storytelling photography

Jilted – Storytelling Through Photography

Without question, Joshua Hoffine and Gregory Crewdson changed the way I think about photography.  They introduced me to a way of shooting: painting scenes like pictures that truly capture a moment in time.

I came across Hoffine on a photography website a few years ago and immediately fell in love with his work.  For those of you not familiar, Hoffine creates horror photography in a way I’ve never seen before.  Instead of relying on makeup or creepy locations, he creates a scene: a horrific snapshot of fear.

Shortly thereafter, while looking for photographers like him, I came across Gregory Crewdson.  What Hoffine did for horror photography, Crewdson did for Americana.  His images are slices of life; snapshots of emotional moments.  His photography lives in both reality and imagination, a half – world between the two.

They do more than take pictures.  They tell stories.

Dangerous – My First Foray


I shot a set called “Dangerous” long before I came across this storytelling photography.  I had shot models before, but I wanted to do something heightened, more than just a person on a background.


So, on a dreary January morning, I set out to tell a story of heightened drama, using Elizabeth and some fake guns.  The result is exactly what I wanted: a model shoot, elevated by a larger scope of action.

Jilted – Photographing Frozen Drama

Sufficiently inspired, I created this image, which I affectionately call “Jilted”:

storytelling photography

I’ve always been fascinated by artist’s self portraits.  I think something gets brought to the surface when you capture your own image; you reveal things about yourself through your art.

I also really like the technical challenge of shooting myself, giving up the control of being behind the camera.  It takes a completely different skill set, because you’re not looking through the viewfinder.  It forces you to think about composition and to plan the layout of the shot long before you set up your equipment.

We were staying at Elizabeth’s family home; an old farmhouse where she grew up.  The bed in the guest bedroom faces a huge mirrored dressing table.  I noticed almost immediately that anyone standing at the dressing table could look in the mirror and see behind them, out the door and into the hallway, and my mind started working.

The remainder of the image came within twenty – four hours.  In an odd way, the dressing table created the moment – why would these two people be in these positions?  What is the life between them?

Details – The Coolest Part of the Image

I like shooting self portraits.  It forces me to give up an element of control, because I’m not looking through the viewfinder.  It makes me think very intently about the composition of the image and the placement of everything in the frame.

Elizabeth was kind enough to provide me with a lipstick kiss on my neck.  I do wish I had thought to change out the hallway light for a traditional bulb instead of the energy saving one, but that’s a pretty minor detail.

I processed in Lightroom, where I also added some saturation to some areas, to make up for the lack of artificial lighting.  If I had more options, I would have put a small keylight on details like the contents of the dressing table, to make sure they stood out.  But, being nearly three hundred miles from my equipment, I had to make do with what I had at my disposal.

It was a fun image to produce, and it definitely got me thinking about photography in a different way.

Photography as Storytelling

Every photo we shoot should tell a story.  Every moment we capture should be compelling and entertaining and it should spark the imagination of the viewer.  Even simple images should always be a moment of time, full of life, energy and whispers.

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