The Elements of Photography and Visual Storytelling [VIDEO]

Jun 28, 2013

In this webinar, multimedia trainer Kainaz Amaria, takes you on a photographic journey from understanding the fundamentals of visual storytelling to what makes a good image and how you can make better portraits.


Elements of Photography from NPR Digital Services on Vimeo.

Highlights (based on video timestamp):

00:40 - What will be covered in this training

  • Foundations of visual storytelling
  • What makes a good image and why
  • How do you get that good image in the field
  • Tips on how to make better portraits
  • How to approach visual decisions for your story

04:38 - 6:53 The Five Variations in Visual Storytelling
The variations are: wide, portrait, medium, detail/close up, and action shots.

06:54 - 11:43 EXAMPLE: 5 Elements in a Slide Show

The first in a slideshow about a single mom in Reading, Pa. The slideshow contains wide, portrait, medium, detail, and action shots.
Credit Kainaz Amaria

To Beat Odds, Poor Single Moms Need Wide Safety Net

11:44 Six Ways to Make a Good Gallery Great 

  1. Use a variety of image types to provide a sense of pacing (wide, medium, details, portrait, action)
  2. Each picture should have a purpose
  3. Pictures shouldn’t be redundant 
  4. Kill the puppies. Not every image is worth keeping
  5. Know what story you want to tell, and plan accordingly 
  6. The first image should draw your reader into the story

13:31 to  The Three Most Important Aspects Of An Image
Content, composition, and light are the three most important aspects of an image. Examples of those who get it right:

42:33 - 54:00 Good Captioning Practices 

Credit NPR

Always include name, location, and what the person is doing in a caption. Keep it short. 

But a good caption is not simply stating the obvious. It also adds context to the information in the image. For example, if you have great quotes that just don't fit in the story, you can use them in your captions. Take a look at the picture edit, the captioning and the narrative created in "Same-Sex Couple Seeks Immigration Relief From High Court"

54:00 Practical Ways To Approach Visual Storytelling 

Ask a few questions to approach visual storytelling in a practical way:

  • What is the best way to represent my story – a single image, slide show, audio slide show, video, graphic?
  • What are my resources - can I make an image, hire a freelance, or rely on a wire service?
  • Am I thinking of the visuals from the beginning of my reporting?

56:49 Make a Better Portrait With: 

  1. Lighting (especially on the face)
  2. Focus
  3. Background

1:01: Don't Make These Common Mistakes

  • Objects protruding from the subjects body
  • Excessive flash
  • Too far away
  • Awkward expression

1:02: 13: Storytelling Portraits 

Think beyond the person up against a wall staring into the camera. Usually those images aren't flattering, and also do not push the story forward. Instead, think of the people in their environment and try to capture the feeling of the story.


1:03: 43: Editorial Relevance

Some key questions to ask about an image's editorial relevance:

  • What does this image communicate?
  • How do the elements of the image enhance our audience's understanding of the story?
  • Are we being visually ethical and accurate in using this image to illustrate this story?
  • This image has minors and the story is sensitive, do we have permission from the parents to publish these images?
  • Does our headline correlate with the image and caption?


1:04:43 Images Go Everywhere

Images really do go everywhere, from your site to social media, so keep that in mind and think about visual storytelling from the beginning of your reporting process.

1:04:55 Don't Forget: Photography is About Relationships

Keep in mind, visual storytelling is a language and as in any languages a good foundation should be understood by everyone in the room. Working together and empowering everyone with this language will make your visual reporting more dynamic and engaging. Begin with small victories - for instance one goal could be on your next story to make one engaging image for your online audience. Think small, work together and dream big - the opportunities are endless.