A Little Photo Challenge for You / by Andrea Moffatt

The following post corresponds to my storytelling Facebook group called The Stories that Make Us. If you are reading and want to be a member, please feel free to join. It's open to all! 

Wondering what the title of the breakout- The Stories that Make Us- actually means? I filled FIVE pages of possible titles before I finally hit on this one and I knew right away it was right because it really does most closely represent the content: the ideas that, as we grow, the stories we tell about ourselves AND the stories our parents tell us about ourselves really do MAKE US. It’s true- right?? With our cameras as a tool, at any skill level, we have a special ability to speak to our subject directly though our photos. That’s what the breakout is about. It’s about being intentional about what our images will say to the people in them, even if (maybe especially if) we are not there to speak for our work.

girl standing on toilet



Have you ever seen a photo of yourself - as an adult or as a child- where you were in your element and afterwards, in looking at the image you felt like, “I didn’t know know I had that in me!” Or “I look so comfortable- maybe I really can ______” Or, maybe you could even feel the love from the person behind the camera just by looking at the picture?

I don’t believe that we are all lucky enough to have been photographed in this way, actually. It depends so much on the person behind the camera, their decisions, and their intention. However, I do believe that we can choose to leave behind pictures of our children, loved ones, and clients that carry with them very clear, memorable, and intentional stories, EVEN if we are not there to add our little captions. 

Which leads me to the next Photo Assignment! (And let me just admit, while I think it’s a useful exercise- I’m even a little unsure if I will be successful, so we’re all in this together!) Can you make an image that tells an intentional story or sends an intentional message to your subject, even if you are not there to explain it? Can you post an image- just one- with no caption and have it be interpreted the way you intended (or close, anyways)? 

mom brushing child's teeth

For Photo Assignment 4, I encourage you to shoot something NEW. And I encourage you to have a rough goal before you start. Why? Because the idea is to learn to move from only shooting events as they unfold, to shooting FOR your children, loved ones, and clients. The goal here is shooting for the future.


  1. Shoot a new image for this assignment (no using a great storytelling image from your archives!)
  2. Take a day or two to think about who you want to say something to with your photo and what you want to say. I’m going to assume that most people in this group are shooting for their children, but you do NOT have to at all. To help you on this part, it might be helpful if you don’t try to have your image speak to your whole family or two or three children, but to one person in particular. Consider: What do you want your subject to know about a hidden or still blossoming strength you see in them? What do you want your subject to know about how you feel about them? And if you are still struggling: What are some personality traits or talents beyond the “usual” that really set your subject apart in your mind?
  3. The hard part: Once you know what you want to say, you are freed up to really pay attention and to shoot with intention. Shoot your subject in situations you believe might help you convey your message!
  4. Share your image in our facebook group with no caption. Wait- maybe that was the hard part! They are all hard parts, really. ;-) 

Listen-  of course I recognize that every viewer will bring his or her own background knowledge to your image and can't possibly see your exact intention. Part of the beauty of creating little stories for your loved ones is that it is a private message of sorts. So even if the group can't read your story, I believe this exercise is a valid one. 

So let's get to it! Feel free to bounce ideas around in the group if you are struggling with the first steps. I can't wait to see your little stories! 

boy taking a picture of window light