Once upon a time... What a magical phrase! Everyone loves to hear it because they know a story is about to unfold. And everyone loves a story. Stories have been used to teach and influence thoughts and behavior throughout history. Not surprisingly modern studies show that using storytelling as a method of conveying information is much more effective than delivering straightforward facts and/or dry, boring reports. And what is THE most effective, efficient and entertaining form of storytelling? You guessed it, it’s a photo.
But some photographs do a better job of storytelling than others. Below are some tips to help you get your corporate images from ‘once upon a time’, to ‘they lived happily ever after’. Read on.
The One Shot Wonder
If you only have room for one image to support your story message, chances are it will be a wide shot. The wide shot is very attractive to the amateur photographer because it’s so easy to simply back up far enough to include the whole scene in the frame. But the wide shot comes with a number of disadvantages. On the plus side it can show everything - all the story elements including people, action and location. But on the negative side - most wide shots are visually boring. With so much included in the frame everything appears equally small and visually unimportant - nothing stands out. This lack of a strong focal point is where wide shots fail to capture viewers’ attention. You can overcome this by placing a large iconic foreground element in the shot and letting the background supply the context and story details. Besides adding depth to the shot, the strong foreground element places the all-important ‘hero’ of the story front and center where it belongs.
Storytelling – as easy as 1, 2, 3
With the coming of age of the Flip Camera style recorder, video storytelling and distribution is well within the reach of today’s corporate communicator. But having a video camera and knowing how to push the ‘record’ button does not make you a good videographer any more than knowing how to type makes you a good writer. To do either well takes training, lots of practice - and talent doesn’t hurt either!
Many of the still photo rules regarding good composition and design apply to video as well. If you are new to using video communications, try this simple 1, 2, 3 shot storytelling technique.
1. Establishing shots - set the scene. Generally this is the first thing viewers will see and is used to define the location and scope of the story that follows. Yes, it’s a potentially boring wide shot but with the addition of movement within the frame, visual attention can be held. Establishing shots work best when the camera is tripod mounted - the perceived motion is caused by action within the scene, not by camera movement.
2. Medium shots – carry the action. Positioning the camera 3 to 5 feet from the subject will give you a classic medium shot. This ‘zone’ is where most action sequences and interviews should be shot. Keep the camera on a tripod if you are not good at preventing camera shake. To stabilize your hand-held shots, hold your elbows tight against your sides rather than extending your arms out fully. Once you get comfortable with this technique, try following (tracking) the action. Think of medium shots as the plot of your story. For that reason medium shots should never be stagnate – avoid shots of signage, buildings without activity and intersperse ‘talking head’ and interview footage with b-roll that explains what’s being said.
3. Close up shots – show artistry. I love close ups. Wide and medium shots are the video work-horses, they carry the heavy load of plot and setting. Close-ups are your chance to be creative. By nature close-ups are intimate and personally alluring. Often it is up to the close up shots to supply the atmosphere, personality and mood for the story. It’s your best opportunity to let your personal vision and originality shine forth, so always include close-ups!
Whether you plan to use stills or video imagery (or combine both) to convey your company’s stories, be sure to shoot all 3 types of shots above. Having this variety of footage and stills at your disposal will make editing easier and your final cut more interesting - assuring a happily ever after ending to your next project.