Our last post touched on what visual storytelling isn’t. [Find that post here]
Now the much-harder question of what it is. In the 1960s, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart was asked to describe his threshold test for obscenity. He said: I can’t describe what it is, “but I know it when it see it.” Perhaps the same thing can be said for storytelling photography.
In many ways, visual storytelling can be defined not for what appears within the photo, but rather for the feelings and emotions the photo evokes. Does the photo make you stop and pause to figure out what’s going on? Or do you quickly click through to get to the other items on your must-do list?
Stories get told when photographers make images that go beyond what’s obvious and expected. Like here, instead of the expected people-at-table-making-announcement photo, this wide-angle shot puts the event in context. Notice all of the corporate branding.
Or this side angle, which carefully includes the stacked-up boxes to make readers wonder what might be inside. (They’re stuffed with donated school supplies).
And who wouldn’t look twice at the employee newsletter to see which of their co-workers dressed up like superheroes to race Red Radio Flyer tricycles for a good cause.
Next blog: What makes one storytelling photo better than another? Hint… think branding.
Lately, every time I turn around, my corporate clients are talking about corporate storytelling. It seems their bosses — and their bosses’ bosses — heard somewhere that storytelling is a great way to engage employees. It’s true, I say. And then we all nod our heads in agreement.
But then the other day, a new-ish corporate communications professional pulled me aside and asked, “But what exactly is corporate storytelling?” Trying to figure out what her peers were talking about, this young internal communications manager had searched the Web for examples and explanations of how to leverage storytelling in the business environment… but she had found very little.
Looks like storytelling is one of those things that everybody secretly thinks they are really good at. Unfortunately, the ability to tell stories is also one of those things that few people are really good at.
So let me take a moment (and maybe a few blog posts) to explain what corporate storytelling is — and what it isn’t. Later, in another blog post, I’ll give my 2 cents on how to find a storytelling writer, photographer, multimedia developer or whatnot and make the most of his/her talents.
First the easy part: What corporate storytelling photography ISN’T. It’s not the:
~ Execution at dawn photo, with team members lined up against a wall and “shot.”
~ Grape leaves photo. Similar to the execution at dawn photo, but here the team members have their hands clasped together in front of their groins in Adam-and-Eve-grape-leaf fashion.
~ Important person with oversized check photo.
~ Employee at work photo, where the obviously posed worker looks self conscious as he/she avoids looking at the camera.
~ Giant-scissor-yielding executive about to cut the giant ribbon photo.
Boring, right? But damaging too. A corporate Webpage, newsletter or annual report with a boring photo is worse than not having a photo at all. Why? Because the reader’s eye is drawn to the photo first. Therefore, a boring photo = boring story = boring event. Yawn.
Now the hard part… defining what a storytelling photo is. I’ll tackle that one in another posting.
P.S.: Are you wondering what’s going on in the image at the top of the post? Excellent! That’s a piece of storytelling photography. A photo should make readers look twice and study what’s going on. In this case, musicians perform among museum statues during the Wells Fargo Community Celebration event held in downtown Charlotte, NC.
You can check out the photos from this and other corporate-sponsored events at http://patrickschneider.photoshelter.com/gallery/Wells-Fargo-Community-Celebration/G0000x2v_e86hR00/C0000sLejZ1oE1sY
Charlotte’s Discovery Place science museum hired us to create new marketing images of its many offerings. We spent a Saturday this month photographing the cool hands-on exhibits Discovery Place offers. The goal was to show actual visitors enjoying themselves throughout the museum. Discovery Place asked us to apply our photojournalistic approach order to create photographic images that tell visual stories about what visitors to Discovery Place can expect to experience.
A few friends showed up to help during the shoot — in case we needed families/kids to help fill out some of the scenes. Turns out the museum was so popular that Saturday (and so many visitors were agreeable to letting us take their photos and sign model releases) that we hardly needed our stand ins after all.
We photographed the museum from open until close (about 10 hours) and Discovery Place’s marketing team walked away with about 80 production-ready images.
Here are a few of the scenes:
I’m not a snake lover. In fact, they really freak me out. So I wasn’t thrilled when one of our first shoots of the day was of this monster (top photo). Isaac, the guy holding the snake, was a good sport in the photos and clearly didn’t have the snake aversion that I do. Isaac was equally great with the iguana (below).
Parents and kids both enjoyed getting to touch sea creatures in Discovery Place’s touch tank.
As a photographer, it’s always great getting to photograph behind-the-scenes actions, like this scuba diver cleaning the glass on the inside of the aquariums.
This overhead shot (below) was a bit challenging to get… especially since we took it in the afternoon when the museum was pretty crowded. We got the image by mounting a camera to a pole, and then lifting the camera about 15 feet in the air. I focused and fired the camera using my computer. We also strategically placed four flashes throughout the scene to help brighten dark areas and highlight visitors’ faces.
This museum scene is particularly difficult to photograph since, without that overhead context, there is no reason to think the photo was taken in a science museum.
Here is the same scene closer in (had to stand on a chair to get this angle). Having the various strobes still strategically placed around the area really helps the camera capture the features on everyone’s faces. The strobes also helped brighten the entire space and allow the colors throughout the scene really pop. (Thanks to Quinn and Kendall, the two teenage “models” in front who jumped in to help in this scene).
I like the pure delight on her face as she plays in Discovery Place’s water area.