Essence of Photography: Storytelling Portraits

Can you tell a story of a person and their environment by just showing a few small details? Let's look at some ideas and inspiration for this type of photo storytelling.

July 13, 2021

You can say a lot in a single photo with very little. Look at this image above. It is just a bunch of chairs and shoes and yet we get the distinct impression this is a classroom or school.

Making these kinds of of environmental portraits is a fun and creative way to learn to see and show the world in new ways.

You can start by going somewhere where a person is working or doing a unique task, and then try to focus in on a key element like their hands or feet which are used for a purpose.

For example, just some flowers, the edge of a white dress, and a hand, and we get the impression this was photographed at a wedding.

Here we see hands and legs in murky blue with a perfect starfish and we are in the ocean.

Certain environments and places have unique clothing and objects that are instantly recognizable. The bowling shoes on these feet plus the view down the lane gives us an immediate sense of what is going on.

These shoes and pose gives the appearance of a dancer or ballerina on the floor of the dance studio.

This works for travel and tourism photos. Here is a person at the famous Stonehenge site in England. We just see a part of their body with a tourism brochure in their pocket and in the background are the stones that form the unique element of this place.

Sometimes the environment is not familiar but we get some sense of what is going on. This travel photo of a rural village in India tells a story but it may not be as obvious. In this case it may be possible to incorporate more elements or use a series of photos to show what is happening.

You can apply this technique to other types of photography to tell a more interesting story. For example in sports photography, you might zoom in on a specific part of the body or piece of equipment used in the sport.

Now you have the idea. What type of story will you tell?




Essence of Photography is a series of tips, tutorials, and visual inspiration on a variety of photography skills and techniques.

You can practice these skills and more by purchasing a deck of Photo Cards from Zoom In Reach Out, a non-profit with a mission of teaching to see the world from a different perspective.

All photos in this article were posted to the Aminus3 Photography Community and are copyrighted by their respective photographers.

Click on any photo to see a larger version or to leave a comment for the photographer.

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