The Photographer has many tools to make memorable pictures: point of view, light, sense of moment, composition.
Any of these tools deserve a deep dive article, but I want to share something about my favorite tool of all – creating stories.
Tricks To Create Stories With Photography
There are many ways create stories with photography. Countless ways to add more layers to the story.
It can be an unusual place, where you can gently push your models out of their comfort zones, make them feel excited about the photoshoot adventure! You can propose some ideas or activities for the whole family.
For example, you can ask family members to launch paper boats in freshly grown puddles after the rain or fly a kite. You can go on the mission to repair the bike in dad’s garage.
The secret is to get your family involved in some activity they would enjoy immensely. Activities you propose should be straightforward and enjoyable. This will make the viewer believe that this family does what it does because they have the time of their lives.
Start With A Conversation
It all starts with a conversation with a family about the photoshoot before the actual photoshoot.
I am often asked:
“What photostudio should we choose for the shoot?”
And I always get this surprised reaction at the proposal to organize the shoot at their home. And often enough, it turns out that the place where family lives have more advantages compared to any photostudio.
Families that are really into doing photoshoots from time to time usually don’t realize that most of them live in really cool or unusual places and they are fascinating people themselves. And you as a photographer can help these families to gain a new perspective about their lives.
That’s why creating stories within the frame is crucial for me, and to make the magic happen you need to invest most of your time into preparation for the shoot and not into actual shooting process or post-production.
Create different activities and little adventures from the hobbies of each family member. Ask questions and listen carefully. Make a list of pictures you want to make for each activity. You can even use storyboard apps that are available free on the Internet. That will take a lot of time, but If you feel the need to create something very distinct and memorable, do not hesitate to do it, go on and be a creator!
Use Your Home
When I talk about photoshoot with families, I always use this metaphor I thought of: “The inner walls of your home are always going to help”. Sometimes families are so concentrated on a photoshoot that they forget about the comfort that their homes can bring. And my thought about walls reminds them of that.
When the photoshoot is over, even if it was your own creative project (TFP photoshoot), everyone has a sense that the mandatory program of the photoshoot is completed. And there is a feeling of satisfaction in the air, after all, we made the pictures we wanted.
But here’s the thing, even the most open-minded people still wear this subconscious mask that hides some of their feelings. And what’s interesting, the family never truly relaxed during the shoot, maybe 95-98 but not 100 percent. I’ve encountered this many times on my photoshoots and thought of one genuine technique.
I call it “photoshoot after photoshoot.” And it helps me to get this completely relaxed state out of everyone.
Photoshoot After Photoshoot
This is how it works. When I understand that I made a good amount of material, I say a few words that the shoot is over and thank everyone. Be sure to make several compliments to all the participants of the shoot. I start to pack my photographic tools in my bag in silence. And then I say:
“Oh, snap! I just remembered that I had this one majestic new lens that I totally forgot about. I got it for eBay and am dying to try it out!”
Or there’s a change of lighting in the house and I say:
“What a beautiful light in this room, man, maybe we should take one more picture. It will be amazing!”
So, the idea is that you make up any excuse or reason to continue the shoot for a little while, but this time it’s not just a photoshoot, it’s like a sudden burst of creativity and it will be a crime not to seize the moment! And it will be just a couple more shots! This is the psychological trick that tells participants that the photographer did the mandatory program, earned his pay, but now he will create something truly amazing! This is the time when the “Wow” factor comes into play.
Time To Relax
There is also a positive moment for the photographer. You’re already relaxed, and now you can screw up, do something wrong, and it won’t matter, because you already know for sure that you made many excellent shots. Also, during the shoot, I already know about the light conditions, where to find good backgrounds, and I already know the best points of view. And the family has a feeling that now real magic will begin and they are ready to do anything.
Due to this psychological approach, I can capture honest and candid shots, because people are completely relaxed, not wearing any psychological masks. I always consider myself lucky, when I make these kinds of shots because without this trick, I would not be able to make them.
You can see the result of this trick in the picture in this article. These are my newlywed clients.
They have a small child who behaved wonderfully during the shoot.
He smiled and wasn’t capricious. But like all the little kids, he got tired quickly. His mom put him to bed. And as this couple was ready to see me to the door, I asked whether they would want to fall asleep like their child, they laughed and answered “Yes, we sure do!”.
Basically, I told them it would be an amazing ending to the series. This idea inspired them, so we created an imitation that they fell asleep in bed.
Parents were really tired, so it looked very natural. After all, photoshoot with their kid took up a lot of energy. If I had left right after the shoot, this shot might not have been made.