30-Day Money-Back Guarantee

Do Your Photos Really Need a Story?

The Mona Lisa as seen from the crowds around it

We’ve talked a lot in our blogs about telling stories with photography. Storytelling can indeed be important when it comes to engaging people. 

If you’re a regular Instagram poster, or you enjoy placing your yearly photographs in a photo book, a story can be a great way to take someone from one length of a picture to the next, helping them to understand it on a deeper level. Even if you’re creating a small, cute square photo book, a story can be the key to tying the pictures together in a neat little bow. 

We’ve spoken about this before, but what we haven’t spoken about is whether your photographs really need a narrative. By this we mean, can you only take good pictures if they’ve got a story? Can’t some pictures be surface-level and perfect?

Do Photos Need a Story?

Let’s start by directly answering the question. Do your photos really need a story? The answer is no. Or at least, not necessarily. Your photos don’t need a narrative, no more than Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa needed a narrative. 

Think about that whenever someone tells you that your photos need a story to be interesting. The Mona Lisa is the single most famous and influential painting in the world, and no one knows who the subject is or why she was painted. So why is the painting so famous? 

The Thing About the Mona Lisa

There are a few reasons. For one, Da Vinci was known to be an innovator, and the Mona Lisa completely broke from the common rule that characterised Italian portraits at the time. From a technical standpoint, the Mona Lisa was the first painting with an anatomical drawing of a smile, and that made it different. 

Secondly, the Mona Lisa was – and still is – unique. There’s a story to this painting because there is no story. People look at the photograph and they want to look further, they want to create their own opinions on why it exists, who the subject is, and why she was painted. And the same can be said for your photographs. Of course, we don’t expect you to upload the next Mona Lisa to our photo book maker, but you can upload amazing photographs that don’t say anything at all.

So is it All Technical?

Another thing we’re not saying is that it’s all technical. Yes, technicality can have a big hand in whether a photograph flies or not. If you’ve taken the time to frame properly, adjust your settings, and optimise your field of vision, then this is going to be noticed by the viewer. 

Nowadays, photography has become so good – and so common – that you can’t afford to simply whip out your phone and snap away. There needs to be an understanding of the technical aspect, and then a willingness to reach new heights. 

But there’s a little more to it than that. A secret ingredient. At the very least, you should know why you’re taking a photograph. Are you taking a picture of something because it looks cool, or are you taking a picture because it made you feel something? There should always be a story that you can see, even if you don’t exactly tell it.

This is all getting very philosophical, we realise. But the basic point is pretty simple. Photographs don’t need a story, but they do need depth. That depth should come through exquisite technicality, knowledge of the landscape, experience, and emotion. If you manage to achieve this, then people will find their own stories in what you’ve taken. 

Individualism in Photography

It’s important in photography that you don’t take too much stock of what other people are saying. This is a form of art, after all, and art is incredibly individual. Of course, you need to know the photography ABCs and learn the ropes. You need to grasp the rules and use them to hone your craft, but once this is done, taking a ‘good photograph’ is down to you. 

You’re going to hear a lot about how important storytelling is – and we’re including our blogs in this! — and it's all true. But it’s also true that you’re behind the camera. If you’re taking a picture of something you think is beautiful and meaningful, then there’s no reason why a lack of story should diminish it. 

In fact, forcing stories into your photographs can make them more surface-level than if you'd left a story out of them. As ever, it’s up to you to listen to your inner vision, and capture what you want in the way that you want. That's what photography – and art – is all about.


No Products in the Cart