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7 tips that will take your photo galleries to the next level

BY HÀ LINH NGUYÊN

Global Business Journalism reporter


A photo gallery is a powerful form of storytelling. As the saying goes, a picture can be worth a thousand words, and putting pictures together can help you convey your story in one of the most engaging and compelling ways.


But a good photo gallery is more than just creating a combination of different photos, just like putting words next to words does not automatically generate a story. You have to contemplate which words to add, where to put them, and how each of them can complement one another to convey the messages. Creating a good photo gallery requires a similar effort.


Here are seven tips to bring your photo gallery as a medium of storytelling to the next level:


1. A photo gallery won’t be effective without a consistent theme


Similar to any other form of storytelling, a consistent theme is an important part of a compelling photo gallery. Your photos shouldn’t be all over the place. They should be connected by a clear theme. Your theme can be a central topic surrounding the images, a subject your gallery focuses on, or a big message you want to convey.


A good theme helps create meanings and emotional connections with your audience. It’s the reason why you start the gallery, and also the reason why your viewers should spend time looking at it.


In the example below, you can see how each picture fits into the photo gallery's theme of a "Hanoi collective zone."

An example of a photo gallery with a consistent theme (Photo gallery by Hà Linh Nguyễn)

2. Organize your photos to create a dramatic arc


A clear theme is important, but it's not enough to keep your audience from clicking away after seeing the first few photos. You need a dramatic arc with a proper opening, rise, climax, and ending to keep your viewers engaged and lead them through each part of your gallery. You can sequence your photos in logical or chronological order, whichever helps tell your story the better.



An example of a photo gallery organized in chronological order, from spring to summer to fall. (Photo gallery by Hà Linh Nguyễn)

3. Start the gallery with your strongest photo


In life, a first impression is important on most occasions. This is not an exception. Your first picture should be eye-catching, memorable, and most of all, it should tell a story. A strong start will help attract the viewers and assure them of the quality of the rest of your photos.


4. Self-control is important when it comes to selecting photos


It’s completely understandable that you’ll have a hard time finalizing the list of photos to be included in the final version of your gallery, especially when you’re the person who took the pictures. To you, each photo has its own stories and strengths, and it may be hard for you to leave one out. But too many photos telling the same part of the story with only minor differences may bore the viewers.


It is up to you to figure out when enough is enough, and what is enough. Some stories may require a larger number of photos to tell the whole picture, some stories don't. You’ll have to be your own judge. It's best to err on the side of fewer rather than too many.


5. Make sure that all photos are high quality


One single poor-quality photo may be enough to drive your viewers away. You’ll have to be very strict and careful with the photo selection process to make sure all of your photos are of high quality and publishable.


Some simple photo editing techniques like cropping or adjusting the brightness may make a huge difference between a good and a bad photo. Adjustments are advisable in photo editing. But remember, this is journalism, and it is unethical to use editing tools or filters that alter reality.


Bad photo alert: You won't want a blurry, poorly lit, boring, out-of-focus image like this to distract your audience.

6. Text matters, even in a photo gallery


While the stars of your photo gallery should be, of course, your photos, most of the time these stars will need a little help from the text. Adding captions can increase the value of your gallery because not all pictures are self-explanatory. A short caption will help the audience understand your theme and storyline better.


However, remember to keep the caption concise. You don't want to steal the spotlight from your photos!


Short captions can help viewers understand the story you want to tell. (Photo gallery by Hà Linh Nguyễn)

7. Always be extra careful with legal issues


If your gallery consists of photos that are not taken by you, you need to make sure you have the legal rights to use and publish them. And even if you have the rights to do it, don’t forget to give credit to the photographer. There are dozens of websites with free stock photos or low-cost licensing arrangements. Make sure to bookmark your favorite ones for easy access.


 


>>> Here are some websites with free stock photos that you may want to take a look:

Flickr


 

This list was inspired by Professor Rick Dunham's textbook, Multimedia Reporting (Springer, 2020).

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