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How to tell your photography story - The Photography Express

How to tell your photography story

How to tell your photography story

You often hear people say one of the best ways to improve your photography skills is to tell your photography story. But what exactly does it mean? When you look at your photos, everything seems to have a story behind it already. Why is that happening? Are you wondering what that word “story” meant by photographers? In this post I’m going show you my recent process on capturing a photograph that tell your photography story. Please enjoy!

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As many of you know I’m a Chinese. Every year in September there is a day call “The Mid-Autumn Festival”. In essence, it is a Chinese tradition where people go back home to gather around with families, eat mooncakes, and watch the moon because it is said to be the brightest and biggest that day. This day is similar to Thanksgiving in USA but instead of eating turkey people eat mooncakes, and instead of watching fireworks people look at the moon.

Anyway, this year I was planning to use this opportunity to take a memorable photograph. I want a photo that depict the Mid-Autumn Festival and also “tell your photography story”. I also want it to describe the true message of Mid-Autumn festival, which is family and the full moon.

So I started planning my shot. At the beginning things already looked like they were going downhill. I ran into some issues:

1) Both my fiancé and my parents are not in the USA with us. How can we take a family photograph?

2) My fiancé and I ate our mooncake! YES we ate it as dessert one night before Mid-Autumn festival because we got so hungry! So we have no mooncake to take pictures with. (By the way this is what a mooncake looks like)

Photo Credit: Oldtasty

Photo Credit: Oldtasty

3) The moon was too far away to take pictures with. I only had my 24-105mm so even if I zoomed all the way at 105mm, it wasn’t going to get far enough to capture the moon properly.

I told myself it is going to be ok. I’m still going to make the shot and it is going to look great. So what did I do to solve these issues? Let me describe them below.

1) Even though not yet married, my fiancé and I are technically a family. We are only a month away from our wedding so taking a picture of us together is considered to be a family photograph. Also, I decided to bring in Teddy (our poodle dog) into the picture. Ok family issue solved!

2) For the no mooncake issue, since it symbolizes Mid-Autumn festival but now it’s in our stomachs, I’ve decided to scratch the mooncake picture idea. I’ve decided to shoot the moon instead. Alright issue #2 solved. Pretty straight forward so far.

3) Now to the hard part, I need to capture the moon because it is the main theme of the Mid-Autumn festival. I need to make the moon as big as possible in the picture but my lens can’t zoom in far enough. So I decided to take a picture of the moon then use Photoshop and lightroom to zoom all the way in and crop the picture.

Now with all the mental struggles resolve. How did I set up the shot to tell my photography story? Here we go:

The moon shot

When you take pictures of the moon, remember NOT to over-expose the image. If you do this you’ll only see is a white circle with no patterns on the moon’s surface.

The best way is to underexpose your picture by about -1. On your DSLR, just watch the bar just like the picture below, then adjust your camera to make sure the arrow is pointing at -1. This way you’ll get the patterns of the moon’s surface.

Light metering

For the camera’s setting. This is what I used:

Shutter speed: 1/160

Aperture: f8

Focal length: 105mm

ISO: 50

Make sure you use a low ISO or else the picture is going to look noisy. Doing this will cause your camera to take a much longer exposure (meaning slower shutter speed). In this case you MUST use a tripod and remote control trigger to avoid any camera shakes. After doing all this the picture should looks like this:

moon original

The moon looks very far right? We’ll get to this later.

The Family picture

As a photographer we must remember safely. Since it was around 10pm at night and I want my family to be safe, I took this shot at my own backyard. There is no way I can get enough ambient light so I brought my Yonugo YN560III and place it on my camera’s hot shoe.

To tell you a little mistake I made, at first I was planning to do an off camera flash. I placed the flash on the right hand side of the image and it looked underexposed (image below).

moon original 2

I quickly realized that if I wanted the flash to fill light to my whole body while I was standing up, I need to move the flash way back. But then my flash wasn’t strong enough to light up such a long distance, so I sat down instead. Now my flash can get closer and have enough power to fill the light.

At the end, I still decided to use the flash on camera. So I put the external flash on the hot shoe, then I used the below camera settings:

Shutter speed: 1/60

Aperture: f8

Focal length: 24mm

ISO: 100

And this is what the picture looks like before the photo merge.

mid autumn festival

Photo merge

You need photoshop and Lightroom in order to do this. By the way, If you want me to do a video tutorial on this please let me know. What I did was in Lightroom, I first zoom into the moon picture to about this size.

moon original 3

Then I bring the above picture into photoshop, used the Lasso tool, click free transform, and then drag the moon to the family picture. The total process took less than 3 minutes.


Tell your story in photography!

Tell your story in photography!

Ok I went through a lot in today’s post. If you want me to do a detail tutorial especially the post processing part please let me know. In conclusion, this shot involved my family, the moon, a little bit of external flash techniques and some Photoshop and Lightroom skills.

Even though the skills above sound like a lot, I wasn’t a professional in any of those field (at least I wasn’t making a living out of this). With that said, I truly believe you can do this as well. Remember to bring in the most important element that tells your photography story.

In this example I used the moon and my family to display the mid-autumn festival message. If I were to do this for a July 4th weekend, I’d say it’ll involve my family sitting on a bench watching the fireworks as the background. I hope this gives you another insight into my point of view.

As always, I hope you get a lot from my post. Please tell your family and friends about The Photography Express (TPE). I’ll see you next week in another great photography post. Cheers!

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About Gary

A passionate photographer with goals to fulfill your photography passion and motivate you to take pictures even when life is busy!


  1. Love it! It’s so cool!

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