Have you ever sat down to write a blog post about your latest photography session, whether it be a portrait, wedding, or commercial assignment, and found yourself hopelessly stuck for what to write?
I’m not talking about writer’s block here, but rather the desire to avoid writing yet another of those short and boring, same-sounding blog posts.
You know the ones I mean, don’t you?
They usually start out with something like this:
Here are the latest photos from a great session I had last week with Mr. And Mrs. Smith and their three adorable children. We went to the park, and had so much fun creating a set of beautiful memories. The kids were so cute, and the family just loved their photographs…
Frankly, such posts are more cringe-inducing than they are engaging.
Of course, there’s the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, so, you sit at your computer, probably while everyone else in the family is having fun doing something far more interesting, as you desperately try to avoid the trap of cranking out the same old stuff.
Only, the right words don’t want to come out, do they?
Frustrating to say the least, and enough to almost put you off writing a blog altogether.
Which may be one reason why we see so many blog posts with 20 or 30 photographs but only a handful of words.
So, how can you bring your blog posts to life?
I’ve got a bunch of great ideas for you right here…
How To Bring Your Photography Blog Stories To Life
Don't know what to write for your photography blog? Want to write unique posts? Discover the 5 essential elements of stories to bring your posts to life...
Words Can Ignite The Imagination
Now, if you’ve been following the blog for any time at all, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of telling the stories of your photographs in words for the simple reason that words possess the rare power of igniting your reader’s imagination.
Of course, it’s all well and good for me to keep repeating that message whenever I can, but just telling you to write the stories of your photographs might not be enough to actually get you started.
How do I know?
Well, I kind of got the hint from all the questions I get about HOW to tell those stories in ways that bring your photographs to life without repeating those same old overly-sweet, vomit-inducing posts.
As with everything here at the Prime Focus Lab, I’m allergic to anything complicated, and I know you would prefer to keep things simple so you can do the stuff you’re best at, which is creating awesome photographs for your clients.
A formula or plan is a great defense against complexity, but a mindless system is simply mediocre at best and not good enough in this case.
Instead, you need a plan that creates something unique every time, otherwise you’re back to square one with a bunch of useless cloned blog posts.
Fortunately, there are 5 powerful ingredients you can mix together to create the perfect story-based blog post every time.
By the way, don’t think this only works for blog posts about portraits or wedding photography!
You can apply these same 5 principles to just about any type of project, including commercial photography, for example.
Treat Your Blog Post Like A Real Story
The core concept here is to treat your blog post just as if it were a real story.
You can see some good examples in my new section called the story behind the photograph.
Stories captivate the imagination, and help us remember essential ideas so much better than if they were presented as a boring list of facts.
For example, I bet you can remember more details from the Harry Potter books (assuming you read those, of course) than you can from, say, a textbook you were forced to read at college in order to pass a test.
The reason is simply that stories activate our imagination, allowing us to see ourselves as part of the narrative, whereas a bland and unexciting textbook provides nothing for our emotions to hook into. As a result, we find it harder to recall many of the details later on.
Thinking back to my days at college, over thirty years ago now, I can remember many of the wonderful science-fiction and fantasy tales I read at that time by authors such as Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Tolkien and many others. Yet, I struggle to recall the title or author of a single textbook I had to read for my botany degree.
The “story” as a communication tool is nothing new.
Stories have been used for thousands of years as a way to preserve history and pass on important information and discoveries, and I’m sure you remember those few amazing teachers you had with a knack for making even the most dry of subjects into something memorable.
But you don’t have to be a top teacher, a novelist or professional writer to make stories work for you.
By applying the 5 basic elements of storytelling to your blog, you’ll drastically improve the level of emotional involvement people have in both you and your work.
#1: Set The Scene
Entering into the beginning of a story is a bit like traveling with Doctor Who in the TARDIS.
You never quite know where you are until you open the doors and step outside to take a look around.
For a moment or two, there’s a sense of being disconnected from everything until you start to recognize familiar features…
You might see wet streets, a gray sky, people hunched over with umbrellas hurrying about, red double-decker buses splashing their way through narrow streets, and looking up you spot a tall pointed tower with a big round clock at the top…
Even if you’ve never been there yourself, you probably have a picture of London in your mind’s eye, right?
If you didn’t, you most likely do now 🙂
Helping your readers get a sense of where the story takes place is an important first step, and your opening featured image will help to solidify the mental picture you create in their mind through the words you use.
Set the scene for them by describing where your photograph was taken, the time of day, the smells in the air, the sounds you could hear, and how the slightly damp grass or hot sand felt beneath your feet.
What was the weather doing on that particular day?
Who else was around?
Thinking about the intricate details of your locations in this way not only invokes all the senses, but it can also help you fine-tune and develop a strong ability to observe everything around you.
Remember, no detail is too small or unimportant.
#2: Introduce The Cast
Once you have the scene set, it’s time to bring on your cast of characters – the players who will bring your story to life.
You might be thinking “well, that’s a lot easier said than done”, so if you’re stuck for words on how to introduce your subjects, ask yourself some questions.
- Who are the people in your photographs?
- What are their personalities like?
- What kinds of things did you all talk about?
- What made them laugh?
- What made you laugh?
- What are their hopes, fears, and dreams?
- What was the inspiration behind that ONE favorite photograph of yours or theirs?
- Why did they want you to create these photographs for them in the first place?
- Why did you choose a certain viewpoint or subject?
Sometimes, the characters of your story are not actual people at all!
They might be pets or wildlife, mountains or lakes, the beach, commercial products or buildings.
Whatever they happen to be, remember they can still have a personality or presence of their own. In fact, I would go as far as to say ANY subject worth photographing must have some compelling aspect that inspires you to capture it, otherwise why bother?
#3: Move The Plot Forward
You might not immediately think of your photographs as having a plot as such, at least not in the “Mission Impossible” or “Lord Of The Rings” sense of a plot, but they do have the capacity to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
A wedding is a great example, of course, but you can also weave a storyline from the relationships you capture in a family portrait, or the ways in which a certain product helps improve people’s lives, or even the relationship between an inspiring landscape and the light that illuminates it or the people who make their home in it.
Yes, it takes a bit more thought and creativity to tell a story, I get that, and there’s no way around it except for a little effort.
But that said, you already have the home-court advantage by virtue of being a creative person to begin with.
You were there when the images were captured, you know what was going through your mind at the time, and you had the benefit of being able to talk with your clients and bring out the essential and interesting plot elements.
#4: Add A Little Conflict
Okay, I know what you’re thinking here.
Conflict? In a photograph, or as part of a photography assignment?
What does that mean?
Every great story has some challenge for the main characters to overcome as part of the plot, right? I mean, Harry Potter might not have been as successful as a franchise had he and his wizard friends spent their days just waving wands about and turning people into frogs just for fun. There had to be some challenge, which took the form of “he-who-should-not-be-named”.
Yes, but there’s not always a handy Voldemort you can rely on, so where’s the conflict in your photographic stories, you may ask?
It is there, you just have to look for it (actually, most times it comes looking for you, but let’s not get too technical about it!).
What I mean is, have you ever had a photography job or assignment go EXACTLY as planned from start to finish, with no surprises at all?
When I was photographing weddings, for example, I can’t recall a single one where something didn’t go off script at some point! While there were few real disasters, there was always some surprise waiting around a corner, and everyone had to adapt to it.
Think about a family portrait session. What did it take for the mom just to get everyone together, dressed and well-groomed, in the same place at the same time, and with happy faces for the photographer? Did it stay all nice and harmonious for the entire session? Probably not!
Even commercial sessions often run into snafus and gotchas – it’s a simple fact of life in business that something unexpected is going to happen.
What can you do with these little “gifts” (we’ll take a glass half-full approach here)?
Use them in your stories to add interest and excitement, of course!
#5: Wrap Up With A Happy Ending
Nobody enjoys reading a book or watching a movie only to find the ending is one big let-down – I’m sure you can think of more than a few of those where you got to the end and felt a bit cheated.
I don’t know about you, but I hate watching movies that suddenly end, like someone forgot to include the final reel of film, and you’re left sitting there with your mouth half open, thinking “What? Really? That’s it?”
No one likes that (although why the director thought it would be cool to leave people having to guess everything is beyond me).
The same applies to your blog posts, but it’s a lot easier for you than it is to tie up all the loose ends of a movie!
At the end, all you need do is bring your story elements together and wrap up the narrative with a happy ending – hopefully, one that inspires your readers to want to experience a similar adventure for themselves.
This is where you want your readers to come away feeling the emotions you wanted to bring out in them, so it’s important to focus on choosing words that evoke emotional responses.
Stories Change The People In Them
There’s one more important thing to remember when you’re telling stories, which is the idea that the people in your stories emerge from the experience changed in some way.
If the main character (or the way the character is seen by others) isn’t altered in some way by the story, then something’s missing.
- In a wedding, you have a married couple instead of two single people…
- A family portrait can remind people of just how close they really are…
- The realization of a commercial advertising concept creates confidence and success…
- A fine art study of a beach or landscape motivates and inspires the viewer…
- The split-second capture of someone winning a race highlights a life-changing moment…
And, don’t forget YOU are also one of the characters in your own story.
As the photographer, you’ve also been changed by the creative experience, whether you consciously realize it or not.
For example, you’ve grown as a creative professional, graduated to a new level of visualization, developed a new skill, or gained a refreshing perspective on something you didn’t really see before.
What a powerful transformation that is to carry forward with you and communicate in your own words to future prospects?
But what about the ending?
When someone does reach the end of your blog post, don’t just leave the reader hanging there wondering what they should do next!
It’s a simple thing to offer a means to convert the inspiration and emotional energy you’ve already created into action by presenting the next logical step in the journey, and then making it easy for them to take it.
This is what I keep referring to as the call to action, and the more relevant your call to action is to what they just read, the more likely they are to take it, especially if you make it simple, such as clicking a button or entering their email address into a convenient form.
Storytelling Is Easier Than You Thought
So that’s how to bring the stories of your photographs to life in your blog posts – not as hard as you thought it was when we started, is it?
You certainly don’t have to be an accomplished writer to make this work, and it gets even easier the more you relax into the process of allowing your own personality and voice to shine through.
All you have to do is set the scene, focus on your cast of characters (including yourself), move the plot forward with a storyline, spice it up with a little conflict, and provide a happy ending with an appropriate call to action for the next step.
I realize you may need some help with parts of this, and I’m here to provide it for you – whether through a coaching program, one of my training courses, the podcast, or the rest of the free information on the Prime Focus Lab.
You can always get in touch with me through this website or via social media – the links for those are at the top of every page, so do make use of them 🙂