How to tell a story with images

My further thoughts on Surface and Depth click here

The story within a photograph is what’s in the frame, what does the image say? where is it displayed? why is it displayed? Does it tell a story? Things to think about are:

  • Purpose
  • Background
  • Context

Where ever it is displayed, when we look at an image it will tell us something subconsciously.  Without realising it, we will form some type of opinion, have some type of feeling towards it. We may like it or hate it or wonder what’s it’s all about? In marketing images, there will be a message, maybe not initially apparent, that sends us a message on what we should be wearing, eating, feeling, and so forth.


A story or narrative can be told by using just one image or a series of images. For example the image above was taken on recent visit to Turkey. I wanted to capture the tranquillity of the moment. There were no other tourists there and it was so peaceful. I thought the mountains on the other horizon looked almost magical. The blues from the sky and sea were inviting me to make sure I visit this place again. The seating says to me, come sit down and enjoy, relax. I wanted to portray an image of the way I felt at the time so that others may enjoy the moment or feel that they would like to visit there too.

Look where I was… don’t you wish you could have gone there too!

When taking a family snap, we want to convey a happy atmosphere caught in a moment of time. The words ‘say cheese’ are widely used when these types of snaps are taken. This is where we can manipulate the situation and convey the message we want.

P1190514 P1190515

For example these two photographs were taken minutes apart. The one on the left was taken first. It was a really hot day, we needed a cooling drink and had been walking along the marina. My husband here couldn’t wait to get his cool beer drank, so I snapped the shutter. When I reviewed the photo I could see he looked, tired, hot and bothered. The second shot  was taken after a ‘come on look like you are enjoying yourself’ promp. Besides the smile, The beer glass was even lifted up to say ‘look what I have got’

Content is also important to think about as this will convey a message too. Making sure the correct message is portrayed so that there is no misunderstanding.

Where we decide to place/display our images/photographs is also important. Where they are displayed whether in an album, online or a gallery, we need to think of the ideal place for them. The images here, I took for a specific reason, on very quiet Sunday morning.

Peace and Tranquility P1210683 Timeless Patriotism

Market Drayton a small town near where I live, asked for photographs of the locality for the towns Artfest, with the theme ‘Our Town’. I offered two photographs which they accepted and were displayed in the Arts Festival Hall gallery. I don’t think these two photographs would have meant anything to anyone who did not know the reason for taking them. The image above, is just a street of old looking buildings. If I had displayed it say in my photo album, the question may have been asked, ‘What’s this?’ or the page may have been quickly flicked over! But for people visiting the ‘Our Town’ festival, would have found it of interest.

Understanding the context of an image we can begin to understand the narrative. In a series of images, the narrative is a constant, telling a story giving it a general flow and transmitting information. In this case a narrative is a pattern in the images that knit together and show the aims and values. Like any story it should have a beginning, middle and end

  • Allen Feldman has stated “the event is not what happens. The event is that which can be narrated”
  • Stuart Freedman recently declared, we need “a return to a storytelling in photography as rigorous in thought and research as it is beautiful in construction and execution.”


 Put simply, a linear narrative is a detailed description or theory that has an exciting high point, ending, and all parts have a common theme and are connected in one form or another.

Using the theme, MY HOME, I have to think about, what is the story I want to tell? How shall I portray it?

The picture here is a series of photographs taken around my home. Each photograph depicts a letter of the alphabet; together they read ‘bless our home’. Although they knit together because they have meaning to me, an outsider may find it difficult to understand, and it also begs the question, does this image have a beginning middle and an end?

I would argue that it does, but only on a personal note, It is very individual,


The ‘B’ is from the bread bin, bread being a staple diet, with thoughts of providing for the family, the breadwinner, money and full bellies.

The ‘L’ is part of the clock, which says time spent together, it’s a pedlar clock, old a reliable, dependable and marks the passage of time spent together

The ‘E’ is the fire grate, giving warmth and a cosy feeling in the home.

The ’S’ made up of dried flowers, two poppy heads and a catkin. Poppys always remind me of those that have past on, maybe this is because of the military conections in my background, and the catkin swirling round the poppy heads reads as the beginning and the end of life, a never ending cycle going round and round.

The other S is a church eve, which would have seen my children, baptised and then married as they begin their own life cycles and build their own homes with their children

R is made up if pebbles we have collected over the years in the shape of a heart, reminding me of all the places we have visited and the bringing back memories and happy times

The ‘H’ is the window frame that we look out of every morning and plan our day, being able to be part of the out side world yet in the safety of our own castle.

The ‘O’ is part of my Royal Albert Collection, collected over the past 30 years. The first cup and saucer bought by my husband on our 1st wedding anniversary. Then the following 33 years, my children added to the collection, I now have a full dinner service for 10 people, which is only used at Christmas, so it brings so many memories. Its not Christmas without ‘Albert’

The ‘M’ is part of a dried flower display, bought for me by some very dear friends, one of whom is no longer with us. Memories of their involvement in my life are remembered every time I look at the vase

The last ‘E’ is made up of the front and back door keys to the house as well as a keyring which has an L for Lucy on it, this depicts the way in and the way out, a passage for people I love and care for to be able to come into my home and then leave with my best wishes.

These images as a collective change the thought of a HOUSE to a HOME and what ‘home’ means to me. It tells a story, be it on a very personal level. It spans decades and tells of what the future holds for us all, life, birth, death, family, friends, and the image is full of memories.