Hi everyone! Karen here. Today, I wanted to share with you some thoughts about storytelling and how to make it more powerful.
A few years ago, I went through all my layouts and made notes about what I liked and what I didn't care for that much. The best part of the exercise was understanding which of my layouts had lasting power and which of them didn't stand "the test of time." The test of time, for me, is whether the layout is still meaningful to me after all that time.
One of the things I learned from the exercise was that when I took the time to uncover the "real" story behind my photos, I ended up loving that layout for many more years to come. Whereas when the stories were superficial or obvious, the layout was still fun but not as substantial, to me. Once I learned this, I've started to ask myself one question each time I sit down to scrap:
What's the deeper story behind this picture?
This might seem simple but it's not always so. It might seem obscure because it kind of is, in that what's meaningful to me might not be to you or vice versa, but I believe there is a reason a particular photo calls to you and if you can be with it long enough to uncover it, you get rewarded with a deeper and more genuine story.
Here are a few examples from some recent pages:
We had recently visited a local playground and I took these photos of my kids playing in the closed slide. I love these photos and they are sweet and fun. I could make a layout about how much fun they had at the slides or one about how my little one kept lifting his foot to make the sliding more gradual or even a generic one about how much my kids like playgrounds, etc. But once I spent some time thinking about the day, my emotions, and looking at the pictures, I knew that the story I wanted to tell here was about how my kids are teaching me to be a braver person and how I have to let go of my fear a little bit more each day if I want to be the kind of mom they need me to be. And how grateful I am for their teachings. To me, this is the more meaningful story here. This is what I learned that day and this is what I want to remember for years to come.
This next one is a photo of my older son that I took during a recent trip to Tiburon. Here, too, there are tons of different possible stories to tell. I could talk about our recurring trips to Tiburon, about his rock-walking, about how much he's grown, and on and on. And yet, once I sat with this photo, I knew what I loved the most about it was how confident and joyful my son looked. My son has a tendency to doubt himself and be hard on himself, so seeing him celebrate who he is and seeing him proud of his accomplishment made me smile. Just like the previous one, this story was the one I wanted to remember. The one I wanted to savor. The one I wanted to make sure to capture.
And, finally, this layout has a collection of generic photos of my husband and our kids. Generic in that the photos themselves do not tell any inherent story. These were taken on a recent excursion to San Francisco. Once I sat with them enough, I noticed that what warmed my heart about these was how both my kids and my husband were smiling so much in them. I decided the story I wanted to tell here was about how special I think my husband is because he is so great at making the kids laugh and at playing with them. While I am great at other things, I am not so great at making the kids laugh and it's one of the things I love about my husband and a reason why I chose to marry him. So the story of how this has also made my family happier and more joyful is exactly what I wanted to tell with these photos.
I want to make sure to emphasize that I am a firm believer that there's no "wrong" story to tell, ever. Any photo has the capacity to tell hundreds of stories and any of those stories is worthy of a layout. Having said that, for me, I've come to believe that looking at my photos through the long-term lens and thinking about the deeper story they're trying to tell me, has helped me create pages that are deeply meaningful to me.
If you haven't tried this method, I encourage you to try it on your next layout and see if it helps you, too. And if you have, I hope you'll link me in the comments because I'd love to see them!
In this six-week workshop, you’ll receive 20 daily trigger emails: photos, quotes, or statements to jump-start your story ideas. Along the way you’ll also make a physical book or digital solution to catalog your stories.
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