How a Single Photograph Tells a Story


Storytelling and Album Design


Lesson Info

How a Single Photograph Tells a Story

Well, welcome to creative live everyone today's courses, storytelling, an album design with jared platt, my name's drew councilman and I'm glad that you have chosen this course it's going to be a fantastic course. Jared is a photographer and album designer who's done wedding photography and lifestyle stuff for more than a decade very successful and he's a great educator we're excited to have you here today. How you doing? I'm doing great good good morning love having you back a creative live thanks for coming back yeah it's going to be good day we're going talking a lot about storytelling. We're gonna talk about storytelling on individual images on dh then is a group so we tell stories both ways we tell stories with one big snapshot and then we also tell stories in a a serial way we used to call them photo essays uh, but we make albums would make books, we make slide shows and those are the types of things we're going to talk about today we're going to use several different tools to do...

that. So the first tool that will use his light room well, actually the first tool will uses our camera and so we we first need to talk a little bit how we shoot and how we think when we shoot and then we're gonna bring those photos into light room light room is our method of of churning through those photos, adjusting those photos, selecting those photos and then we will take light room and make books out of light room. And then we will go into the concept of album design and will use a program called smart albums to make those album designs and show you how to make him very quickly, uh, efficiently and then we can even go further and go into in design, which is kind of the industry standard designing program. If you want to go a little further, start tricking things out and, uh, be able to bring in more than just photographs into your album on dh, then we'll talk about some slide shows so that we can show you howto tell stories in that way as well. Even a little bit of movie will put some film in there as well, and that will be how we talk about telling stories. So you guys ready? Yeah was dive in all right, let's, do it. So first off I wanted to show you this photograph because I wanted to talk about the idea of a story within one photograph. There are two ways to tell a story the first way to tell the stories, to somehow encapsulate the story within one image on that really calls us back to the idea of painting a long time ago you didn't have the ability to make multiple pictures very quickly not so you did sculpture and you did painting and the things that you did took a long time to do and it wasn't until you know, people like monet came along and started painting things quickly that then you could start to say ok, I'm monet and so I'm going to paint you know, fifteen pictures in a day you know, one of sunrise and then a little bit later and then a little bit later and then a little bit later because I'm just brushing it on there really fast and I'm doing the impression of what I'm seeing and so it's not until that time period that we start to get, you know, momentary images and the concept telling a story with multiple images is opposed to one image and so you know, for the longest time telling stories was done in one photograph for one big mural or something like that where you look at it and you're taking in the story and so I wanted to talk a little bit about that concept of first trying to tell a story within one frame which is really I think the hardest way to tell a story it's very easy for us to tell a story in uh in a book or in a magazine it's very easy to tell a story with a photograph and then words below it or it's easy tells a syriza photographs to have those tell the story those are the easy ways to tell stories there's still difficult, and they still have their own special nuances. But but telling a story in one photograph I think, is very difficult and so it's an r into itself. Um, and I think you'll find that the most successful portrait ce or images that someone takes to tell a story are kind of that they're the ones that someone really worked hard on and really thought through the concept, and really you came up with a plan and then executed the plan, or they're the ones where someone was really watching and waiting and stocking the moment. Now, the photograph we're looking at now is definitely not a documentary photograph this didn't actually currently life. We set it up, but we wanted to tell the story of three adventurers, and we wanted to, you know, talk about these little kids that would clearly, I think they're going on an adventure and you've got, you know, the one who's, the smart older brother and he's, obviously, you know, knows his way and he's got the compass and he's going toe, you know, lead the group, and he knows where to go and he's. Looking at the mountaintop where he's going toe you know take the group and then you've got the other the second kid who's kind of the spry that has the middle kid syndrome who's like totally got toe be spry ing his own person and he's got to go his own path and and he's spotting out you know he's not even paying attention to where the older brother wants him to go or he's spotting out something off on a and mountainside or or he's looking for a goat or whatever he's you know happens to be doing he's he's clearly not paying any attention to what the older brother is going to do and then of course the little kid just like he's along for the ride and he didn't bring a tool you brought a teddy bear e I don't know I brought the teddy very body brought the teddy bear because that's important to have the little one and so I think that the that the story that you tell has a lot to do with the details in the story details are incredibly important and so when we're making an image like this we're thinking about the details what is it that we need? You know what would these kids be taking and what kind of things would they be taking or using that air completely superfluous don't matter and yet they bring them anyway those of the comedies in there like for instance, the kid had the middle kid has not the middle child of the the middle child the second child which would be the one with the eyeglass scope the pair of the periscope not paris go telescope the one with the telescope notice that he has a pilot's hat on with the goggles they're not flying anywhere but he's going on an adventure so you have to have something interesting so he puts on you know that he's got this you know, weird outfit on you know the like the teddy bear with the little list one like why does he have the teddy bear but of course he has something useful he has a light and so the light serves is two different things first off it serves is an interesting thing to look at and it gives us some reason for light to be around them because it wouldn't make much sense for them to be in this dark kind of you know, brooding landscape and then have light hitting them if there wasn't some kind of light and so that that helps us to to say there's a reason that his light around here and that's because he's holding up the light s o those kind of details are really important in telling this story so when you see a successful a storytelling photograph there's always going to be details in that photograph very, very specific details that are going to help you guide you through the story so when you have one photograph of the time, it always has very special details in it. You can't tell a story there's no way to tell a story whether it's a documentary story or whether it's a posed story without details. You have to have the details, they just have to be there, for instance, if you're doing senior portrait ce, which is kind of a big thing in united states, but I've learned it's not so big throughout the rest of the world, and so when I say I'm t I'm taking senior portrait's and I'm traveling, you know, abroad and that people look at me and say what, you're taking pictures of old people like, no, I'm taking pictures of seniors in high school, but when you take a portrait of a senior and you want to try and tell a story there's a difference between just posing someone and then creating an interesting a story that could be, you know the mind could come up. And in this case, we're not she's, not a welder, but we want to put her in an interesting circumstance where they're the mind can come up with a story, because then it becomes more interesting to look at, all I did was show sparks. Then that's just a painting or that's just a portrait there's nothing to it and so rather than just put this sparks back there or have a background was sparks on it we went to a welding shop and literally kept the welder in it so that now when you're looking at it there's an interesting detail back there and now there's some kind of what is the interplay between the two what is the back story? Why is this girl you know in front of and so now I can start to come up with these concoctions in my mind and it's a fun little story that I can tell now this one's just a portrait but the background is a story so she's in front of the story basically and so looking back at the welder and you can see all the sparks flying and you're thinking ok so what is you know what's her deal you know why is she there now we start to think it's not just a portrait because otherwise you take a portrait of someone with just some sparks in the background and you think oh that's pretty portrait but once you add one little detail in there which is the person it's actually creating the sparks now there's a story to be told and it's time to start thinking so for me any time I am trying to tell a story I'm really really working hard at creating elements that work together to tell the story for instance this one is another one of my favorite images here um a story I I was tasked with photographing address with a bride in it so this is like a little cocktail bridal dress but I don't really find a portrait of a girl and address all that interesting if it's not actually the bride you know getting married because she will love the portrait of her in her dress because to her the dress is really important but when I'm trying to show address just to show a dress I want a story and so we concocted a story so in this photograph now you have a story that you khun and I could tell you what the story is you get to tell you what the story is but I've given you details details that will allow you to make this story real for yourself I've given you a bride in a dress who has boxing gloves on I've put her in a boxing ring I've given you really interesting light so that you can kind of maneuver around haven't made everything really obvious to you um and then I've got somebody some guy in the background in the ring clearly gloves on the ground he's got that you know he's either he's taken the gloves off and he's given up but it looks like she's you know going victorious away from the fight what? You you come up with the story but there's an interesting story in there when you consider the interplay between the guy in the background and the girl in the foreground and the fact that she has boxing gloves on when she's wearing a wedding dress so details are everything when it comes to telling the story in fact, you were telling me earlier about a book that has a thirty page a story about a girl turning toe look at someone and it's thirty pages long, right? Okay, so that's details it's in the details any dickens novel is the details I mean that that he'll describe an apple for pages it's details that tell the story when you watch a movie it's all about the details that tell that story everywhere you look there's details they're cutting away to details there showing you know, very small moments that helped too push the forwards the story forward because it's all in the details everything's in the details on but beautifully that's what photography does well photography one of its most impressive characteristics is that it can show the details very well it's one of its most impressive features because if you think about painting I could paint details but that doesn't mean you're going to believe the details because it painted them and even in today's you know photoshopped culture where people know everything could be photoshopped still, we believe photographs we see a photograph and then we just naturally believe it because our eyes and our minds seem reality. And so we naturally believe what we're seeing and it's on lee on further inspection or on stepping back from the emotion of the photograph do we question? Is this really did this really happen? But we just naturally tend to believe photographs because they look real and that's why the details are so powerful in the photograph because they look really and so we as humans are going to naturally believe them and that's not just humans cats also believe them. Have you ever noticed your cat goes up to the tv and there's like a fish in there? And so it's like so then it's jumping around and it's looking is trying to find you know how to get in to get the fish right. They were the same way we believe photographs because the rial it's on lee when we stop and think about it that we ever get outside of that illusion and realize that it's not quite real so but this whole concept also works with documentary as well. Yeah, but first let me show you this that the story so this is a is a portrait that was taken, but they're not a lot of story to it it's just a portrait it's a cool portrait I like it but there's not a lot of story I mean you could say ok she's wandering the desert in her dress you know and so by putting a bride and address out in the middle of the desert that's kind of a cool thing but it's just it's just cool but here's the story there's the story it was called like now when we put an interesting detail in there we've got a girl that's cold and shivering and she's got a coat on and and then you realize oh, you know, this was this struggling, you know, she's cold and she's shivering and we're taking pictures now when you look at that you're like, oh there's there's quite a story there when you when you pair it up with a detail, you know and there there's another detail like it was cold, we were cold out there it was, you know, the desert doesn't always it's not always hot it's going to be very cold, so you know the details helped tell better stories I'm much more interested in this story than I am and this story even though that's a pretty portrait ok, so it's all about the details now I'm going to show you some documentary work that I did with a young boy who was diagnosed with cancer on dso he had bone cancer and so I followed him for a year while they were while he was dealing with this bone cancer on dh I'm happy to say that he is cancer free at this point so this story ends well but I want youto to see some of the images that I took on dh tell so you can see that I'm telling this story so early on this is him this is trey gin and he's he's five years old time and he has this companion that he always has to have with him and that's his medicines and so no matter where he's going he always has this ivy hooked to him and so they named him this is charlie and so charlie goes everywhere with him and sometimes he likes charlie and sometimes he hates charlie literally like chart he's angry with charlie or he's happy with charlie and usually he's happy with charlie when he's doing okay but when charlie is making them sick then he doesn't like charley and this is a good day he's happy charlie and here friends and you can see that they're actually friends he's taken him around he gets to ride on charlie because it's got wheels and so he'll stand on in his data wheel him around and stuff like that so charlie became an integral part of trade jin's life and so I'm telling a story then that's an absolute must for a detail as I'm shooting I want that relationship between trade gin and charlie I want those details I'm another detail that this is on a particularly hard day when things aren't going well and you can see that there's not a lot of details to be had here it's not like I'm photographing something he's actually trying to play a video game inside of the hospital. They have like a little wing because children's hospital so they have all this stuff for kids to do he's trying to play a video game, and he loves playing video games, but he he can't enjoy anything on this day, he's just everything's bad, but you can see what we've done to tell the story. He's, he's feeling alone, he's feeling sad, he's feeling so he feels small, and so when when you're photographing, the idea is to take him and make him small, and you can see how we've put him in the corner, we've made him small, and we left the whole room empty for him. The smaller aiken make him the mohr impactful the statement is going to be we also see that the light is very dramatic, and so those types of things, those details help us to tell the story in the way that we shoot in the way we frame helps us to tell the story as to what's really happening in inside his mind, because we can't get inside people's minds, we can't write like dickens could or the person that wrote the thirty page turn of the girl the look at somebody you know you can't we don't get to write that, so we have to tell it with visuals and so in this case we're telling that story in a visual and you have to think about that when you're trying to tell a story how can I take what's inside someone's head and somehow put it visually in front of someone and in this case we do it with one photograph and we tell how sad and how lonely and how small this kid feels in comparison to his challenge so he has a big challenge he feels very small, he feels very wait he feels the weight upon him. And so the way we do that through the through the the overall composition of the photograph on ben here's another image that I find to be a pretty pointed at one and that is trading in the foreground out of focus and his father just looking at him with that concern but almost proud of his son for the struggle that he's going through but his his resilience and afterwards I interviewed the father and and I asked I asked everybody in the family what you had learned about yourself from trey gin and he says, you know, I realized, you know, as adults we have this sense of you know, we yesterday was a bad day, so it affects our day today, and we're angry because yesterday was bad and we're worried that tomorrow is going to be bad, and so we're always thinking about yesterday and tomorrow, and we're never living good day, he says. But I watched trey gin and young kids like this, and if they're if things were going well, their joyful and happy right now, even though five minutes ago they were throwing up and even though they know tomorrow is going to be miserable, but there have a great time right now and they live in the moment. And so, he said he learned a lot about how we as adults should react to our circumstances, you know, and that was a big moment, and so I'm looking at this photograph, and a lot of these stories come after the fact, you know, you really work and try and document things, and you just do it in the flow, and a lot of the times that story doesn't manifest itself until after you've taken the pictures, you're taking the pictures, you've taken all sorts pictures, and then this moment occurs where you realize this is it, the father is proud of the sun and that's a moment, and you and you realize that tells the story. And there's probably fifteen other pictures around that that don't quite tell that story. And so it's in the process of selection as well that you're going to start, uh, telling your story and manipulating it and and massaging it this way or that way, or or or just learning while you're looking at the photographs. So a lot of times when we're shooting, we're just shooting in the moment we're getting everything we can. And then the story emerges later, unlike when we're telling a story, you know, through a portrait like this, where we're we're literally devising the story and writing the story, and then we set it in motion because it's already made before we take the picture, whereas this you're trying to find the story so as you're photographing your family, if you're if you're just in this course and you're just watching teo teo, you know, learn about your family and your you want to learn about family photography and how to make books about your family and whatever you are documentary in your family's exist documentary documenting your family's existence, and so you're going to see your story emerged over a course of use just the same way I saw this story. Emerge over the course of a year, I literally became a part of this family, and I was it all sorts of just ran, I would come over, I would just knock on their door and walk in, start taking pictures of him, and so I became part of this family and my my, this story with this family emerges over the course of a year, and so you'll do the same with your family. You do the same when you're shooting a wedding, you come in and a story starts emerging, and you're documenting that story, and sometimes you're in control of the story. So you get to, you know, say, hey, go over there, and you go over here and walk in and see each other or whatever, so you get to control that. But then, most of the time, you're not in control of this story. And so then you documented and it's, when you start looking at the images that's, when that story starts emerging, you start learning, and so today we're going to talk about the process of finding those stories first, and then we're going to talk about how to tell those stories. Yeah, you don't question jared, one of things I really love about your work is your knowledge of art, history and would you go back to the photo of the little guy in the hospital room alone? You said once a few years ago, something that made such amazing impact on my own work, my own thoughts. And that was you were talking about that light and how light has two things function and purpose and that when you shoot your thinking of both illuminating the image and what the light is saying on, I wonder if you would just talk about that a little bit, because this is a great example of that was such a interesting thing here he said, yeah, when I say that it has so it light does two things. When you look at light, you have to understand what light does and what light says. And when what light does is it illuminates it lights up a subject, it it gives us dimension. So when you're looking at this photograph, you see light and the light hits the chair and then the shadow and then there's light on the wall and then there's a crest of light on the chair and then there's a little shadow and then there's a light on his on the on the left hand side of his face. And then there's shadow on his nose and then there's a little bit of rembrandt lighting you know coming across on his eye there you could barely you know it's kind of just sneaking around his nose there's that little sliver of light and then the shadow again and then there's a crest of light on his ear and so it's just this alternating light and that alternating light creates volume so that's what like does but what like says is very different and and and that's where the study of light is most important is to what it what it actually says and in this case you know you've got this darkness that's thie kid is mostly in darkness mostly but then there's light that comes in from the window that's illuminating him and giving some hope there's a sliver of hope there's there's some hint of something out there it's kind of like when I look at this photograph I kind of think of the carve a geo painted painting called the calling of st matthew and in it there's a window light and that light is coming through and it kind of barely crests christ's you know head and it goes cross almost kind of creating halo which it was useful because in all our just in all religious art there's always a halo around the christ or whatever but but it it the shaft of light goes and hit it's matthew and in that painting the light from the window is what's illuminating it's not christ and so basically innit carve a jew is showing where the calling comes from it doesn't actually come from christ it comes from god out that window up in the sky coming down and pointing and then christ is there too to make the call but the actual call comes from god and so it he's using light tio come in and illuminate a dark area and it's a it's a he's in like you know with all the republicans and centers and all the tax collectors and whatever so he's he's in this dark kind of you know den of thieves kind of place and so and then he is kind of low and not really excited about I don't know he could be drunk I don't I don't know what what carvajal's trying to say that he's kind of down like this and it's probably counting money or something like that but there's this light that's hitting him and it's like now is your time to leave the den of thieves and come you know and be this great person and so I kind of think of that when I look at this this darkness and he's in this dark place but there's light coming in to save him or to help him or there's there's hope on the horizon so when you think of light, when you're photographing to tell a story like uncertainly, helped to create mohr to that story, it could be a detail in itself. So so when we talk about telling stories, the first thing that we want to do is try our hardest when we're actually capturing the images, to tell as many stories as we can in one shot. If you seek to do that, whether it's, documentary or whether it's made up, if you seek to create your stories in one frame at a time, then you have the ability to tell a story with an in. So now, because we're going to talk about albums today and where he was talking about slide shows today. And so what you want is occasionally you want to be able to open a page two a photograph and nothing else. Just one photograph, and that photograph tells a story within the larger scope of the story. It's like a scene one scene.

Class Description

Photographs are one of the ways we tell stories – assembled together they paint a picture of a time and a place. In Storytelling and Album Design, Jared Platt will teach you how to tell better stories using innovative, easy-to-apply design and compilation techniques.

In this class, you’ll learn how to create compelling photo books using Smart Albums and InDesign in conjunction with Lightroom. You’ll learn how to:

  • Apply the art of storytelling to an album
  • Design a workflow to make the process fast
  • Ensure the album looks great printed
Jared will cover the best methods for designing a wedding album, senior album, and documentary book. The techniques he’ll share will help reduce the time you spend on albums from hours to just minutes.

Don’t let albums overwhelm you or your time – learn fast, effective techniques in Storytelling and Album Design with Jared Platt.


Tanya Lillie

I'm pretty proficient with LR Develop module, but I have not delved into the other modules. This class was introducing those modules and teaching how they can add value to your photography. Jared is a proficient and effective instructor.