You’ve heard the phrase: ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. If done well, a photograph can convey an emotion, a thought or even a political movement. This TED talk by Jonathan Klein from Getty Images talks about the photographs that ‘changed the world’ – provoking a reaction from those who see the image that leads to significant change.

As a photographer, you can go with a documentary style of photography that captures life and its subjects exactly as they are. To do this, you need to be in a place and around people who are interesting to photograph. This style gives a raw look at life – untouched, untampered and with #nofilter.

You can also manipulate your surroundings with clever editing or choose different camera tricks to spruce up the images you have taken – using slower shutter speeds, playing around with lighting etc. This is more of a creative way of storytelling and gives you more control over the story itself.

Choose your story

If your photograph is to be better than a thousand words, then it really needs to stand out. Your story, or message, should be clear so that those who see it can understand your meaning and take something away from seeing it.

Visual storytelling has been a huge influence in brand marketing for several decades now, enticing viewers to buy a product, sign up to a service or invest in an ideal.

Co-founder of the Visual Storytelling Institute, Shlomi Ron describes it as: “Visual Storytelling is a marketing strategy that leverages compelling narratives, placing your customer at the heart of the story, staged with an emotional visual media experience and effectively distributed across your buyer’s journey – in order to empower customers’ lives and drive business results.”

Giving the viewer the power

This method of photography requires distinct visual thinking on the part of the viewer, or ‘reader’, giving them several ways to interpret the images, or series of images. You could tell a longer story in the form of a photo journal or book, or simply put it all out there in one powerful image.

Some examples of powerful imagery include:

  • Celebrating motherhood: The iconic image of Demi Moore, pregnant with her second child in 1991. Shot by Annie Lebowitz.
  • A candid President: On 1 May, 2011, White House photographer Pete Souza captured the moment that President Obama and those in the Situation Room watched events unfold when U.S. forces raided Osama Bin Laden’s Pakistan compound and killed him.
  • A man on the moon: This picture of Buzz Aldrin tells the story of space exploration and also of the ‘second man on the moon’ getting his moment to shine. It was Neil Armstrong who was carrying the crew’s 70-millimeter Hasselbald so most of the images are of him!

See the rest of Time’s 100 photos for more greats in visual storytelling.

Get inspired by heading to a photography exhibition this year. Our post on the best ones to look out for will point you in the right direction.