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20 Tips on How to Be A Better Story Teller With Photography

There are so many ways to improve your story telling with a digital camera. Even though I have prosumer gear (I still use a Nikon D90), I have shot many great photos and videos that I have captured using the camera on my iPhone.

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Photo of me by Bob Jagendorf – see his awesome photos here.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to do this.  You just have to work at it.  Here’s some tips.

1.  Get a camera that suits your needs – and your budget.  

Chris Brogan recommends the Lumix DMC-LX5.  Nan Palmero raves about his Canon S95.  Jeff Pulver and Bob Jagendorf use a Nikon D7000.  Depending on what you want to do, your threshold for weight and space, and of course, your budget, you can do great things with a pocket camera like the the Lumix or Canon, or for that matter, the camera on your iPhone, Blackberry or Android device take great photos.

2.  Doing to trade shows and conferences?  Capture your story there. 

Trade shows, events, and conferences are a great place to capture great photos and stories.  If you are exhibiting, or speaking make sure you have photos of your booth, customers, partners, and investors.  Depending on production values you are seeking, post some of the photos using your smart phone and post them on Twitter and Facebook.    

3.  Time permitting, change your background and explore the city.

Depending on how much time you have, and if you can, when you fly or drive into a city for business, try going in the day before, or allow time the day after to explore and do story telling using your camera.  Visit a local customer, a partner and take photos of them at their offices. Explore the city and find local bridges, tunnels, buildings, or signs that represent the character of the city that can also reinforce the images and messaging of your company.

4.  Don’t forget video for YouTube.

Here’s my YouTube channel.  Get one for yourself.  Maybe one for your company too.  Depending on company policy, have your own YouTube channel.  It’s another way to set yourself apart and shine.  

Sometimes, I am using a Kodak Zi8.  Other times, I use my iPhone.  Or, when production values are needed, my Sony HD Camcorder.

If you have a pocket camera that shoots video (most do) try experimenting with simple, quick interviews, or capturing the moment at a trade show, conference or customer visit.

5.  Don’t forget audio for Cinchast.

If you have smartphone, then you should download Cinchast.  It’s free.

This is not photography, but still applicable for easy story telling using and broadcasting audio.   See what Robert Scoble does and listen to his interviews with his Cinchcast channel.  He’s the master at this.  

Here’s my Cinchcast channel.  

Cincast is great because you can use your smartphone, conduct verbal interviews on the fly, and post them in real time to your social networks.

6.  Use your SmartPhone for streaming photos on your personal and company’s Facebook page.

This is especially effective at trade shows and conferences.  Pimp up the other speakers.  Shout out a high five when you competitors are doing something really cool, like giving a great talk when they are on a panel with you.  Point out rising stars in your ecosystem.  Be helpful and be a real time reporter for the ecosystem at the event you are at, and at home.

7.  Getting better at shooting better photos.

The more you do this, the better you’ll get.  It’s really simple and very powerful.  

Stock photos on a company blog suck, and show no imagination.  

Use your original photos and get the real people from your ecosystem.  You’ll find that they love the recognition and will share the love back.

8.  Think like a photo journalist.

You’re not just shooting a photo.  You are telling a story with your photo to support your story.  Go to Look, Time, and National Geographic.  You may not be in their league (yet) but you can certainly aspire to do this, particularly with people.

9.  Aim for the eyes (when you can)

When you are shooting people, aim for their eyes – or an eye.  I generally like to focus on one eye because it gives you a different perspective and draws you into their face.

10. Prototype your photos before you start shooting.

This is especially helpful if you are just getting started.   Shoot something before you go on the road, to a trade show or conference, or press tour.

11. Look for street scenes have great and colorful stories.

This is particularly effective when you travel abroad.  Make sure you try to include signage or symbols that are indigenous to the country you are in.  It illustrates that you’re global and have a wider view of the world.

12. Use photography for business development.

It’s a nice ice-breaker and shifts you away from selling.  You’re trying to capture their story – not yours.  This is particularly effective with video.  Interview prospective customers.  Get them to talk about their pain points, what they are seeing, where they are going, what solutions they are looking for. 

You may not have the right solution for them- and that’s ok.  If someone discovers them and they can help them, then everyone wins, and you’re the hero.

13. Email your good photos to people you have taken photos of.

It shows you care and that you thought of someone.  it’s also great for business development.  A nice touch.

14. Ask permission.

I always ask permission.  Particularly at a trade show.  “Hey, OK with you if I shoot your photo?  It’s for my company’s blog.  I am not a professional.  We’re also in your space and think you have a great story to tell.”  Generally, you will not only get a “yes” but big thank you for asking.

15.  Mix it up with Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

Quick photos from your smartphone can go on Facebook and Twitter in real time from your shooting.  The really good ones can be cropped, edited, etc and put on your Flickr page when you are back in your hotel room.

16. Get a few good photo apps for your smart phone.

I like Instagram, Picplz and and AutoStitch.  There are certainly many others.

17. Remember, you are story telling.

Here’s some sampling of my photos that tell stories.  See more over at my Flickr site.

18. Try shooting  at street level.

Just try.  Bend over bit or squat and give your viewers a different view of the world you are seeing and experiencing.

19. Think in metaphors.

If there is a technology theme such as networking, security, collaboration, community, interface, communication, cloud, storage, device – find groups of people, barriers, open spaces, beautiful cloud formations, telephone lines, people talking and moving with smart phones, people hugging, shaking hands, speaking on the streets.    

20. Aim for 1 in 10.

Take multiple photos of the same thing.  The first one may not always come out right.  Shoot from various angles – up high, down low, and in between.  The more you do this, the better you’ll get.  You’ll find that you will also develop a “third eye.”

So, how about you?  How do you use photography for story telling?  Chime in with a comment.

4 Comments

  1. Alan – what? No photos of In-n-Out Burger in this story???

    Reply
  2. Alan – what? No photos of In-n-Out Burger in this story???

    Reply
  3. Great list.One of the critical things to remind new photo shooters is that taking photos is like playing an instrument … it takes practice and a critical eye. The more photos one takes, the better a chance they have of taking good photos reliably. However, studying good photos by great photographers can help immensely. It is the only way to learn what one is doing right or wrong. Continuing education in photography makes the difference between a photographer with tens years of experience and a photographer with one year of experience ten times.Additionally, I suggest the book, “Photographic Composition: A Visual Guide,” by Richard D. Zakia. For beginning and intermediate photographers this can provide a great basis for how to look at the world through their viewfinders and what images to record.

    Reply
  4. Great list.One of the critical things to remind new photo shooters is that taking photos is like playing an instrument … it takes practice and a critical eye. The more photos one takes, the better a chance they have of taking good photos reliably. However, studying good photos by great photographers can help immensely. It is the only way to learn what one is doing right or wrong. Continuing education in photography makes the difference between a photographer with tens years of experience and a photographer with one year of experience ten times.Additionally, I suggest the book, “Photographic Composition: A Visual Guide,” by Richard D. Zakia. For beginning and intermediate photographers this can provide a great basis for how to look at the world through their viewfinders and what images to record.

    Reply

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