Let Your Photos Tell A Story

Statues signifying strength and learning on an historic building facade above the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Imagine this scenario: you're out and about and you want to make photos, but the light or subject matter may not be ideal. So what do you do?

  • pack it in and reach for a brew
  • keep moving in the hope of finding a more photogenic subject or location
  • embrace the challenge of making something out of nothing

More and more these days I find myself choosing the final of the above options. After all these years in photography I still get a real buzz out of making photos. I see it very much as an act of creation, by which I mean art.

Surely it's important to encourage and nurture ones creative side. And, while it's the illuminating and transforming nature of light that determines what and how I photograph, the need to create often overpowers a desire for great subject matter or beautiful light. The trick then is to make something out of nothing. A slightly alternate view on the world can only aid you in this regard.

Repairs conducted to a building in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Probably the main difference between photography (still and video) and the other visual arts is that, rather than creating a world from scratch, the photographer has to deal with what's in front of the lens. While there's always the potential to suggest realities, meanings and outcomes somewhat removed from the subject matter depicted, the photographer, working outside of photo illustration or extreme abstraction, has to do so with the subject matter that's in front of her.

To make an interesting photo under such conditions you might need to embrace abstraction; design your photo around light and/or composition, as opposed to subject matter; or work to tell a story.

A couple walking by the shores of the River Neva, right in front of Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The above photos were made while on a cruise along some of the canals in St. Petersburg, Russia. While it was fun photographing grand buildings along the route, it was only part of the story I witnessed from water level. I was just as interested in telling the story about the life cycle of the city. And to do that I felt I needed to document decay, intervention and renewal.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru