Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Angling for the Story

by Kelly

Storytelling in photography. 

It is about communicating an idea, a message, or an experience with a viewer through a photo or series of photo. And in lifestyle photography (a multidisciplinary style of capturing ordinary life in an artistic way), storytelling is always the primary goal. 

As photographers, one of the best ways to add visual interest to our stories is to take a variety of shots from many different angles. In this way, it places the emphasis on different aspects of the story. Then when the individual images are put together in a photo essay, the contrast between the photos moves the story forward, and at the same time, adds interest to the overall story.

I recently completed my Week in the Life™ project which is basically a week-long photo essay.  And I thought today I might share with you some of my favorite shooting techniques and how I like to use angles to help tell the story in my photos.

#1) Shooting from the Hip
In its most literal sense, ‘shooting from the hip’ is a technique where you hold your camera at hip level and take the shot without using the viewfinder. My interpretation of this technique is to shoot at the same level as my subject, whether it’s at my kitchen table or out in the backyard.

I would say this is my go-to way of shooting…getting down closer to my subjects or standing at eye level. It is the way I ‘see’ things and I think it has become a defining aspect of my style.  And what I love about shooting this way is that I feel like it places the emphasis on the action that is taking place. The viewer is no longer a casual observer, but rather, it places them right there with me in the midst of the action.

#2) Inside Out
As a self-described homebody, I spend a great deal of time in my house. As I walk from room to room, I am always looking outside – whether it’s standing at the front door watching a storm blow in or standing in the kitchen looking out on my backyard. My view, is a big part of my everyday experience and so therefore, I think it only seems natural that I would want to capture that in my photos.

Whenever I am trying to capture a scene from inside my house, I like to include a piece of the door or window since those are most often the ‘frame’ through which we view the outside. To me, including windows and doors in my images adds a sense of place or perspective which helps to tell that story.

#3) Leading Lines
Leading lines are a powerful tool to draw a viewer into the story of a photo. (It’s our May theme too!) Whether straight or curved, leading lines move the viewer’s eye throughout the frame which then adds dimension and depth to an image.

Leading lines can take on many forms…rivers, roads, fences are the obvious choices. But I find that sometimes a more subtle expression of that can be just as intriguing.  Such as the edge of a countertop or the curve of a plate or bowl.

#4) Looking Up
I spend most of my days looking forward – working, driving, cooking, reading. For the most part, this is where the action in my life happens. This is the frame of reference for my story, so to speak. But something happens when I change my perspective and turn my camera upwards toward the sky. For me it is accompanied by a certain feeling of smallness. Which I don’t think of as a negative thing. To me it’s more about accepting my own physical limitations while at the same time appreciating the limitless nature of the universe.

When shooting towards the sky, I usually include some part of the scene to give a sense of place…anchor the story so-to-speak. This might be leaves of tree against a beautiful blue sky or a silhouette of my neighbor’s house against a brilliant sunset.  

#5) Looking down/Flat Lay
Whereas looking up often transcends the minutiae of ordinary life, looking down draws a viewer right back into it.  And depending on how much or how little of the scene is included, this perspective places the emphasis and focuses the story on the subjects included in the frame.

Think about the ‘from where I stand’ perspective. It’s such a simple storytelling device - two individual subjects – a person (or people) and a place (tile floor, beach, forest, etc.), the details of which tell one unified story.  This perspective is also used in a ‘flat lay’ which is really nothing more than a styled arrangement of an assortment of items. It’s all the rage on Instagram, and I think one of the reasons it’s so popular is that it focuses the viewers attention directly on the elements presented and removes any possibility of distraction from the setting or outside environment.

#5) Macro
Macro is the story of the details. From the wispiest hairs to the tiniest insects, macro photography immerses the viewer into another world by bringing things into view that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

When it comes to storytelling with macro photography, the actual object itself becomes less of the subject so the challenge is to capture the details while still giving the viewer some idea of what they are looking at.  (That is unless you are going for more of an abstract image which would be another blog post for another time.)

There are many ways to tell the story in a photo and this is by no means a comprehensive list.  But for me, these are tried and true techniques for helping me capture the heart and magic in my photos. These are my favorite angles for helping me to tell the story of my life.

Before I sign off, I would love to hear what some of your favorite angels in photography are.  Also, we would love for you to join us as we explore ‘leading lines’ as our monthly theme!

Until next time,



Peggy said...

Thank you Kelly for these great new perspectives. As someone who just stands and shoots it gave me great ideas.

Cathy H. said...

Great ideas, Kelly! Sometimes just a different angle will change the whole story!

Beverly said...

This is such a good learning post Kelly! Thank you! The one I've seldom tried is "shooting from the hip" and I really love your results. You are right how it really draws the view into the story. Thanks!!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I tend to get stuck in a rut and shoot from the same angle most of the time. You've encouraged me to try new things!

Unknown said...

**sigh** photography is more than just my hobby...in many ways it is my lifeline... it is where I get re-energized...and lately I haven;t had much time behind the lens. your ideas and photos are so inspiring to me. thank you! for helping pick me up today!

terriporter said...

What a great post, Kelly, and so many great ideas to try! I tend to get sucked into shooting everything in macro as I love all the tiny details but it doesn't tell the whole story the way so many of your viewpoints do. I love the "from the hip" shots! If I could get down in that wonderful squat like you do, I might give this one a try! Definitely a lot of food for thought here and I'm inspired to try them out. I need to pull myself out of the "macro" pit!

Dotti said...

I'm a day late but I wanted to wait until I could look at this on my computer and fully absorb the lessons and the beauty. Like Terri, if I could do the "Kelly Squat", I'd love to get the same low perspective you do. When I do "go low", it ain't pretty! Lovely post, Kelly, and I accept the challenge to try to see things from a new angle.

Sandra said...

Wonderful true story-telling photography and you've explained your process so beautifully. We do well to shake-up our usual vision of things regularly and your post has inspired me to try new things! Like Terri, I tend to love macro and tiny details - or wide sweeping shots when I get out and about and discover wonderful vistas. You have written an inspiring article. Thank you!

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