Is A Story Necessary For A Good Photo?

May 27, 2024

Carrarang Colours and Patterns, Shark BayCarrarang Colours and Patterns, Shark Bay

Carrarang Colours and Patterns, Shark Bay
Phase One XF IQ150, 110mm Schneider lens, f4 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 80

As I write this, Shark Bay is outside our accommodation. Under a bright blue sky, it looks unbelievably boring from down here at sea level, but once you get up into the air, the transformation is simply remarkable! And despite having been here a dozen times before (Tony Hewitt must have been here 50 times), there's always something new to discover.

In one of our workshop sessions this week, Tony discussed the need for story-telling in a photograph. Often you'll hear a judge or commentator complimenting a photograph for its story-telling and some people extrapolate this to mean all photographs should tell a story. But as Tony suggested, sometimes a photograph isn't telling a story. Or if it does have a story (because we can attach a story to anything), that story is simply, 'Doesn't this subject look interesting'!

Photography is a language and you can use it to do different things. Story-telling is one of them. So is being decorative. We take a photograph of something simply because it looks good or interesting or unusual or surprising. As photographers we don't have to think deeply about what our subject means or says, it's quite okay to be recreational and just respond to what we see. Up above Shark Bay, I'm not thinking about the stories my photographs are going to tell. Sure, I could create a series of images that are designed to tell something deep and meaningful, but the honest truth is, I'm just enjoying the experience.

Perhaps the story is what a lucky fellow I am to be leading aerial photography workshops up at Shark Bay with Tony. It's not a bad way to earn a crust!

So the takeaway is that I think it's quite acceptable to take a purely pictorial approach to photography where the message is nothing more than 'look at what I found'. For example, the attached photo has personal appeal because the colours are so different to the vibrant blues, greens and yellows which we usually associate with Shark Bay aerials - the deep, rich, tertiary reds, greens and browns really sing to me, while the little corner of light in the bottom left creates a point of difference and some relief from the darker tones above.

 


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