Setting the Scene & Storytelling Photography

When you are creating an image, it’s important, I think to have a motive, what do you want to convey, what are you trying to say with the image? Is there any depth behind it? Yes of course we can take a picture of our coffee and share that but what are you saying? What other subconcious messages are you feeding to the viewer? Is this a cosy image, it’s cold outside and your warming up by the fire, is it a fabulous breakfast spread just what relaxing Sunday’s are made for or a coffee shop treat as you step out of the rain. You can say so much more than just snapping your coffee.

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When I work for magazines or a brand there’s always a brief. It could be 6 autumnal recipes with a warm farmhouse, cosy feel with props and backdrops to complement the food. So everything already has a coherent feel and theme and conveys the story of autumn and shared food etc.

It could just be apples and harvest and making apple pies, but how do you want to tell that story. Is it rustic and homely or modern restaurant style with crisp white table cloths, and pristine pastry work. I think whatever you are photographing give it some background and it will help you stay on point, use props and colours and styling that feeds back into the story. Again we go back to having all the pretty things putting them on the table and wondering why when we take an image it doesn’t say anything or feel right.

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You don’t have to create a whole drama around your image but just having an idea of a ‘why’ will help all the elements fit together. Things can be so subtle you could be doing a cake for July 4th and your colours are red, white and blue and maybe the napkin has tiny stars on it.

I did a collaboration with a brand to celebrate the royal wedding. I used the red, white, and blue colours, just in a more toned down way (remember my fear of bright red!) and made bunting to convey that English street party vibe. It’s subtle but it’s all feeding back into the story of celebrating the royal wedding, without any words.

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Just by thinking about the story it will help make your image coherent, if I’d added something outside of the story parameters it would have thrown the image off taking away from the hero and the point of the image.