Part of the whole point of photography – or any art, for that matter – is storytelling. It doesn’t matter whether it’s explicit like a novel or implied as in photography or sculpture, but ultimately, you’re trying to say something to your audience. You’re trying to tell them something, or convince them of something, or bring something to their attention.
All of which boils down to telling a story.
That’s why you’ll find a lot of truly great photographs seem to tell a narrative, in addition to being well-exposed, excellently composed, and so on. Just think of Dorothea Lange’s photos of the depression. Or half the documentary photography of protest movements, war, etc.
When you’re taking a photo, stop to think about what you’re trying to say (or plan this ahead, especially since if you’re taking action shots you won’t have time to stop and ponder when in situ). Stop and think about if you can find a better subject, or modify the one you have, or shoot it differently to get the desired impact. And this mental approach applies to when you are post-processing or developing images as well!
For example, the photograph below raises a lot of questions. Where did this shoe come from? Where is its mate? How did it end up in an abandoned rail yard of all places? What about the owner of the shoe?
And when presenting your images, think about storytelling, too. While an image is often worth a thousand words, it doesn’t mean its impact can’t be enhanced through the use of words! Really, that’s the point of most text you’ll find in photography books, blogs, lectures, etc. (including my blog).
So go and tell a story.