Elements of a Well-told Story
some of the elements of a well tell told story are here, up on the screen. I'll talk through some of them and they apply equally to all of stills. Emotion. Your final edit should be comprehensive. And that's what I was talking about, capturing all times of day. You'll notice there's a huge range in that story that I just showed you guys had. Morning, afternoon evening stars. Compositions should vary wide angle, telephoto close up, macro underwater and aerial. Maybe, Maybe not. You don't need him. Doesn't have to be part of it. But, you know, even just like the creative live images I showed you, I had those, um, details of macros, those little intimate moments that happen on a very small scale. They're all part of the story, and you have to constantly be thinking, What the angles? How do I change it up? Practice at home. Practice in your kitchen. X with food. Tell a story, Tell a recipe. That's why I keep comparing everything in photography a little bit to a recipe because it's you have...
all these different ingredients of all these different pieces put together. Make a great dish. Think like a reader and not like a photographer. I think this is really, really, really important because it's it's an easy habit, and I'm guilty of it myself to think about. I'm going to impress everybody with this post. Or I'm gonna press everybody with this landscape photo where I'm gonna impress myself, get the best shot ever got because I finally think I've planned it just right. But if you're even if you're planning to be an assignment photographer or you're just trying to get better at your work, think about yourself as somebody who's just reading the magazine. What do you hope to see when you're planning a trip? What do you hope to see that will help you figure out what sort of shots you should be looking for? And what sort of compositions you should be looking for is well, so try not to think necessarily, always like a photographer. Don't think about like a photographer a little bit, but try and think like a reader as well. You know what appeals to you, you know, where would you stop another piece? I think down that that's very, very important is, you know would say I'm going to Channel Islands National Park. They all photographed a boat on the way. You know if I'm going to drive to New Mexico, so I'm going to White Sands National Monument was one of my favorite places to photograph. I will pay attention in the entire road trip out from L. A. To everything on passing because all that could be part of the story. Maybe it's maybe it's a trip across Route 66 I have the great little town of Williams and Flagstaff or wherever outside Flagstaff. Or, you know, maybe there's a really cool gas station with a bunch of dinosaurs on the side of the road that kids might enjoy and not you make that part of your story because somebody reading a magazine we're seeing your post. Whatever might find appreciation in that and understanding and learning that these are the things that are part of it. The story is not the destination. The story is the journey and the destination. It's both, and I think it's important to keep all of that in there, and that will constantly play into this what we're talking about sales, where they're talking about taking great pictures, both the journey and the destination very important. Have fun and take creative risks. Um, you know, that's definitely Ah, the key thing. And I think too many professional photographers forget about that. I think they get so bent out of shape about Oh, is my work is the best, or they take it so seriously. They stop having fun, and it kills the creativity and they limit themselves. There are billions, truly billions and billions of images in the marketplace. This isn't the age where the four by five camera eight by camera and the rare sheet of large film capturing the West for the first time. This is not that it's all been photographed more or less before. It's the creative mind, the free one, the one that's fun, that that goes after the things they enjoy. That changes our perspective on photography and becomes a great photographer. And it doesn't happen overnight. It will take many, many, many years, if ever so. Why not have fun and enjoy the process? And I think that that those creative risks will bring you closer. Of course, if you're working and you're on assignment, that makes you get the story but usually the two go hand in hand. You want to make sure you bank your story. Your subject matter already covered this little bit Channel Islands, but it should vary. You've got people, people, people, nature. Photography is his outdoor photography. Outdoor enthusiasts guide to stills in motion. People are part of it. Notice that their first wildlife your pets if bringing pets, depending on where you are, the food, the landscape, etcetera. The images should reflect your creative styles. Wells. The story beats of the end user, and I covered that a little when I said, Hey, look, this is kind of that reflect reflect the sunset brand and that doesn't mean shoot it sunset. But it's got to reflect the sunset brand and what they're looking for and what their readers know as well as your own sense of style and as well as the story beats of the end user. So if it's a client or whoever, it may be official wildlife service. For instance. When I'm going out and photographing one of their refuges and there's lots of lots of urban refugees close to most of cities in the US, you know what would have the beats that you want to do to tell, but that story, you know, maybe it's a transformation. You know, if you're in the Denver area, there's Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, and that place went to an incredible transformation, and it's right in everyone's backyard. Millions of people in the state of Colorado right there they don't think about it. They think about the national park. But you have all these other places that are right there. How do you tell those stories? It's a new opportunity to go and do something different. Photography is very important. In that way. A magazine is gonna be very different than telling a story of a local refuge. Or maybe it's both. It's a refuge for magazine. Figuring that out will change how you shoot. So knowing your end user, knowing your audience ultimately is what we're talking about here should inform the style of what you're shooting. It's very important. The processing of your images should be consistent. I'm gonna definitely go through processing in greater detail. This is really just an introduction to the whole process. Is my bird's eye view It'll my establishing shot of the class? Um but the processing of your images should be consistent. And you know, you don't want to have four different looks. Figure out what you're looking. Your style is gonna be Are you de saturating or you're going for whatever. And I'm gonna talk about filters and trends and all that other stuff, but figure out where your what your processing styles gonna be. Um, but you're working in light room or if you're processing and dough be Kamerad. Whatever you know, try and be consistent. At least be consistent on your project or your assignment. Don't come back from the Channel Islands or refuge or somewhere and have nine different images with nine different looks and feel. You notice that my image is always sort of have a similar look and feel, and I think that's very important. Let me go back actually, for a second, Um, because I want to talk about this pro tip and I'm gonna show you that in a second as well. But they should have a consistent look and feel, and you should do your own final at it, which is part of that, you know? So whenever I go somewhere, what's them like even creativelive were out North cascades the end of every day. I'd go through, pick a few images, figure out where I stand. How did my day go? Did I get a bunch? I get a lot. Does it look and feel consistent? Am I getting the establishing shot that macro All that stuff people by showing the sense of environment? Are these guys gonna be happy? I would be like, No, not so good. I could do better. So I'm gonna show you this. This was another. This is that this is an actual So creativelive obviously get different challenges. You're teaching a class. You're not just hammered away all day long. Sleeping bear dunes in Michigan was that it was a National Park magazine story. I was there for 48 hours. That's all we had budget wise. That's all we had time wise. That may not pull out every stop. You know, the selfie figure out sense of place, but immediately, the first thing I noticed when I went out there was the color palette. This wasn't an evening place for me. This was not a place that I was gonna work in in the in the uh, you know, the late day I would certainly try. I'm not gonna limit myself. But the one thing I noticed was the vibrancy of the palate. It was called these candy colors. And so the 48 hour story really became very easy to do because I could work all day long and embrace the seen for what it is ultimately, you know, embracing the seen for what it is. Take it in and let those colors shine through and you can see. And I put all these on the screen because you can see how they all look and feel the same. This time I want to say processor images in a similar way. But it's not just the processing. It's also the time of day and the shoot. So by the halfway through the first day, but definitely by the end of day one, I had a very strong sense of what it was that I was looking for in in the style of these. So it's ah, and you can see the story. You guys do this story, you get a sense of what it is. You know, sand in your shoes certainly plays a big role. You know, lost souls kind of makes you laugh out a little humor. You know, you get a strong sense of what's out there. It's hard to tell there's actually a sailboat here on the horizon for that wide shot. I tried incorporate big, wide shots with small details in it because it forces the magazine around a double page spread to appreciate it, giving away all my secrets. Hopefully, the clients aren't listening. Same thing here, but you know, it's it's a large place. So you want those wide shots to give you a nice strong sense of scale in place. Leading lines that tell a story person on the beach, rolling fence, a little bit of the food. This, ironically, has been one of the best sellers afterwards. Stock photography wise, you know, cherry pie up in that part of the world in Michigan and I guess is like nothing and it ah becoming one of the better sellers. I think I've sold maybe like afterwards, after the assignment, we'll talk about embargoes and things like that. But I think the baby had a couple landscape shots. This is Ah, Erica worked tandem with me, good friend over the years joined me out there makes it a lot easier when you've got a little a little help and subject matter and you're able to appreciate a place with somebody. Makes it go quicker but not necessary. Definitely had a lot of other people in frame and so on. But those are the things that will help makes it feel more consistent if you look and feel to get a sense of what the place is about. But you have to ask yourself some hard questions. I started this this class by talking about curation and how it is all about taking things out of the frame curating things. You're really curating your life and decisions and making processes. Um, there could be very Let's be very honest, I think. And you have to ask, How far are you willing to go to tell a powerful, well told story? And the difference really is between good and gray is truly sacrifice. I can't tell you how many photographers I know We're telling these incredible stories of tropical birds in the middle of the Amazon whatever, and they're gone for months from their families. They're out of range. But I'm on the road. I don't talk to people in my office, hates me, you know, we're watching probably right now. So say hello to all you guys. But it's true. I'm not home right now, so you have to make that determination. Is how far do you really want to go? Because to get that rare shot, sometimes it means months to get one front frame. Planning all the other pieces that come to it doesn't mean you have to do that. But at some point there is going to be a sacrifice that has been made. It might be on a daily basis. Are you willing to work from sunrise to sunset? I mean, that is, in its most basic terms, outdoor photography. If you're thinking career, if you're not even thinking career and you want to get a great shot if you're working in the summer and you're like I'm on vacation Sunrise. I was just in Montana a week ago, whatever was week and 1/2 ago two weeks ago and all blurs together and and, you know, you get to the northern latitudes and sunrise. Was that like, you know, 5 30 in the morning? and my evening long exposure shots were 10 oclock at night. And then you've got to download your memory card. You want to take a quick look and see how it's going. Of course, you probably want to eat, and every now and then get some sleep. That is the sacrifice and the things that you have to make it. That's a small sacrifice, figuring out what the range is if you really want to do it right. The other thing is, sometimes the right time is inconvenient using your holiday weekend. Now, if you really enjoy photography, I would hope that that's something that's not a big sacrifice because you're gonna go and use that long weekend away from work, whatever it is to go out and tell a story or get out there and make some make some images up a place you like. But, you know, I've heard a lot of people say that, and I think that's why I say these are the hard questions. This is the time to be honest about what it is you really want, how far you want to go and there is no right. We're wrong. Answer on this. Um and I say this because I've heard of this many times. You know, I've been thankful because I haven't had to sacrifice everything to do it. But I've heard of a lot of photographers who are dedicated to their craft of outdoor photography to capture that snow leopard or whatever it might be. And they spend months and months and months gone, and that is the sacrifice that they want. But that makes them happy, I hope. And it really gets them to where they want to tell that story. Um, you know, I say, building a library of images. This is something popcorn bit about because it's a stock licensing company as the stock photographer, Um, building a library is very important, and I actually think building a library and having your image is represented in the marketplace. Whether you are a full time photographer, inspiring photographer, part time or I'm just trying to figure things out, it is probably one of the best steps to having your were curated by somebody else. The figure out with the marketplace likes and figuring out where you really stack up. But again, you have to be realistic. You have to be open to that, you have to be open to somebody else editing your work. And that's also part of the entire process of assignments and so on. So the sacrifices, Ariel, the sacrifice Israel and your final edits should be comprehensive. So you have to figure out, you know, do I have my sunrises? Do I have my son sets? So I have all of those pieces that are there. Are you doing all your times a day? Morning Afternoon? Evening stars? Are you willing to make that sacrifice? I can't tell you how many times I'm on location taking images, making images, and everyone's leaving the parking lot just as it's getting good all so many times. It's ridiculous. They're not. They're just not. They don't care that much. That's that's the truth. It boils down or you just don't care that much. I got it. I'm good. Even when you think you've got in the back of the camera, you just keep going. Just keep going. Never stop. Your compositions should vary going right off the screen on that one wide angle telephoto Close up underwater aerials. The word we're missing, you should think like a reader, not a photographer. Have fun, take creative risks. Bank the story. Is this a hobby or a career? That is a question I hear all the time. Should I do this full time? There's no right or wrong answer. It doesn't have to be your career. You mean you're published? I mean, you're enjoying it when you're getting better at what you're doing. Um, I mean, we read, we do other things. We do other activities. We want to be better at home. I think people think very black and white when they think about photography, and they think it has to be a career God, I wish I could do that, but I'll never be able to do that. There's no right. We're wrong. Answer. And there's a path to getting there for me. It was a hobby to begin with, and in fact, I always thought I would never become a photographer. You know, I saw my father struggled in his early days with it. I've seen a lot of the industry struggle I saw change, you know? So CD ROM's date myself a little bit. Seedy romp. They're gonna put us all out of business, you know, you get a CD for whatever waas 20 bucks and it's got 12 images on it. That's crazy. You know, times have changed, but there's always gonna be something to complain about. But you know there's no right or wrong answer to hobby or career. The difference really is in your flexibility. You know, Where are you right now in your life? What do you have? The capability to dio, what sacrifices you're willing to make and that ultimately, um, will be the determining factor. I think on which way you want to go. But maybe it's an evolution. Maybe it's a process, and you can go from there knowing your goals obviously answers that. But I can't emphasize enough to be real with yourself. Don't we have a habit of tricking ourselves? I do it all the time to myself. Unlike on, I'm going to do this. I don't wrap up of over to be honest with yourself and I throw this on the screen. This is me. This is my attempt at pizza, which, by the way they were horrible, did not work out that well. But it's part of my process of putting things together. You know, I always practice. I like practicing in my kitchen, but photography is a great recipe. It requires you to use all the different spices in your kitchen to make your own sweet, delicious composition her story. And I really think that is a huge take away here. Um, I think that you have to think that way. How much salt you wanna have? Not too much, you know, Think about those kinds of pieces and practice practice in your kitchen. It's a really good way to go. You know, use the light is no lighting. These aren't sets. But, you know, this is my This is actually my phone playing around. This is actually, uh uh, next photo I'm about to show you. Is that refugees talking about in Denver? One of things I want talk about is the gateway to nature, our national wildlife refuges. I think they're a great opportunity to tell stories. And, you know, one of the things that this class is really gonna really focus on is going to be, you know, this process, this transition from stills to motion and it doesn't mean you have to make that process. I'm just gonna lay the groundwork in the fundamental pieces of What does it mean to be a still photographer and feel like I'm getting to a point where I'm feeling a little bit more comfortable, but I want to add to it. I want to add motion. I want to tell that story. What does that get you? Um, the refugees were one of those places for May where I really started to explore that. And the nice part of it is is because there's such close. Uh, I'm sorry because they're so close to urban areas. You really have that opportunity. Teoh Review Have a base motion is very difficult in the field, exceptionally difficult to feel because you have so many more elements to think about, and I'm not gonna get into it just yet, but in a minute. But you have so many more elements. I think about that. You know, working close to home, um, is really important, I think, for starting their even more so than still photography. I mean, I think for still photography, it's definitely important, but it's not critical. You can take that trip if you want for two weeks and go somewhere and make great images not saying Don't do that. I'm just saying don't rely on that. Um, for motion, I would say rely on staying close to home to start because you're gonna miss things. Going to forget things, you know, I just did a trip. Ah, I was in. I was passing more less through Hawaii. On my way. I got out there. I realized I had one bolt on Lee, one little tiny bolt the size of a dime to connect my camera to my tripod. And I was going to go on for two weeks in a place with barely food, let alone camera equipment. And so I went on this huge mission to try and find this bolt or a replacement. Because had I gotten there, I'd had no way to attach my motion camera to the tripod. And with a still camera that's not as big of a problem. You can handhold. You can improvise. You just need that quarter of a second. But when you switch to motion, it's a whole new set of rules. You've got fluid heads, pans left and right, tilts up and down, and you need those they're critical to making. Your film comes together, and you really need to figure out what your bag looks like, what your gear looks like, how to prepare when you could make those mistakes and afford to make those mistakes. So I recommend being close to home. The refugees were great. This is Rocky Mountain Arsenal in Denver, as I was talking about. This is another really awesome place. It's biosolids. It's down in Louisiana. Um, very, very tricky, you know, working out on the water, of course. And mosquitoes, which seemed to let me more than they used to. It's an agent thing. I don't know. Uh, San Diego, Um you know, working with Fish and Wildlife Service there is able to get right in the mix and tell that story. And, uh, you know, this was again stills and motion, and this is the struggle. And this is the complicated pieces when you do one, and when you do the other when you're one person and that's something else I'm gonna talk a lot about because I was here to actually produce a film. But I needed to stop and also get stills and find that balance between those two things. So this is such an incredible place. These were white turns, I believe. And, uh, uh, elegant turns. I think elegant turns, I think, is the actual species of bird. I think it was like something like 50% or more like 70% of the entire population of this bird is in this picture, almost their nest in this one. Little are here, and I think they move some other places. But there's so few of these things left, and it shows how important these areas are. And they're in urban areas. So there's great stories everywhere and finding that balance of how to tell them and, um, doing so in a single frame sometimes is very important. We had a whole team down there. This is one of our team members. Um, you know? Yeah. I mean, this is this is it right? Rocky Mountain, Martial arts, Denver in the background. That's that. Really? Does that tell a story in a single frame? Motion is very different. You know, You get a story in a still image right out of the gate, but motion, you got to sit down and watch it take in the minutes. Um and really let that develop