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Your digital photography will never improve unless you challenge yourself to try different types of photography. An excellent learning lab is a mock assignment, much as a travel magazine photo editor might offer you, to tell the story of a place with 10 photos or less. Instead of shooting random photos like millions of other photographers and tourists, you must consciously plan your assignment and be able to recognize the essential elements of a place that will do the best job of telling its story. Part 1of this two-part PhotographyTalk.com article began a list of tips and ideas; Part 2 completes it.
Arts and Culture
Museums, galleries and cultural events also help to identify a place, although many of them are less universal than the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal. Obviously, these elements should be included in your digital photography story of a place if the emphasize of your story is the place’s culture. For example, photographing the spiral gallery of the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan includes both an arts element and a famous architectural element. For other places, cultural events are the prime identifier: the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, gay pride parade in San Francisco or running with the bulls in Pamplona.
As you narrow your focus on a smaller space, you’ll be challenged to find arts and cultural elements that tell a story. It doesn’t have to be fine arts, however. It could be as simple as a series of photos that show your child creating a birthday card for a parent, presenting the card, and then showing it displayed on the front of the refrigerator. It’s how you shoot the story that will make it interesting; it’s doesn’t have to be grand or glorious to be a successful assignment.
Dwellings and Accommodations
The kinds of buildings and residences where people live in a place and the accommodations for travelers are other elements to consider. In large cities, many people dwell in vertical residences. A few reside in stately mansions or on estates. Homes are isolated structures in a farming community. Many Mediterranean homes are brightly whitewashed and stacked and perched on a mountainside or a steep slope overlooking the sea. From a wider angle, your home or the homes in your neighborhood may be somewhat indistinguishable, but finding and photographing smaller elements or details that do specifically identify one home compared to another is what will make you a better photographer.
This same concept applies to wherever you may be staying if you’re traveling to a place to photograph its story. An upscale hotel in the heart of a city and all the matching lifestyle elements of such a trip tell one story, while a horse pack camp and the “ground” accommodations of a trip into the Montana wilderness tell another.
Capture the Essence
It’s likely that the biggest challenge of your mock photo story-telling assignment is to record that one image that encapsulates the core essence of a place. Not only would a magazine photo editor expect you to return with technically excellent photos, but also a single picture that is both a unique identifier of the place and your unique vision of what that place says to you. The successful photographer is able to share that vision with the viewers of his or her photo story and make them feel and enjoy the experience of discovery just as much as the photographer has.
Learning how to tell a story of a place with as few digital photos as possible is an excellent skills-building opportunity for most photographers. Try this mock assignment more than once in different locations of various sizes, so you have pictures to compare and to determine how you are progressing.
Read the PhotographyTalk.com article, Photography Tip—How To Tell More Compelling Stories with Your Pictures, for more tips to reveal the story of a place.