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What is a story?

Lesson 6 from: The Ultimate Photo Storytelling Workshop

Finn Beales

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Lesson Info

6. What is a story?

In this episode Finn deconstructs the essence of a story so you can learn and then apply some methods and techniques to improve your own.
Next Lesson: Essence: Location

Lesson Info

What is a story?

So what is a story? It seems a good place to start considering this is a storytelling workshop. But it's a puzzling question because we all know what a story is, right? You've read them. You've watched them. You've listened to your friends telling them. But have you ever considered what makes a good one? What keeps you turning the page? Sat in that movie theater seat and listening to your friends. And is there a method we can learn or techniques that we can help, that can help improve our own? A relative of mine is a Hollywood scriptwriter. He's a very good one. You'll have seen some of his movies and I love talking to him about the art of storytelling. He's got some great thoughts. But a basic premise that he always goes on about, and I agree with him, is that a story needs structure. As opposed to pure narrative which is essentially a fairly neutral sequence of events. You know, I did this, then I did that, then I went here. He says a story, and a good story, has a beginning, a middl...

e and an end. And the end should tie up with a plot line or a question that is posed at the beginning or in the middle. This structure adds a level of satisfaction to the experience. And an ending, a well-rounded, crafted ending is a sort of like a payoff. It's satisfying for the viewer to experience. So we've established it needs structure, but what else? A common flaw is saying too much when it comes to relaying any type of information. I mean, look at the internet today. You try and find something you're searching for hours, wading through all this scum. So when it comes to a story, keep it simple. We're not making a movie here. We've got no music or verbal communication with photographs. So our plot line needs to be really simple. Don't over-complicate matters. And when it comes to the edit, ensure every single image in your set relates to each other and reinforces your narrative. I like to create intrigue at the start of my stories. Maybe cropping into an action that someone is doing, performing. Once the audience interest is peaked, they'll dig deeper. They'll scroll down. They'll flick through your images to try and find out what's going on. But that first image is crucial. Really key to bring them deeper into the story. Be mindful that the pictures you include should reinforce the story throughout. This is taking your role beyond a director or a photographer into the editing world. Within movies that's a separate profession in itself. But a friend once told me, who worked in movies, "A good editor knows when to leave out an image even if it's your best image of the day. If it doesn't add to the story, if it doesn't work with the other images in your set, leave it out." Save it for Instagram or something. So my takeaway is think beginning, middle, end. End, to relate to something at the start or the middle. It should tie things up neatly. Leave your audience with a smile, satisfied feeling. A good story should communicate the best of what happened in an event. Focus on the best, support it with some details but don't say too much.

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Ratings and Reviews

Brent Morris

Fantastic My thoughts on the storytelling workshop. The short is; it’s fantastic. The long is I loved all the details covered, from shot types and the ideas behind them to the call sheets and shot lists, and the whole process. I felt like I had a better understanding of how to schedule a professional shoot and I really felt like I had a much better grasp on many ideas and concepts, and I believe I’ve been able to improve my photography with them, so thank you and Finn. It really is fantastic.

Oswaldo Martinez

A path to better stories Very happy I got this workshop. Finn and Alex do a great job at teaching highly useful methods and specific advice to help you improve your own work, and more importantly, tell better stories that are meaningful to you.

Tommaso Selleri

Simply the best This is simply the best workshop out there on photography and storytelling. Finn is awe inspiring and so real and authentic. A pleasure to watch, a joy to learn from such master. I really hope a volume 2 is coming soon! Thank you for this one!

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