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Telling stories – the centre of good photos

The classic saying is that ‘a picture tells a thousand words.’ In many cases this statement couldn’t be more true, and you’ll find that the most powerful images often have a story to tell. Once you have spotted the story that you want to tell, how do you best go about doing so?

Story i
In this subway shot a zoom burst has been used to add a sense of motion, and therefore enhance the story of people commuting.

It comes down to striking a balance between your subject and the context in which it is found. To do this you need to show your subject interacting with the environment around them, so if you’re photographing a portrait it needs to be something more than just a simple record of what a particular person looks like. However, this is easier said than done.

How to tell a story

Using a long telephoto lens is an easy way of taking a candid portrait of a person without them knowing, so they’ll appear more natural. However, because telephoto lenses have a narrow angle of view you will lose some of the context in the shot. The solution is to use a lens with a wider angle of view, so that both your subject and his or her surroundings can be recorded: a 50mm lens is a good focal length on a full-frame digital SLR (or around 35mm on an APS-C format sensor). If you’re using a wider lens, good composition becomes even more important, as recording more of the subject’s surroundings means it is easy to create a shot that is too ‘busy.’

Story ii
The clear focal point of this photograph is the woman in her yellow coat, which almost jumps out of the scene. There is a lot of context here, with the snow surrounding her, but her general ‘concealed’ appearance adds a sense of mystery.

The other thing to look for is the elusive ‘decisive moment,’ which is a phrase credited to French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. This is the precise moment when the scene in front of you is ‘perfect,’ but you have to be both patient and very quick to capture it. A little anticipation will go a long way here—for example, you might need to wait in front of a market stall to capture the interaction between a customer and the market stall owner. You also need to have your camera ready, so be sure to check the exposure and white balance at the earliest opportunity, so you don’t have to fiddle with your camera.

Where to tell the story

The whole world is your playground here, but there are a few favorites for photographers, such as street markets. However, moving away from the tried and trusted locations will get you unique shots, whether that means wandering down to a port to get ‘slice of life’ photos of fishermen, heading to subway stations, or simply taking photos of people in a park—a couple walking along a path or kids playing in a fountain, for example. The whole world is out there waiting to be photographed—you just need to get out and do it!

Story iii
In this scene there are some children playing football outside their apartment block. It was a case of watching them play for a while and waiting for a good moment to capture this story of everyday life.

In Simple Scene Sensational Shot, Simon Bond shows you how to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. From altering your angles to trying out HDR and making the most of bad weather, any situation can be turned into a superb shooting opportunity.
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Simple Scene Sensational Shot, Simon BondSimple Scene Sensational Shot, by Simon Bond
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