Master the Art of Photo Storytelling

By Travel Writer Tracey Ellis

"I go to seek a great perhaps" - Francois Rabelais
Visual storytelling should give us a sense of longing; of wanting to be transported to the place we’re viewing, of wanting to know more. Every story needs a beginning, middle and end. From the moment your trip begins, look for something that signifies the start of your journey, such as a passport stamp, flight displayed at the airport, or special items you’ve packed (sunrise). Middle is where you can share different perspectives and try different compositions in the places you are exploring. Here are some tips:                                                                                             
  • Let a moment unfold. Just watch and observe moments, whether it’s people interacting, a bird on a tree, or the sun setting.
  • Choose your theme. Try and make your photos flow into each other with some connecting element between them (for example, the patron beast of Venice is the lion which appeared in many of my photos by accident) (lion). Or try a theme of ‘Finding Calmness in the Chaos’ on your next city break.
  • Convert the photo to black and white to change the atmosphere of the scene.
  • Think about framing and how to use natural elements to outline the focus of the photo.
  • Break the rules, think outside the box and don't take the typical tourist photo.
  • Focus on the finer details.
  • Show action, capture people doing what they do.
  • Portray relationship – try and get more than one person in a shot to trigger emotion.
  • Show local life.
  • Show Contrast – change something familiar, transform it with color or angle.
  • Use reflection – whether it’s water or windows, reflections can offer a different dimension to your photo, making people look deeper at the details.
  • End – choose an image that sum up your trip, or the most special moment that stood out the most for you.
How to Extend your Travel Photos into the Creative Beyond                                     
We all take hundreds of photos on holiday, re-living the moments when we go through them back home with fond recollection. Some of us go a step further and create a photo book or slideshow to show to friends and family, or post a digital album on Facebook, yet the idea of printing photos and making each image count are disappearing. Here are some innovative ways to keep your travel photos alive, for every type of creative person:                                                                             
  • Write a story based on your favorite photos. Put them in random order, or the order they were taken, and form an imaginative link between each one. 
  • Create an artistic travel journal using scraps of paper, tickets, ribbon, or anything you collected on your travels. Why did you keep it? What is the significance of it? Where exactly did it come from? – are just some of the questions you can answer in your journal.
  • Paint/sketch a favorite scene from a photo or from memory.
  • Re-invent a cultural artistic pastime but with your own personal twist; for example, paint a traditional papier-maché mask using your favorite colors and symbols from your home country.
  • Paint directly onto photographs for a 2D effect and to shatter the illusion that we are just observing a scene, pulling our attention to the tactile surface instead. Or use watercolours on a black and white photocopy of your photo to add a vibrant color and completely transform the original.
  • Create a travel photo essay to tell a story that creates a series of emotions in the viewer. You can use short captions or longer descriptions, or no words at all. Collate your images in a specific order to tell the progressions of events, emotions and concepts.
  • Photo to Painting – there are many filter apps out there that can make your photo resemble a pencil sketch or full-blown watercolor painting. Prisma or Photo Art Maker are good ones to try.
  • Submerged photos – The last thing we want to do is let our printed photos get wet, but an artist in the US – Matthew Brandt - does just that, creating unexpected and dramatic running of coloured ink by submerging printed photographs in water. Over time, the surface beings to degrade, creating images that look like relics from the past. He even uses the same water from the location to submerge them in.
  • Re-photograph your photos – place objects on top of your holiday photos and take another picture. For example your favorite toy boat as a child set on the ocean water in your photo, experimenting with different angles to get the perfect shot.
Fabric Artists:
  • Stitched photography - Embroider directly onto a photo with patterns to give a three-dimensional effect to your photo, or stitch photographs together to make a unique display, fabricating a relationship between them.
  • Use an ink transfer method to print photographic images onto other materials or creative surfaces.
  • Make a still life or sculpture by merely folding a photo with meticulous precision, creating transfixing, distorted portraits. This works better with photographs of faces, but could also be done with travel photos highlighting different aspects of the same landscape.
  • Create 3D Photography Collage Sculptures – use black and white photocopies of your photos to create hollow papier-mâché sculptures. Artist Midori Harima uses methyl cellulose paste, archival tape and paperclay to piece it all together.
  • Take short clips of artistically aesthetic scenes: possibly a setting or an action you had captured. Add all of the scenes into one creating a “Visual Mood board” of your travels. To challenge yourself, you could even insert quotes of your novel and attach them to a certain scene that correlates. Finally, add music to the background that either suits the theme of the book you are emulating or originates from that area.