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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!

How to Choose a Photo Video Title

how to chose a photo video title

How to Choose a Photo Video Title Based on
3 Key Characteristics

So, is the title really that important? YES  it is!

How to choose a photo video title is sometimes a challenge. The title has to be the right length, in the right way, and with the right message.

You’ve heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Hogwash — a book is usually judged by its cover – which contains THE TITLE! The title is usually what causes a person to pick up a book in the first place and flip through it.  It’s the first impression! 

It’s the same with your photo video. Often, the title creates interest and wonder making your viewers want to keep watching or move on. That is why it is very important to know guidelines for how to choose a photo video title.

Remember, you are telling a story. 

Would you rather read “The Giving Tree” or The Boy and the Tree? “Where the Sidewalk Ends” or A Book of Poems by Shel Silverstein? It is all about choosing the words.

Characteristics of Good Photo Video Titles


The ideal length for a title is 5 words or fewer; however, if you must go longer, it is a good idea to try to break it into a title and subtitle. Also, be aware that in some instances one word will work, but that can be a little harder to do. The word has to have significance.

I have broken the 5 word  rule before. Yep. I actually titled a video with an eleven-word quote from Shel Silverstein and it worked because the viewers loved the quote.

“All the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.”

Let me give you another example. For one video I created, there was a signature word that kept coming up when people were asked to describe the subject of the video. The word was LOVE. Now, I could have titled it Love, but instead, I used “Where Love Resides” and began the video with a Bible verse about love 
(I Corinthians 14: 4-8). Then, the theme of the video was the person showing love.


Impression is an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone. Impressions and emotions go hand-in-hand. It is imperative that the title evokes emotion or creates an impression. 

Does the title create an emotional response, or a memory? Does it create interest or anticipation? That is exactly what is needed for the characteristic of emotion/impression. And you want the viewer to feel the need to see more.

Let’s go back to the illustration I gave earlier “Where Love Resides.” Some say that LOVE is not considered an emotion, but it evokes emotions such as happiness, contentment, trust, etc. Actually, emotions are often defined as being seen in facial expression. Complex, I know, but the bottom line is how do you feel when you hear the title? 


This last characteristic is fairly basic. Is the title clear? That doesn’t mean you have to give everything away in the title, but it does mean that the title should be transparent or pure. If you try to be too clever the clarity may be lost.  This is not the place to play word games or use puns or current slang. You can, however, use current expressions in your title. Remember, the title is part of your work and will be tied to the video for generations to come. 

This DOES NOT mean the title should be dull. Far from it. The English language allows for a lot of variation and titles with a bit more originality will be most successful. You can also have a play on words like Back to the Future !

 One more thing about clarity. Increased clarity also works to help increase memorability. 

Let's look at some cool examples of (book) titles...

In this section, we will have some fun so let’s just take a minute to look at best seller titles from Amazon. You know that publishing companies have very sophisticated methods for choosing titles – so let’s see what the experts came up:.

choosing title

Title: Royal

Immediately makes me think of stories about kings, queens and other royalty.  It immediately gives me a general idea of the topic and let’s me know that if I would be interested or not. This also tells me that if I don’t like stories about the royals or period pieces, I probably won’t like it.

The title is very easy to remember and is clear! 

Length: +++++
Emotion/Impression: +++
Clarity: +++++

Title: Becoming

The one-word title is very inspiring and elicits thoughts of hope and betterment. By definition it means the process of coming to be something or of passing into a state.

The magic of a title like this is that it conveys the possibility that if she did it, you can do it too and she will share how. You know it is a book of hope – just by the title.  Becoming implies ongoing improvement.

Very easy to remember and intriguing but it doesn’t really give away what will be found inside. 

 Length: +++++
Emotion/Impression: +++++
Clarity: +++++

Title: FEARLESS: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown

Oh my gosh, that is a mouthful!  But, the primary title is FEARLESS. and that alone lets you know this is not a leisure read. The subtitle immediately pares down the audience with the specifics. You know exactly what this book is about and you probably know if it will hold your interest.. The word Fearless is easy to remember and the title is further modified after the colon. A great way to handle such a long title. 

Just from the full title, I can also determine if this book is not for me – for example maybe I don’t like high action, adrenalin-producing books.

FYI: The initial title was: Fearless: The Heroic Story of One Navy SEAL’s Sacrifice in the Hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the Unwavering Devotion of the Woman Who Loved Him (!)

 Length: ++
Emotion/Impression: +++++
Clarity: +++++

Title: Where the Crawdads Sing

This title is pretty good – gives off a great vibe to the point that you can almost smell and hear the low country.  It hearkens images of the bayou, mosquitoes, and southern food. But notice, there are no details to really give the story line away. It leaves just enough question that you want to know more. And based on the down-to-earth title, it seems this is a book about down-to-earth people. If I like action books, maybe this oone is not for me.

In reality, the name called to me and I read the book. By the way, I loved it!

Length: +++++
Emotion/Impression: ++++
Clarity: ++

Recap: How to Chose a Photo Video Title

  1. Consider the essence and tone of your video. Do you have a central theme?


  2. Review your photos to identify any patterns that emerge. Do most of the photos involve sports, or music, or family, etc? If so, perhaps that is incorporated into the title.


  3. The ideal length for a title is 5 words or fewer; however, if you must go longer, it is a good idea to try to break it into a title and subtitle. Also, be aware that in some instances a one word will work, but that can be difficult to do unless (there is always an unless) the person has a single word that they tend to live by. 
  1. Can you interject a little mystery and intrigue with the title? Sometimes the title alone will pique enough interest to draw the viewers into the story. Be creative without being being too complex or trying too hard to be clever.


  2. Let your title contain key words or phrases that describe the main theme, person or idea of the video. Keep it clear, meaning not cliched or jumbled. And – make sure it is easy to say. I have seen titles that are really difficult to enunciate — let alone, remember.

NEXT STEP: Grab a notebook and start capturing all of your title ideas. Then go through and ask how well they meet the characteristics.

So, there you have it! Hope you got some inspirational ideas from the best seller titles. Yes, I know you aren’t writing a book – but you are telling a story just as they are! 

How to Integrate Digi-scrapping in Photo Videos

how to use digi-scrapping in photo videos

Using digi-scrapping in photo videos is a fun and creative way to marry two great ways to tell stories.

Scrapbooking Then and Now

Digi-scrapping is the new form of scrapbooking and will also work in photo videos! Scrapbooking was a great rage a few years ago and remains a wonderful, creative way to showcase photos. I have to say, it requires great skill to make it look good – a skill I don’t seem to have. My pages ended up like a child’s art project. But it was fun purchasing the beautiful papers and getting my glue sticks out.

However, there is a downside to traditional scrapbooking. It takes a lot of time and materials AND it is costly over time. Plus, all that beautiful work is in a single, physical book. Hard to share.

So, along came digital scrapbooking (digi-scrapping) – a way to scrapbook using a computer. Digi-scrapping relies on templates (which are reusable) and you drag and drop your images into the template, add your personal touches and text and you have a beautiful page ready to print and put into your own scrapbook or send it off to a print company and have a book made. The possibilities are endless for design! The templates can range in price from free to $4 and up for a one page template. This too, can become costly over time – but remember, it is reusable.

There are many digi-scrapping software programs; however, they are often limited to prints or photo books only and do not have an output for photo videos. Some even require monthly payments of $5 – $20 a month to use the software. Again, this really adds up fast.

So, I want to recommend a cost effective alternative program that serves many purposes.

As you know, we, at Make Photo Memories, are really big on photo safety, organization and the ability to edit photos so that you can use the photos creating great videos.

After a lot of trial and error, we chose Photoshop Elements 2018 (PSE) to manage our own photos. Their latest is PSE 2020 with new bells and whistles. They usually come out with a new version about every 2 years. If you watch for a promotion, you can pick up a current premier version for under $100. Or, you can go to eBay and purchase the last version for much less. Premier lets you create the

Photoshop Elements (by Adobe)

  1.  You can organize and tag your photos
  2.  You can create albums or groups of photos
  3.  You can edit your photographs with impressive editing options
  4.  You can have photos and albums printed professionally, if you choose, or print them at home
  5.  You can create projects – including slide shows, order gifts, etc.
  6.  AND, you can create digi-scrapbooking pages using templates you purchase or get for free.

You do NOT have to pay monthly fees to use PSE and older versions continue working until you are ready to upgrade. This makes it really cost effective. I usually upgrade every 4 years.

A Marriage Made in Heaven

Now, I am also all about photo videos, so how do we marry the two? 

The digi-scrapbooking pages can be saved as an image and be added to your photo video just like any photograph! That way, you get the best of both worlds. It is just a very exciting and creative avenue to tell your stories.

In reality, you can create an entire deck using scrapbook pages designed in Photo 

Shop Elements (PSE.) You can actually create your own templates. And, there are a lot of instructional videos on YouTube (links at the end of this post).

Here is how I use those special scrapbook pages:

I create my videos in Corel Video Studio (but there are many options), and I pepper these scrapbook designed slides in to enhance the video and provide a little variation. In photo videos, I like to use “fancy slides” for an entry or title page, for an ending page, and usually on transition slides. If I need to create a collage, scrapbook templates are a perfect way – and a little text can be added (very little if you plan on adding it to a video).

I love this hybrid option and Photoshop Elements (PSE) Premier will even let you create and share a video!

  1.  You can easily edit your photos and then create an album in PSE to hold them until you are ready to tell your story. The albums act like any photo organization system but you can be selective as to what you put into each album. This alone saves a boatload of time when you want to retrieve them for a project.
  2.  You can continue enjoying scrapbooking creativity.
  3.  The page sizing is modifiable so if you like 12”x12” or 8.5” x 11” or smaller because the program has you covered.
  4.  You can print them from home or send them to a print service from within the program. Or, just save them as an image for later use.
  5.  Inside the program, there are options for other fun projects such as calendars, etc.
  6.  The biggest benefit is that when you upload photos into your vault from an event and catalog the photos in PSE, you can immediately open a new album and add the best photos, so that it is easy and saves time when you create a photo video.

PSE Premium has an option to create a video – the creativity is somewhat limited – but to start out, you can try it. The program itself is awesome and I highly recommend it. Check it out!

Conclusion and Links

For about $100 you can have an all-in-one software package that not only manages your photos and allows you to create photo videos, but it will also let you use templates to create scrapbooking layouts!

Take a look at these videos to learn how to use scrapbooking templates inside PSE!

Family History Fanatics

Digital Scrapbooking HQ

Digital Scrapbooking Tutorials by Veronica Spriggs

Becky Higgins


BONUS: If you want to create nice pages but have no money to spend on a program, try free Canva, Microsoft Power Point, or Google Slides. The pages can be saved as an image (jpg) and be used in photo videos. And, Microsoft Power Point will also create a video that you can share. Adobe Spark is also a free option.

Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines!