explore and use.  Having all of these with the additional accessories, can lead to an overwhelming experience that can take away from the excitement.  However before all of that if you understand why you want to take a picture, it will help guide you to the "how."  For example,  let's say that you want to take pictures of landscapes because you want to create your own wall art.  So you know that landscapes will be your subject.  With that you want to dig a bit deeper.  Now ask yourself what kind of landscapes?  Seascapes, vistas, cityscapes, wilderness, etc.  However you may decide that you love all of that, and that is perfectly okay.  The important thing to understand in this is what is story of those places that you want to tell.  Do you for example, want to share the beauty of a place that most people don't see as beautiful, or do you want to show why a certain place is designed a certain way?  These are just a few answers that you may come up with or you may have a completely different story to tell.  It doesn't matter what it is, it is just important that you have one to tell.  When you do it will motivate you to understand the "how" you want to tell it.  And when you understand the "why" and "how" together it will set you up for a awesome journey with photography.

 Knowing that I want to show a serene scene, I knew that I could make the glassy water even more calm by increasing doing a longer exposure on the water.

Knowing that I want to show a serene scene, I knew that I could make the glassy water even more calm by increasing doing a longer exposure on the water.

With the "why" understood, you can now take that motivate to help create and take the photographs that you want to capture.  When you know the why and the subject, you can create images that help tell the story further.  For example, let imagine that you want to tell a story about a city and you want to show the hustle and bustle of it.  How would to tell that in an image.  You could photograph the city showing a lot of people.  You could photograph a city from high above to show how large it is.  Or you could photograph a city with traffic moving in it.

 Interstate 5 traffic moves in and out of downtown San Diego during rush hour.

Interstate 5 traffic moves in and out of downtown San Diego during rush hour.

With the motive and dialogue you can now craft your photograph to help tell that story.  To create the photograph above, i first needed to know where there is a place to show moving traffic with the city in the background.  I happen to find this location from previous scouting trips throughout the city.  Now with location in mind, I now needed to determine when it would be best to show the city in beautiful light but also when there would be enough traffic on the road to show the hustle and bustle of the city.  I determined that either the morning or afternoon rush hour would be perfect times.  During these times it would show the city with beautiful light and have enough traffic on the road.  I ultimately decided on a afternoon because it was convienent for my schedule.

With the story, location, and time in hand now all I had to do was craft the photograph further.  And this is the part where your story, experience, and perspective will influence the final outcome.  For the photograph I created, I knew that I wanted to show the hustle and bustle but I also thought that just capturing the cars on the road was going to be plain so I decided that doing a long exposure of the traffic would add a bit more drama to the image.  So with that in mind I set out to create the image that you see above.  I exposed the traffic about 2-3 seconds with a neutral density filter.  The filter cut out the amount of light that would be exposing the image.  If I didn't have the filter the image would be over exposed leading to a not too satisfying result.  So it became part of the equation that a filter was needed.  I was equally lucky that on this particular evening that the traffic was building up closer to downtown while the traffic closer to me was moving freely which resulted in the effect of the cars closer to me blurred while the car further away from me look more like cars.  And since this was photograph in the afternoon the city in the background was bathed in golden light which makes for a more pleasing look and gone to the overall image.

As you have read with an understanding of the story that you want to tell in your photograph, you can determine how you take it.  This is lesson that is usually left out of manuals and photography how-to books, that I believe is a critical skill that all photographers need to know and understand.  With this you will be given a process to help craft and hone your photography skills.  The problems that a lot of photographers faced when they don't understand their voice is that they get frustrated that they can not create the photographs that they want.   They feel that getting more equipment, filters, accessories, more photoshop skills will help them create those images they desire hoe dr the thing they need to answer is; What is the Story that you Want to Tell?  So the next time you go out and take photographs, start off with asking yourself that question and see where it goes and how it helps.   I know it has worked for me, let me know how it worked or didn't work for you. And if it didn't, what did you do that help you create the photographs you took. 

 Something to keep in mind.

Something to keep in mind.