Have you ever walked into a room and immediately knew you made a mistake? If you haven’t, here is how that situation might go. You open the door and step in, starting to utter an apology for being a little late. The conversation inside stopped, heads could turn to look at you, and the overall energy is just tense. You weren’t supposed to be there. Feeling suffocated and slightly embarrassed, you’d back out of the room while mumbling a quick apology. After shutting the door you release a breath and try to shake off the experience, but that scene is burned into the inside of your eyeballs.
You examine that scene in your head a bit closer and recall the finer details. There was an unfamiliar woman presenting, and a bunch of people dressed in formal businesswear. Everyone had a water bottle in front of them, most also had scribbled notes too. You remember the slide showing a bunch of financials…oh no. You just interrupted your leadership’s investor meeting. A bead of sweat runs down the side of your temple thinking about it…
And – end scene! Back to reading this post. What I was trying to get at was that your ability to see and read scenes in front of you is arguably the most important way to absorb information. Think about how you learn. Most of you learn the best by being able to see examples and read instructions. According to the book The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand, visual content is not only a preference, but it’s actually easier and faster for humans to process. In the blink of an eye (literally) you can take in thousands of details that allow you to piece together the scene at hand to infer the story unraveling before you. Visual storytelling is actually an ancient device that heavily influences how modern businesses attract and retain the average consumer.
To demonstrate the poignancy of a snapshot of time and the power of visual storytelling, I have compiled ten images from royalty-free stock image site, Pixabay. Through the details and emotion in the scene, I will describe the stories I see in the images. Stick around for some good photography and a pinch of fun.
A cowboy finishes a winning run on a bucking bronco during a rodeo. As the horse elongates into its final kick, the young man dismounts off of the left side – pulling his right leg over the animal. His form needs to perfect or else he risks injuring himself, to focus, he purses his mouth and leaps. The judge watches from behind, the stopwatch now joining his clipboard as a champion time was already recorded. A pickup man on a dark horse prepares to catch the white bronco, ensuring the end of the round. In the far back, a woman warms up her steed for the barrel racing portion of the competition later that evening. The stakes are high, but their pride flies even higher.
The sun rises above a fishing town in Asia. Men leave their homes early to prepare their small rowboats in the marina. This ritual is familiar and effortless for them. The dinged sides of their vessels attest to the daily dedication of these fishermen. In the foreground, a man expertly casts a large net off of the bow. As it unravels, the net looks like a gauzy butterfly – graceful and delicate. While the process may look graceful, the task is laborious with only his two calloused hands serving as the primary tools. If they catch enough before dawn hits noon, they can rest easy for the remainder of the day. Tomorrow, he hopes to catch just as many fish.
Music pounds as the crowd beneath the raised stage roars. The band reciprocates their excitement, yelling into the microphone and playing more vigorously on their instruments. Three spotlights glow like hot embers through the humid outside venue and the smog created by the smoke machines. Over the crowd, it begins to rain. This, however, does not dampen their mood – instead, they raise their hands enthusiastically, welcoming the refreshing feeling of water on their skin. As the concert progresses the lights hit the droplets causing them to illuminate, the wind blowing whipping them around as they descend. As the song ends, an encore is demanded by the fans.
It’s a Saturday morning in the Spring. A young girl accompanies her parents to the marketplace. The family owns a vegetable farm, and are proud of their work. Their produce is ripe and full, signaling a lot of care put into their cultivation and harvest. Potatoes and cabbages are pre-packaged for customers as the demand is high. As her parents talk to customers, the girl falters while preparing the bagged vegetables. Her expression is curious and slightly anxious, sometimes the marketplace isn’t the friendliest place. She keeps a careful watch, ensuring that paper bills in her clasped hands stay safe.
A young couple poses together for a romantic photo. They have survived another year together. To celebrate they ask a friend to take Instagram-worthy photos. Together, they walk to the skate park where they first met. Act natural, says their friend as they begin the photoshoot. She goofily sits on the tiny skateboard and at that moment, his blood rushes through his veins. He remembers why he fell in love. It’s her smile, her bad jokes, her charisma. In a moment of genuine affection, he bends to tenderly kiss her on the forehead. Their friend clicks madly and barely captures the moment. It’s not a faultless photo, but to them, it couldn’t be more perfect.
She sits on the old wooden bench, weeping quietly to herself. She wishes not to be heard or even seen. Her hair covers the tears and running mascara. That shield from the world makes her feel safe. In an attempt to disappear she sits tensely, taking up the least amount of space she can. The crumbling plaster walls of the church and barren plants reflect her emotion. The red rose in her grasp begins to slide between her fingers, which is ironic because she couldn’t bring herself to place the flower atop of the casket. The end of an era is over and she is lost.
It’s Fall and the leaves are at their peak golden color. A young woman walks slowly on the forest trail, listening to the leaves crunch as she steps on them in her clunky boots. She breathes in deeply, taking in the fresh air and unique smell of autumn. Suddenly, she stops and buries her hands in her pockets. With no one around but the birds and squirrels, she takes in the moment of pure tranquility. The faintest of smiles lingers along the corners of her lips. She is at peace. While planted in the middle of the trail, she becomes like one of the trees – tall, retrospective, and free to sway with the wind.
Three, two, one…LEAP. A high schooler prepares herself for the most challenging pass of her balance beam routine. As a national champion, she has hopes to join the United States Olympic Gymnastics team. Her coach at the bottom right watches in earnest. With eagle eyes, the coach looks for imperfections – the hands could be more graceful, but the perfectly pointed toes make up for that. The girl tries not to get distracted mid-flight by the sequin bowed-heads of her teammates watching her practice. She hopes to one day have her name on the gym’s walls like her talented predecessors. With grit, she can achieve her goal.
The candles glow in the hands of a Mexican family. Five women step to the front, holding lit candles. They begin to pray, with their relatives following suit as part of the Día de los Muertos ritual. Each woman took the time to paint their own calaveras faces – not one of them was created with the same technique or intention. The matriarch wears traditional Mexican clothing and a crown of red carnations. The ofrenda this year is bountiful with food, wine, and tokens for the deceased. Although somber in this moment, this celebration sparks deep familial connection and important conversations about mortality.
A tourist in London sets up a tripod on a bridge during a cold English winter dusk. The River Thames adds an extra chill. Big Ben and the lit-up Parliament juxtaposed with the modern skyscrapers creates a fantasy-like environment. The sky and the river complement each other with matching tones of blue-gray. She’s a professional photographer and realizes that this moment needs to be documented. As she adjusts the angle of her camera, a Londoner stops during his walk home from work to watch. With a cocked head, he tries to understand why a person would be so interested in a sight he sees every day. After this moment, he learns to appreciate the beauty of his surroundings a little bit more.
Gitner, S. (2015). Multimedia storytelling for digital communicators in a multiplatform world. New York: Routledge.
Walter, E., Gioglio, J., & Roam, D. (2014). The power of visual storytelling: how to use visuals, videos, and social media to market your brand. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.