Using Your Photos to Tell Stories

Posted May 13th, 2016 by   |  Photography, Uncategorized  |  Permalink



Photographs combined with a story truly have the power to engage, influence and potentially compel people to action. Whether it is as simple as improving your ability to convey your message or as complicated as trying to convince people to change their way of thinking, combining your images with a great story is a powerful tool.

Recently, I was asked to share my images with a private school in my hometown (  They often bring in guest speakers to help teach core principles, and the week I spoke, they were teaching about temptation.


In response, I created a story from my images to help reinforce their curriculum. In this case, I used a series of images I took in Africa demonstrating how lions were tempted to kill a tawny eagle. They wisely didn’t because they knew the eagle could very easily gouge out their eyes with its talons. The lions resisted temptation and literally lived to see another day.


During the presentation, I had the schoolchildren roar like lions and fight like the eagle. We laughed and oohed and aahed at the photos together. It was great fun, but more importantly, I was able to help reinforce the lesson that the school was working to convey.

Over the years, I’ve been asked to share my images at all kids of events, meetings, and conventions. In each case, I always adjust my presentation so it reinforces the main topic that organization is trying to broadcast. Some recent examples of my talks include:

– Community groups. A non-profit group was focused on keeping members challenged and active, so I told stories of travel photography.

– Middle school writing class. I talked about the writing process and working with editors. I used images and props that reinforced the instructor’s teaching plan.

– Rotary International. The focus was on service, so I showed images taken in developing countries.

– Camera clubs. Obviously, the focus was on photography, but since I always try to go one step deeper, I tell the story surrounding the images. This created context while simultaneously teaching technique and philosophy.

Here’s my general approach when speaking for an organization:

1. Talk to their leadership to understand their current focus and theme.

2. Ask for resources from which they are currently teaching, such as articles, books, scripture, websites, etc.

3. Gather images from my image library that resonate with their story.

4. Tell the story of my images in a way that reinforces their organizational purpose or goal.

You’d be amazed at how receptive organizations are to having you speak for them. Schools, teachers, clubs, colleges, and libraries – everyone wants content and is eager to have you provide it for them. If you are able to share your images, then work hard at adding value to their organization and they’ll have you coming back every year.

People really appreciate it when you support their cause. Want proof? Just wait until you start getting thank you letters from the attendees. Check out these thank you letters from students who attended my talk last week. Their artwork was endearing and their heartfelt words of thanks meant the world to me.






I encourage you to join me in sharing your story with the world. Just get out there and do it!

Africa Slideshow for Lighthouse Elementary School

Posted April 12th, 2012 by   |  Photography, Travel, Wildlife  |  Permalink

A big thank you to Lighthouse Christian School and Ms. Frohlich’s 1st grade class for inviting me to present photos from my Tanzanian photography adventures.

The kids from Ms. Frohlich’s class sent me a bunch of thank you letters and they were very sweet. One of them read, “Thank you Mr. Hagen, from. Nathan. you HAD the best sho I sen yet! The anaml i Liked the best is the cheetah and leopard.” My favorite letter read, “I rily like your fotows I esPeshily liked the anemels.”

Aw shucks.

I am grateful for the school’s eagerness to see these images and it sure was fun to hear the oohs and ahhs from all the kids. Showing them the wonders of our incredible planet was joyful and I can’t wait to do it again.

I encourage all of the photographers reading this blog share your photos with others as often as possible. If you don’t share your imagery, then your beautiful pictures stay locked up in our disk drives for no one else to enjoy. Your craft and vision needs to see the light of day, so get out there and show it off.

Thank you notes from Mrs. Frohlich's 1st grade class.

Thank you notes from Mrs. Frohlich's 1st grade class.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the show.

Who would have thought that a few hundred elementary school kids could make a man nervous? Tough crowd.

Who would have thought that a few hundred elementary school kids could make a man nervous? It was a tough crowd.

Mrs. Frohlich and her 1st grade class.

Mrs. Frohlich and her 1st grade class.

Mrs. Frohlich's class is in session!

Mrs. Frohlich's class is in session!

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