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12 Narrative Photography Ideas to Get You Inspired

Last Updated on

person holding a Canon DSLR

Taking meaningful photos is an integral part of being a creative photographer, but it isn’t always easy to stay motivated. As a worker of any art form, this is something inevitable, and many creators fall out of their rhythm. Yet, some thrive from this challenge and take hold of their most monumental concepts to date. 

If you hit a wall and feel like your imagination is dwindling, you should read through these 15 narrative photography ideas to get you inspired. They will expand your image-taking arsenal like never before! 

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The Top 12 Narrative Photography Ideas to Get You Inspired

1. Enjoy the Outdoors

photographer in the Canyonlands National Park
Image Credit: Brady Stoeltzing, Unsplash

Even if you aren’t a landscape or wildlife photographer, being outdoors is a vital part of being human. If you’re cooped up inside for most of your day, then it’s hard to have a positive outlook on your work because you aren’t getting enough vitamin D. Especially on a sunny day, you should spend as much time outdoors as possible. Even if the weather isn’t great, you can still breathe some fresh air and see what’s around you. 

2. Take a Break from Photography

historic Mormon Row barns in Jackson, WY
Image Credit: Cora Leach, Unsplash

Sometimes it’s best to leave the camera at home when you’re out and about, even if there is a brilliant opportunity for taking photos. If you take it all in and appreciate the moment, you’ll often find that you find new perspectives and have less stress about getting the perfect shot. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should give up on photography for months at a time, but there should be periods where you recharge your creative juices so you can have a fresh mindset and come up with new narrative ideas.

3. Take Fewer Pictures

Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

One of the best ways to increase your image-taking abilities is to limit the number of photos you take on a trip or local adventure. You could start with taking only 10 images, which will force you to be intentional and cautious with your compositions. Then, bring it down to only five photos to see what improvements could be made. If you take fewer pictures, you spend more time contemplating and making adjustments for the next photo excursion you set out on. It also pushes you to focus on the story you’re trying to tell and, thus, makes you a better narrative photographer.

4. Use a Prime Lens

Canon EOS 60D with prime lens
Image Credit: Zac Anderson, Unsplash

Having just one focal length to work with makes it much more difficult to get certain shots. This can be a positive thing, though, as it teaches one to carefully compose a picture in a way that you may not have tried with a standard zoom lens. Fast aperture prime lenses will also let you shoot at any time of day, which may open you up to night photography or even astrophotography.

5. Talk With Others

two men talking
Image Credit: _Anna Vander Stel, Unsplash

It can’t hurt to hear what people around you have to say about your work. Constructive criticism is something that you should take seriously, and your ego should be set aside. In doing so, you’ll gain important feedback on what improvements could be made, hear about people’s stories, and potentially start admiring a style that someone else showed you. Plus, any ordinary conversation can bring new ideas to light, especially if you talk to loads of other artists.

6. Do Something Different

white apartment building
Image Credit: Joel Filipe, Unsplash

If you’re an avid wildlife photographer and seem to be in a rut, it could be worthwhile to attempt a genre of art that you don’t normally participate in, such as painting or dance. This could potentially spark a new idea for your imagery, and you may meet new faces with fresh thoughts. You can even diverge into other photography niches, like architecture or abstract. Besides, taking pictures of just one type of thing can be taxing and desensitizing. 

7. Get Inspired by Other Artists

woman observing in the photo gallery
Image Credit: Michal Matlon, Unsplash

Most of us start out with the intention of taking photos just like our favorite creators. Of course, this may evolve into something more and you may be surprised to see what this path leads to. Instagram has long become an essential tool to browse the images of everyday people across the world, as well as professionals who perfect their craft.

Photo galleries are another avenue to explore others’ works and they may provoke you to begin making your own prints. By taking in all this information, you can see what others are doing and take pointers for your next creation. 

8. Travel to a New Place

travel photographer taking photos of the alley
Image Credit: Free Walking Tour Salzburg, Unsplash

It can seem financially daunting to set aside a great deal of money for a world-travel trip to a photogenic destination, and it’s much easier said than done. Not everyone has money to go to another continent or even across it.

If you are able to afford to get to a place that is abundant for epic shots, then you won’t regret making that decision. If you’re looking to keep things budget-friendly, you can explore places that are outside of your day-to-day commute or typical photography areas. You may find new landscapes, towns, or cultures that you didn’t even know existed, some of which are right next to your home.

9. Compete With Others

person writing a journal
Image Credit: Thought Catalog, Unsplash

One way to kindle your desire to take new, amazing photos is to compete with others. Do you have a friend that also has a passion for narrative photography? Ask them to do a challenge to see which person can come up with the best compositions for a certain area.

There are also apps, like Guru Shots, which can help you progress in your skill level by competing worldwide in a wide array of genres. Either of these circumstances will pressure you into crafting higher-quality work and will benefit the other participants too. It’s a win-win for everyone! 

10. Think About Your Relationship With Photography

a photographer taking picture at the landscape
Image Credit: lukasbieri, Pixabay

Every enthusiast of a hobby or pastime has to remind themselves at some point as to why they started in the first place. There are dozens of questions to be asked. What do you love about photography? What is your goal as a creative professional? Answering this may take time, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sit down and ponder your motives behind what you do. But be careful, overthinking can lead to self-doubt and keep you stuck!

11. Create a Story

photographer takes photo of the glacial lake
Image Credit: Kimson Doan, Unsplash

When it comes to narrative photography, constructing a story with significance has to be one of the top priorities in growing an audience and building trust with others. It will keep you aware of the past but prepare you for building new stories and concepts that haven’t been unraveled just yet. It could be as simple as explaining the process of how you achieved a certain image. You might describe how tough the hike was to get an epic glacial-lake photo, or how the picture affects your cultural beliefs.

12. Attempt Other Art Forms

woman learning how to paint
Image Credit: dusan jovic, Unsplash

There are a massive number of artistic mediums out there. Many times, artists will dive into other kinds of expression—music (or music production!), painting, singing, writing, dancing—the list goes on. If you throw your feet into the shoes of another artist and their struggles, it could bring new light to ideas old and new. Plus, you can meet people from all different walks of life, which further expands your knowledge in the world of art. It doesn’t hurt that you can capture this process with your camera and tell a story about your own experience.

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When it comes to narrative photography, and photography in general, creating stories and capturing specific moments can be a challenge and put you in a slump. Photography may seem saturated in today’s world of social media, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on taking pictures as a whole. You can still enjoy the process of shooting, editing, and uploading your favorite imagery, but a creative stump is always a possibility at any point in time.

Hopefully, these tips have inspired you in one way or another. In any case, we hope that you put these 15 narrative photography ideas into action, so you can stay happy doing what you love most!

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Featured Image Credit: Thom Holmes, Unsplash

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.