Do you feel stuck in the creative process of your wildlife photography? Have you ever really considered the storytelling aspect of your photography? Then putting thought into your storytelling might be the solution to your problem! Images are powerful, images that tell a clear, visible story are even more powerful. Be clear about what kind of story you want to tell! Now, this sounds very theoretical, and it’s sometimes hard to get your head around. But once you stop running around just point and shooting everything you can get in front of your lens, a whole new dimension opens up.
Here’s some practical advice you can use!
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. What’s my subject?
2. Are there any unique behaviours to it?
3. Where does the subject live?
4. What kind of conflicts does my subject encounter during its day?
You might say that not every photograph actually tells a story. But think again, maybe you haven’t looked deep enough? Every image we take during our time as photographers tell numerous stories. Whether we think about it beforehand or not. Some stories might not be very exciting, but yet they exist.
When you come to the point in your photographic journey, where you are conscious about the stories you want to tell, your images will begin to look different. Promised!
Man is a storytelling animal by nature. – Umberto Eco, 1983
As a wildlife photographer, telling a story is vital. Admittedly, not everybody that will look at your pictures will see the same story as you do. But that’s not the point. The point is that wildlife photography evokes stories in the viewer’s head. It captivates their imagination, and in the best case, it makes them care about the thing you want them to care about.
So your job as a wildlife photographer is to guide the viewer’s eyes and thought to what matters in your opinion the most.
Let’s say you live in the suburbs of London. You want to photograph elusive foxes that roam the streets and backyards at night. Maybe there is even a particular fox that frequents your own backyard.
That thing with the Fox
There are a few ways to photograph that fox. You spent your nights out in the cold and finally got the fox in front of your camera. You are excited because you rarely see foxes, so you want to get a good picture of just the fox itself. And that’s ok too! But think about the countless other ways you can portrait that animal. Think about it: that fox lives in the suburbs, full of cars, trash cans and streets. It has adapted to live near humans, digs in the trash, hunts mice and rats in their backyards.
How can you tell that story? It’s a fantastic time to be alive to be a wildlife photographer. Now, we can take advantage of so many technological gadgets. In the case of the fox story, invest in an infrared trigger and a flash you hook up to your camera. Set the frame for an interesting angle and be patient. Show some environment. Trashcans, Cars, Streets, anything that tells the story of how that fox lives now. Obviously, specialized equipment is not the only answer. There many more ‘traditional’ ways you can use to capture an exciting story. Creativity and patience always result in exciting images. A few years ago, photographing urban wildlife wasn’t a sexy thing to do. But it surely is now.
What makes a wildlife image an outstanding wildlife image?
The answer is as simple as it is vague. The difference between a ‘standard’ wildlife image and an outstanding one is the story the photo tells. Take a look at recent award-winning wildlife photos. Think about what kind of story they tell. What makes the photo special? Is it the technological approach? Is it the mood? Does it evoke emotions and imagination?
The finalist images of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award are a goldmine of inspiration and examples of exciting storytelling.
There are so many ways stories can be told in photography.
Here are eight things you can keep in your mind to tell exciting stories with your wildlife photography:
2. Identify conflicts.
3. Use technology to your advantage to tell the story.
4. Stories can be found everywhere if you pay attention.
5. A set of photos can increase the impact of your story.
6. Be aware of the context and environment.
7. Be inspired by others.
8. Do not overthink, trust your instinct.
Do you need inspiration for your next project or simply need your daily dose of fantastic wildlife photography? Then check out our daily curated Instagram Feed and follow us @perspectivewild and tag your own wildlife photography on Instagram with the Hashtag #perspectivewild to be featured!