By Annick Paradis with PhotographerHack Editor Koren Smith

Hi everyone! I’m Annick and I am family documentary photographer based in Quebec City, Canada. During the day, I am an organizational development consultant. During my evenings and weekends, I run my photography business, Annick&Simon photographers. Simon is my partner, in case you were wondering! Our two children are my muses and I love that they offer me an endless supply of moments to document!

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In this blog post, I wanted to give you a glimpse of my online photography course that is about “composing stories that last a lifetime,” or how composition interplays with storytelling.  So here I am today on Photographer Hack to expose you to 3 ways to connect with your audience as a visual storyteller.

1. Get a clear intention: You are speaking with someone!

How would it be possible to connect with someone in real life if you don’t know what the conversation is about? Your image is a visual expression of a message or a story.

Having a clear intention is the key to be able to create a storytelling image instead of a snapshot, as your subject of conversation will be well-defined.

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2. Add the necessary visual clues: They are your words.

Using visual clues as you would use words in a sentence will help you to pack the necessary elements into your images. By doing so, you will help the viewer to feel connected to your story by giving them a sufficient number of visual clues to understand what your message is about.

Your first decision would be to pick the point of view of your story. Who will tell it? A narrator? The main character? An opponent? This will affect your composition and your narrative and so it is considered as an indirect visual clue.

Now think of the elements that the viewer needs to understand your message. These are the “direct” visual clues. Which perspective would be the best to include all of them? From below? From above? From behind? At eye level?

Can you simply fill the frame to showcase a bold emotion? Do you need to back up a bit to include some objects in the foreground or in the background? Maybe you only need to feature negative space to emphasize an atmosphere?

Sometimes we need big sentences to express our thought, sometimes, less is better. It’s the same about composing a visual story.

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3. Hunt for the moment: Be clear on what matters in your message.

Back to our dialogue example. If you are telling a great story to someone, you would make sure you give sufficient details for them to understand. You would also make sure there is a thread in your message, that your sentences are well linked and organized. A wrong connector or a bad organization can hurt your story. Visual narrative is the same.

The devil is in the details. Know what you need to connect with your audience. For example, while shooting, wait for the gaze of your subject to look in the right direction, wait for gestures that will help tell the story and wait for the perfect expression of your subject. Also, always make sure your subject is well isolated by doing micro-adjustments to your composition. Balance your image so it reads great.

Yes, sometimes all those elements don’t come together at the same time. Just accept it. But when they happen at the same time and you fire your shutter at this moment, you will have just composed a story that will last a lifetime!

Come join me in my online course, Fleeting to Timeless: Composing Stories to Last a Lifetime to learn more about composition and storytelling!


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Annick Paradis

Annick Paradis

Annick is a French-Canadian family documentary photographer who likes infusing fine arts in everyday life. She adores to capture the essence of a family, their rituals and funny moments, and most of all the bond that brings their unique tribe together. You can find her juggling her full-time job, her photography business and her two kids in Québec city, Canada, aka Maple Syrup Heaven.

You can follow Annick on Instagram and follow and tag to her hub @FleetingToTimeless using #fleetingtotimeless.