Detail Images: Storytelling with Images {Free Beginner Photography Class}

Detail Images

My sociology teacher in high school asked us to draw a flower on a note card on our first day of class.  We passed them up anonymously and she held each one in front of the class and talked a little about each person.

I drew an orchid.  I’m not great at drawing, but you could tell that I was trying to capture a specific flower.

She labeled me “meticulous.”  I had figure out how to spell it and then find a dictionary.

meticulous (adj): marked by extreme or excessive care in the consideration or treatment of details.

She had nailed me.

At that time I was a raging perfectionist who spent hours on school projects or journaling over conversations with friends. Over a decade later I’m a reformed perfectionist who is able to differentiate between superfluous details and those that really matter. I also remembers details about people in a way that consistently surprises them and am writing a 52 week beginner photography class because I can’t contain all the details I’m passionate about into just 6 weeks :-p

Did I mention she nailed me?

Unlike the rule of thirds or leading lines or changing my perspective, capturing detail images comes very naturally to me.  I’m thinking that may not be true for all of you.

So let me tell you a little about the whys and my process for capturing detail.

Detail Images are the Vector for Memories

Let’s stop a moment and think back to your wedding day.  Or the day you met your girlfriend.  Or the day you birthed your baby.  Or even that first day on your current job. Or that sad day when you buried a parent or child or friend.  Or that lazy summer afternoon that you spent with your sister at 9.

What do you remember most?

When I was 9 and my sister was 8, we had a fort in our shed where the neighbor boy wasn’t allowed.  I don’t remember much about that fort besides a pile of barbies.  Except for one day when my sister came tearing out of the shed screaming that she had seen a “rat thing.”  She described it as a rat with a red mohawk.  My sister was never scared of anything so that was the end of our fort. We never played in the shed again.

Do you see what I remember?  A pile of barbies.  One day. My sister’s description of “rat thing.”  All of those things are details.  There is not one movie type reel captured in my brain.

When my sister and I talk to my parents about our childhood memories there is nearly no overlap in memories. If we talk about our day at the state fair we all note something different.  My dad will ask if we remember how he won us the big-stuffed-whatever-it-was.  Mom will ask about if we remember how we had powdered funnel cake sugar all over our hair.  My sister will remember how she beat dad on the go-cart track.  And I will remember racing down the monster slide with dad and sister on slick flour sacks over and over.

The four of us experienced the same event in time but we all remember it differently. We all have focused in on a different detail.

Memory craves details.  It thrives off details.  We can’t possibly remember everything about each day because our brains aren’t wired that way. Instead, we put entire days or experiences or traumas into files based off just the smallest detail memories.  And each remembered day has a thumbnail image that triggers the rest of the details of that day.

Our memories are wrapped up in the details, even if our future planning is wrapped up in the big picture.

Detail Images both Define and Complete the Story

I could spend a lot of words on explaining why the above statement is true, but as I just spent an equal amount of words convincing you that memory hinges on details, I won’t.  I’ll tell my meticulous perfectionist self that a lot of words aren’t what you need to prove that detail images both define and complete the story.  Nope, you need a series of images.

Take a glace at the following series of images that I took at my daughters’ birthday party, then answer the questions following the images in the comments section.

Detail Images

Detail Images

Detail Images

Your first assignment: answer the following questions in the comments section.

  • What was the theme of this birthday party? How did you know?
  • What activities occurred? Which activities were you cued into by a detail shot? Which activity by a more big picture image?
  • Without looking back up at the images, which image was your favorite?  Was it a detail or global image? What does that say about you?

Detail Images Assignment

We’re sticking with the deceptively simple assignments throughout this Storytelling with Images Series.

Take your camera out and capture a few (2-4) detail images that tell the whole story in the same way that your memory does.  Vague… maybe?  But roll with it, because I can’t wait to see how you interpret this assignment over in our Free Beginner’s Photography Class Flickr Group!