By printing our clients’ work, not only can we transform our photography business but we can also amplify (exponentially) the impact our art has on our clients and their families, for generations. We must stop solely focusing on capturing the perfect image and start concentrating on providing the client’s story in print. While one stunning photograph may bring us industry accolades, it is only the printed album and wall art that can bring us thousands of dollars in extra revenue, and give our clients a tangible artifact for the rest of their lives.
While the business side of having additional pay is a big incentive, I believe that it is more important to focus on the significance of print and the influence of story, as the reasons to learn more about storytelling.
I often think of the two photos of my parents on their wedding day; they are just two slices of the story of that day, but they are all that I have. If I could send one of my favorite wedding photographers back in time to my parents’ wedding, I wouldn’t want an epically-lit photo of them on a beach. Instead, I would give anything to see all the interactions; photos of my mother with her parents; photos of my father with his mother and father; more photos of them together, and the emotion of the day. The story.
As wedding and portrait photographers, we are in charge of one of the most important narratives in our clients’ lives, and the more we excel at telling those stories and put them in print the better we can be at preserving the lives of our clients for their children, grandchildren, and beyond. Learning the basics of storytelling [the overall structure, layouts] and keeping these in mind while you are out on a shoot, can make all the difference.
Storytelling – Structuring The Narrative To Last Forever
Let’s start with the fundamental story structure: All great stories must have a beginning, middle, and an end. Going back to Aristotle, we find this basic three-act structure, and when shooting, it is this structure we must keep in mind, and shoot for. The structure does not have to follow reality perfectly, but we must complete the entire story – sometimes we may even shoot for the end of the album in the middle of the day.
In its most basic explanation, the beginning should answer the questions, ‘Where are we?’ and, ‘Who are the main characters?’. You can still establish the scene whenever you change location, but this is your first chance to showcase where you are as the story opens up. For a wedding, that is the getting ready portion; the bride with her family and wedding party, and the groom with his. For a family session, it can be a landscape shot of the location, or an establishing shot of the whole family together.
The middle comprises the bulk of the story, and is chronological in most cases. Times like ‘the first look’, the ceremony, the formal portraits, the first dance, the cake cutting, or the majority of any shots that define the word “moments.” This is what I am mostly missing from my parents’ wedding. The ‘in-between’.
The end should contain the climax and the resolution. Fortunately, knowing this ahead of time helps us to look for it while it’s happening. In a wedding, the reception is usually the best time to look for this enthusiasm. Maybe it’s a crazy dance shot where the guests frame the couple, or a fireworks display to capture the ultimate elation of the day; the moment when everyone is just having fun. In a portrait session, you may have to prompt it, but running, tickling, or smiling always shows joy and helps create that same exciting feeling.
However, this peak is not the final point. Now that the emotion of the story is at its high-point, you will be able to bring it down and pause on that quiet reflection. We all know the cheesy shot of the cowboy riding off into the sunset, and while we may find that shot overdone, it’s used because it works, emotionally. It assures the viewer that everything is going to be all right. We can create this same feeling as we close the album. A simple pull back shot of the couple in a quiet moment, or even walking across the frame will give the viewer a both a sense of closure of the day, and a sense that this marriage/family is ever-enduring.
Knowing that the overall structure is the foundation, we can move beyond it, and learn to capture and cull for the scene. Pairing the story/framework with the ability to shoot for the scenes helps to set us up for successful album and wall art sales. Just as a movie director shoots scenes that are later put together, photographers shoot scenes that are then turned into layouts, which together can tell the story in an album or on the wall as a gallery. In photography, there are three fundamental types of layouts.
The first kind of layout is called the “Hero Shot,” one image that can stand alone. These are often the ones chosen for full page spreads and large canvases. The final ending image I talked about before is almost often a Hero Shot, a singular portrait of the day.
The next is a group of images called “Main & Supporting.” These are often made by pairing one larger shot to establish scene, followed up with a close-up (or few) of detail. Think along the lines of a bridal portrait with a full body shot of her and her bouquet as the main, then a close-up of her face covered in the veil. The possibilities with these pairings are endless.
The final section of the layout is called the “Collection of Equals”. They are arrangements of equal sized images to help support the story, and these could be a group of three same-size vertical family shots on one wedding album spread, or a group of 6 small square canvases on the wall from different parts of a portrait shoot.
Ultimately, the most important thing we do as photographers is tell a story; to find the heart of it, then to create tangible printed images that can be passed down for generations. That is why I strove to create a tool that would help photographers tell the best stories for their clients. Fundy Designer—especially with the newest features, such as the professional Auto Design, updated Quick Design Picker and the new Image Browser—is designed to help visualize and preserve your client’s story in an easy and most efficient way possible – to allow you to print and preserve the client’s invaluable moments for the future.
What story will your images tell to their grandchildren?
About The Author: Andrew “Fundy” Funderburg, – photography expert and industry visionary – has a passion for people, capturing emotions and telling their stories through print. He is the creator of the Fundy Design Suite software platform and the founder of Fundy Software.