Digital Storytelling

Basic Thoughts about Visual Composition

marietta kesting

Digital Storytelling is about composing images in sequence so as to convey meaning. When you see images in an arrangement, you try to understand the connection between them and to comprehend what story they are telling. In order to control what your image sequence communicates to the viewer, you need to pay close attention to each individual image itself and the overall context of the accompanying images.

The first step in decoding images is to establish what each image itself seems to say by determining how the image is composed, which parts of it attract your attention, and why. This site offers some fundamental principles/guidelines for visual storytelling and for the use of images in a narrative context. When you capture images, no matter whether they are still or moving images (i.e., photography or video and film), you select one frame - one slice of an implicitly continuous world - to show the audience. The frame makes the image limited and finite; depending on the composition of this frame, the camera angle, perspective, etc., the resulting image changes its look and can change its meaning. Note that the notion of composition comes mainly from still photography and painting and can't always be applied to motion pictures, since objects may move within the frame and the frame itself can move. Hence, this is meant to only be a starting point for exploring and building visual consciousness.

Here is an index of the topics covered:

- The Power of the Center - List of Common Shots
- The Rule of Thirds - Leading the Action
- Lines of Direction - Camera Angles


all images copyright m. kesting 2004, used by permission