Putting together a visual story

An exercise for you: A photo essay

I hope you have found some time to think about your "main thing" and some ideas for things you could be sharing that could help you communicate it to people. Now I'd like you to get a little more practical, focusing on telling stories about you and what you're about.

Today's exercise is to put together a really simple visual story with a beginning, a middle and an end, with images for each part.

I'd like you to find a moment, as soon as you think you can manage it, to do a little "photo essay". It can be as short as three images, or longer if you prefer. I love doing this when I'm taking a day out with my family. The idea is to plan a series of images that would work together to tell a short story.

Let's say the story is "Going to the beach for the day", I'd plan to take a few images as I go. You stop as you go, take an image of packing the flip-flops and buckets and spades, then perhaps a shot of the sky outside ("Will it rain? I hope not!"). That's the beginning of the story.

Then in the middle, perhaps arriving at the beach and everyone looking excited. Then a shot of ice cream, throwing stones into the sea, answering the question of whether it rained ("Yay! No rain!" or "We'll have fun anyway!").

Then the end would be returning home with sleepy children, feet up on the sofa with a nice cup of tea and a magazine to end.

Think of a story for something you've got planned, or that is happening in your life over the next day or so. Using the worksheet below, write down a checklist of ideas for images that would tell the story. Remember, you don't need to cram the whole story into one image – that can often be too hard. Don't worry - you might not want to share this publicly online! It could just be for you.

Posting slowly on Instagram

If you're using Instagram, you could post the best ones from your story there afterwards, with a delay in between each image (or during if you're confident!)

Using the worksheet, make a note after 24 hours of the likes you get against each of the image. A note after 24 hours can really help you make sense of what's happening on your account. Looking back at older images, they'll almost always have higher likes than the ones you just posted, because sometimes people go back through older images and like them.

Instagram has a "like half life" - a point by which half of the total likes will have occurred by, and usually it's within an hour of posting, which can feel so rapid! I think that for smaller accounts you might want to think about 24 hours so that you can see over time if you are improving.

One of the big changes recently on Instagram is that the images you see are no longer in order of time posting, so unfortunately, the flow of your images in your story might not be viewed as you intend it! I'm seeing people putting "1/6", "2/6", "3/6" in comments to explain that the image is part of a series and that people can see the others on your profile page.

You could also think of Instagram or Pinterest as the place where you might introduce the story, and then direct people to a blog post where you then have full control over the order of your images. A big advantage here is that you could encourage people to sign up to your newsletter at the end, by saying "Would you like to hear when I write stories like this, add your email" – you'll likely be pleasantly surprised that people who enjoy your story will want you to email them when you make another one!


Because of those challenges with the new Instagram feed order, a great place to play with the idea of a visual story is on Steller. I think it's short for "Story teller" and is a helpful service for gathering together words and images into a sequence.

This is a great place to put your visual story, and although you won't get thousands of likes immediately from posting on there, I've found it's a warm community and you'll find that some of your friends from Instagram and from the Makelight community will be on there leaving comments.

Your workbook: storytelling, colour and hashtags

Here is the next part of your workbook. On the final page is a sheet that you could keep coming back to over time by printing it out several times. See if you can think of a set of images that you could try to make to tell a simple story. I'm looking forward to seeing the results in Facebook!

Discuss in the   Facebook Group

Sign in with a social profile to continue

Sign in

Take a free Makelight course

View courses