What We Learned This Week: How to Photograph Climate Change

By David Schonauer   Friday July 19, 2019

What does climate change look like?

Pictures of polar bears and melting ice caps may be compelling, but if you want to engage a contemporary audience on the issue of climate change, you might do better to focus on people. “It is deeply moving to viewers to see how climate change affects people,” says Liz Banse, a visual storyteller and vice president of Resource Media.  “Stories about people whose livelihoods are under threat are extremely powerful.”

This week we spotlighted a tutorial video from Banse and Adam Corner of ClimateVisuals, a climate change communications research organization, explaining how to tell better climate change stories with photos and video. Banse and Corner have researched people’s reactions to different types of imagery and video and come away with 10 principles on how to move people to action on climate change.

“The principles they outline include ideas for how to hook the audience, use tension to keep people engaged, establish a main character, evoke emotion and give a story the best chance of going viral,” noted PDN. “They also suggest striking a balance between difficult imagery and imagery that leaves the audience with some sense of hope or empowerment.”


And they emphasize the importance of telling stories about people — not the kind of people you see in stock photos, but real people, in unstaged settings. Banse notes that research shows viewers instinctively know the difference between stock imagery and candid photos. “Our eyes linger longer on candid images,” she notes. “Showing real people also reduces the spread of stereotypes or generalizations,” Corner says.

“The video also emphasizes the importance of telling new stories, rather than relying on images of climate change we’ve seen before, such as those depicting polar bears or melting ice caps,” noted PDN.

Banse and Corner have also compiled a tip sheet encompassing their 10 principles. The first principle: Hook your audience immediately. “Humans are biologically wired to be attuned to surprise. You must engage the viewer right off the bat for them to want to continue watching a video or dig deeper into your report,” they advise. The second principle: Choose a relatable main character for your story.

Surprise, humor, and authenticity are the secrets to creating a viral video, they advise. Go here to download the tip sheet.

Here are some of the other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. American Photography Open 2019: Check Out Some of the Top Pictures From June

A full-time photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, Corina Howell was covering the Toronto Film Festival on assignment for The Wrap, a Hollywood trade publication, when she photographed Jim Carrey, an actor renowned for his elastic visage, in a makeshift studio. “I had about five minutes with Jim to try to make something special,” Howell recalls. “He was very collaborative. He liked the idea of combining motion and still and would spin in circles, each time giving me a different face when turned towards me.”  Her portrait, we noted, was one of the entries in the American Photography Open 2019 contest that impressed judges in June.

2. Ian Weldon Captures the Chaotic Glory of Weddings

Ian Weldon doesn’t photograph weddings the way most wedding photographers do. The UK-based photographer captures weddings in what CNN called “their candid, chaotic glory.” Photographer Martin Parr, an authority of British authenticity, told i-D that Weldon “shoots weddings as they really are: comical family occasions, with too much drink and wild things happening.” Now his work is being featured in an exhibition at the Martin Parr Foundation called "I Am Not A Wedding Photographer.” There's also a book.

3. Andrea Fernandez Captures Womanhood, Ascending

By profession, Andrea Fernandez is a dentist. Her avocation is photography, which she took up at age 15. While traveling through Italy a few years ago, Fernandez, who is Colombian, was struck by the beauty of baroque-style fresco ceilings. "I love the use of space, tension, and connection that the figures depict as they are 'ascending to heaven,'" she told us. Inspired by the frescos, she later began a series of underwater images in which people are seen flying overhead. The series, which she calls "The Ascendents," was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografia 7 competition.

4. Capturing the Unflagging Spirit of Roots Musicians

For at least 30 years, Timothy Duffy has been photographing roots musicians from the American South, and his evocative tintypes have been collected in a new book, Blue Muse, published by the University of North Carolina Press in association with the New Orleans Museum of Art. Most of his subjects are people you have probably never heard of, but, noted The Washington Post, they “have continued a tradition of music that has influenced so many of the musicians who have gained wide recognition.”

5. Best Dog Photos of 2019

All hail Podengo, a 14-year-old rescue pooch who has achieved sudden fame as the star of the grand prize-winning picture in the 2019 Dog Photographer of the Year competition from The Kennel Club of the UK.. Swiss photographer Denise Czichocki captured Podengo amid magnolia blossoms (at top). The image was also the winner of the Oldies category. Other categories include Puppies, Dog Portraits, Dogs at Work, Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities, Man’s Best Friend, and Dogs at Play, which was won by Monica van der Maden of the Netherlands for her image “Dirty Dog” (above).


  1. William Waterbury Jr commented on: July 27, 2019 at 7:08 a.m.
    How could any lover of dogs not feel something in this piece? A dog, Podengo, who seems to love flowers.

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