We’ve all heard the saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words”. It can’t be truer. Photography has a way of telling a story that speaks to our emotions better than any other art form. Photos capture unique moments in time, never to be replicated. Take some of the most iconic photos from the last century for example. Photos like “Migrant Mother” and “The Kiss” capture important moments throughout histories such as The Dust Bowl and V-J Day.

It’s not by sheer luck that these photos are captured and made famous. There is a technique behind the photo to create a narrative and embrace emotion in order to captivate the audience. Photography has a way of personally connecting with its audience to build trust, share story details, and embrace emotion.

It’s all in the composition

Any successful photo has a well-thought-out composition by learning and applying photography techniques. Applying techniques such as aperture, depth of field, lighting, and the rule of thirds allows you to compose an artful composition. Additionally, knowing a little bit about the principles and elements of design helps you create a scene that appeals to the eye.

Working on your skills before you set the scene is crucial to making a refined composition for your photograph. After all, you need the skills before you even begin to think about what narrative you want to tell. By learning what makes make a good photo, you build credibility as a photographer and trust with your audience. Then, you can have the confidence to create a compelling narrative.

A compelling narrative

Now that you have your skill set, you can work on creating the narrative for your photo. This begins by asking yourself what you want to capture and your purpose for capturing it. Are you taking a landscape photo or a portrait? What lighting do you want? What is the subject of the photo? Answering these questions can guide your composition by figuring out which elements to leverage when taking the photo. If you are taking a picture of a building, you might want to aim symmetrical balance. On the other hand, if you are capturing a person, perhaps using the rule of thirds makes the most sense. Bottom line, keep in mind these techniques when creating your composition.

By creating a narrative, you are ultimately deciding which story details you wish to share. You decide what elements you want to emphasize or deemphasis depending on the techniques you choose to use. You can choose to emphasize the emotion on a person’s face or the movement of the trees. The angle and perspective you choose decide the story you want to tell. The devil is in the details, and the details are going to make all the difference in your photo’s narrative. Details help you personally connect with the narrative and get a better understanding of the photo’s context.

Getting a reaction

One of the biggest takeaways from a photo is the emotion that it evokes in the viewer. You want to create a photo that elicits a reaction, whether it is positive or negative, with your viewer. As a photographer, you want your audience to feel emotion — happy, sad, angry, surprised, content, disgusted. Feeling emotion is the key to successful art, even though the artist and the viewer might have completely different reactions.

Photography is like any other piece of art in that people interpret it in many different ways. The details in the photo are going to create an emotional connection with the viewer. They might connect with the subtle details or the more obvious. Either way, they are going to make the details relevant to them. What they connect to and how they connect is based on the viewer’s experiences or understanding of the composition. Because photography happens in real time, the emotion you get is raw, which is such a beautiful characteristic of photography. Details allow you to embrace emotion, allowing you to personally connect with both the narrative and the photographer.

Photography is both an art and a science. Knowing the basics of how to use a camera to create a narrative will evoke emotion with your audience. By combining technique and creativity, you create a photo that builds trust, shares story details, and embraces emotion. This is sure to create a photo worth more than a thousand words, all rooted in personal connection.