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The story and the message

Backyard bird in flight © 2013 Alice A. Thompson - All Rights Reserved

I recently read an article on ways to strengthen the message and story of your photographs.

"The subject and story of a photograph must be identified quickly by the viewer. If the viewer can't figure out what the subject is... all interest is lost."

Telling a story and providing a message with photos isn't a new idea, but it's something I struggle with in my photography. When I look back at a collection of my photos, each photo does tell a story - to me, anyway. I remember exactly where I was when I took the photo. Who I was with, and oftentimes I can remember how I felt when I took the shot ("freezing my butt off!" or "melting in the summer sun" are a couple thoughts that come to mind frequently). But that story or message isn't always evident to other viewers.

For example, a couple weeks ago as my partner and I sat on our patio one Sunday morning reading the paper, I grabbed my camera and my 300mm lens and started shooting birds at the backyard feeder and bumblebees on the nearby coneflowers. I took 298 photos that morning. Of those, I ended up with about 12-15 decent shots. The one posted here is one of my favorites. I'm not sure it necessarily tells a story, but at least the subject is easily identifiable.

What about abstracts? The subject may not be apparent, but does that mean the photo is not interesting? Part of what makes photography (and all art in general) interesting to me is that sometimes I'm uncertain exactly what I'm viewing. That, to me, makes it interesting.

I'm working to improve on capturing photos that tell a story. In the meantime, I'm happy just shooting whatever happens to catch my attention at the moment. Sometimes the story isn't evident until later.


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