DaveWonder where great stories come from? Photographer David LaBelle says every image and situation you pass at work or on the street leads to something else.

“There is no substitute for curiosity,” says David.

During a recent editorial institute in Portland, he shared insights on visual storytelling with statewide magazine editors from across the nation.

“Write about things people really care about: family, faith, food, health, and safety,” David says. “These are universal interests and will draw readers into a story.”

David says we write the “how” stories well, but too often forget to ask “why” subjects are involved in the first place.

“Every story written is a people story,” he says. “Do not focus on the numbers or land in a story. Instead, dig for relationships. Try to understand the motivations of the people involved in a story. Write so you feel like you know the characters. Stories should be about us, about being human.”

When trying to capture relationships, David reminds photographers they are not the only ones with a need.

“People want to be loved and appreciated,” he says. “They need you just as much as you need them. Shoot with, not at, your subjects. Avoid drive-by shootings where you keep people at arm’s length. Instead, begin shooting with curiosity, empathy, observation, listening, and caring.”

Time = Trust

The biggest change says he has seen during his 40-year career is the loss of time to do a story well: to fact check and build relationships.

“We put more stuff online and lose depth because we don’t have enough time,” he says. “Storytelling—great storytelling—requires a sacrifice of time. Time equals trust. And trust leads to intimate pictures and stories.”

For visual storytelling examples, visit the Bridges and Angels website.