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How to Tell a Compelling Story with Photo Videos

How to Tell a Compelling Story

1. Have a clear central message

Begin your creation by identifying a clear message that you want to convey to your audience. As you work through the story, you will build up to and around the central theme.

    • Identify your message.
    • Determine who your audience is and if the message will connect with them.
    • Choose an emotional entry point. Stories can create emotional “sticky memories” by tapping into emotions. This is an emotional entry point and they can happen throughout the video. Decide how your first “sticky memory” will look. You will probably have more than one – maybe many.  For some videos, the very first image, or title page, will create the moment; for others, it may be introduced later.  Maybe it isn’t an image at all. Maybe it is a quote.
    • Keep it simple. Too many details can derail the story line and the message you want to convey.

2. Have a clear structure

Stories generally have movement and photo stories are the same. There is a usual structure that all stories follow:


The purpose of the hook is to make a promise to the viewer that the story will be significant enough to be worth their time. Another way to look at it is as an opener or attention getter. A hook can be a question, a quote, or an image – or any two of the three. In many ways, the hook is often the first emotional entry point.


The body is where the story unfolds and the majority of your images and video clips will reside. In the case of the photo video, it is actually considered a photo essay. It is a series of images that tell a story. It focuses on visuals instead of words. Here is where the fun begins!
    •  Decide the order of your video. Will it be chronological, event-based, or a new creative way to tell the story and connect with your audience? It is really your choice.  For example, perhaps you want to show the joys of living in a family by showing a collection of get-togethers. Or, perhaps you want something a little more powerful and thought provoking.  This is your creative time to shine!
    • Although the goal is primarily to tell the story without words, you can ON OCCASSION, add a caption or intersperse quotes. 
    • A word of caution: if you simply state a chronological order without introducing a creative element, you will tell a story, but may lose some audience interest.
    • One way to move through chronology is to use transition pages in your video. A single page can convey the message that the viewers are moving to another part. Transition pages can really be fun.

      Think about transitions in your story like chapters in a book. Transition pages are a great way to suddenly change the flow and introduce new topics, or sometimes give a bit of additional information. Not all stories need transitions, but it can greatly enhance the video. For example, this video was created by the parents, to surprise the bride and groom at their reception. It showed them growing up and growing together into a couple. 

    • As you develop the body of the photo video, think about elements that would create emotional entry points throughout. Audio overlays bring in another element and while the audio flows, images can be viewed.  An example of this is a video I did of my father. My niece interviewed him for a school project and he told great stories about growing up. I used his voice telling the stories and old photos to illustrate the growing up period. It is a very effective way to communicate.

Another example is baby sounds that you captured. You can play the baby sounds while showing multiple photos.

Audio can be pulled from a video which then can be used elsewhere. Have fun with this!


The ending of your video is basically your conclusion. It let’s your viewers know that the video is over. It is also an opportunity to revisit your hook. You can show it again or end by referring to it in some way such as restating the quote or interesting fact.

      • Resolve any questions or conflicts may may have arisen during the video.
      • End in away that ensures your audience thinks about the video long after it is over (another hook and another emotional entry point or sticky memory).
      •  The ending can also be a reflection of what was shared.


After the video is designed in your storyboard, it is a good time to do personal reflection on the story you are telling. Doing the reflection from the storyboard prevents rework on the video itself. Not to say you won’t want to change a few things up, but personal reflection will help you clarify you goals.

      • Is this relevant?
      • Was the message clear and compelling?
      • Did I build in emotional entry points?
      • Did I design it for the intended audience?
      • Do the majority of my images stand alone, without commentary?
      • Will this video activate “sticky memories”?

If you answer yes to these three questions, you will have a great, compelling story!