The Real Stories We're Telling
What I think we often miss as photographers is the story we're telling.
We may not think we're telling a story at all, but we usually are.
Or we think we're just telling a story about our brand. That we're living an exciting, adventurous life. That we look great or drive a nice car or drink fancy coffee.
Strip the photo out of it's context on social media and the story might become very different. The actual story from the photo might be simple. A person hiking or climbing or surfing or posing. There's nothing wrong with that and it might be a beautiful and compelling image.
Sadly the story is often the common theme of advertising. Drink this coffee and you'll be cool. Use this product and you'll look amazing. Buy this new gadget and you'll be happy. Only implied of course, but sales techniques that have spread into how we show ourselves online.
I guess the term 'story' has become somewhat overused and those examples are messages more than real stories. A story should have uncertainty. We read on or keep watching because we don't know exactly what's coming and want to find out. In the context of a photograph, the image might hint at what's happening or about to happen. Clues that make you keep looking to understand more.
Striking visuals (color, composition, textures) are one way to draw and keep a viewer. Another is to give them a great first page of a story and invite them to explore and imagine what might be happening, who the individuals really are, or what might happen next.