I love stories! And come on, who doesn’t. Stories have this innate ability to transport us into a magical world quite unlike our own. Maybe thats why they are so fascinating to so many of us.
karthika gupta hotel lobby at night photoOf course, the story has to be good.

Ideally a story has the following three main elements

  • a beginning (something that sets the stage)
  • a middle (this holds the meat of the story)
  • an end (something that closes out the story and ends the adventure)

How does this relate to photography? Well! apart from the universal adage that a picture can speak a thousand words, photos have the same ability to take us along a magical journey by sharing a beginning, middle and an end. For this very reason, having a strong storyline for any photoshoot is critical. As the photographer, you want to ensure that the viewer, your audience, is able to come along the journey of the story with you.
Karthika Gupta Leh Ladakh Travel Editorial-9Once you have accepted the importance of a strong storyline for your imagery, creating a storyline is actually quite easy. Yes, it does take some work but thinking of it as a process to ensure you have a productive outcome and it does not seem like a chore anymore.

I do want to point out that while you may think that a storyline appeals to only certain genres of photography, I challenge you to think otherwise. In fact I can guarantee you that it is quite possible to have a storyline for any genre of photography – be it travel photography, fashion editorials, food photography, lifestyle editorial etc
Karthika Gupta Breakfast in bed with coffee and pastry image
Here are some steps you can follow to come up with a strong, robust storyline for your photoshoots

#1 Decide on a concept

This can be an idea, a feeling or even an emotion that you want to translate into photos. For example – a fashion editorial can have a storyline of fun and happiness. Once you decide on a concept, you will find that all other pieces flow much easier. In the example of the fashion editorial, you can choose colors, locations and clothes that showcase fun and happiness – bright colors, city festivals, young models etc

#2 Decide on a location

Sometimes the location decides the concept. For example in travel photography if you are going to a specific location, you can decide on a concept that is applicable to that location. I love adventure travel – camping and hiking in nature are my jam. So my travel photos on a hiking trip will showcase the concept of adventure travel with children.

#3 Create a mood board

I use mood boards all the time. Mood boards are great to get an idea of the colors, textures, look and feel of your images. Sometimes they are just a couple of images and other times they are more elaborate productions. I love using PDF templates or even simple Pinterest boards to create a mood board for my photoshoots. This helps me visualize the types of images that will fit well with my story line a.k.a theme/concept

#4 Create a shot list

As a wedding photographer, a shot list is a life saver during a wedding. There is so much going on during a wedding that it is easy to miss some key photos as you get caught up in the activities of the day. A shot list is a great way to make sure none of the important ‘must have’ photos get missed. The concept of a shot list can be easily transferred to other genres of photography as well. A shot list while traveling ensures you capture all the important monuments, moments and memories.

#5 Create a structure

Once you have a concept, a mood board and a shot list all planned out, assign details like time and number of shots to each element. This ensure that the story you had envisioned will be accurately represented by the images you create. This will also help you balance all the different elements of the story – the beginning, middle and the end – in terms of images. Of course this does not mean that there is no room for spontaneity. As a photographer, you must give yourself the permission to photograph that what you see, how you see it. But having a structure in place ensures you get all the essential photos to create the story.
palm springs desert hotel with cactus in photo Karthika Gupta
I hope these five tips to creating a storyline for your photos was helpful. Remember the key here is think and plan ahead and be prepared to make the most of your time photographing a particular subject, location or thing. This way you can be sure your images convey a story – the right story – as pre-determined by you, the author!

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Importance of a strong storyline for any photoshoot



  1. Kara says:

    What great advice for anyone wanting to setup a photoshoot! I heard this advice – to create a storyline – a couple of months ago and it totally changed the way I shoot. This is a great photoshoot guide for any shoot!

  2. What great photography tips! These will definitely help anyone who is planning a photoshoot or maybe just for fun. This outline will keep them organized and it will make sure everything goes as planned. Thank you for this! 🙂

  3. I love how you break it down so well! I love all the detail and the great tips that you have provided! This will help me on a coming styled shoot that I have later this month!

  4. andy says:

    This photoshoot guide about storytelling has some awesome photography tips, thanks!

  5. What an interesting way to think about photography. Styling is so important for photoshoots.

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