How to tell a story in pictures, step-by-step

How to Tell a Story in Pictures Using Pinterest Story Pins and Instagram Stories

You’ve got a brand — and your brand has a story. Don’t just tell a story with words — tell a story in pictures.

Fortunately, platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook have made visual storytelling easy.

But how can you create images that work — and how can you combine them in a way that’s easy to understand and remember?

Brands have asked me to tell a story with images throughout my career as a graphic designer and creative director.

I love to tell stories this way because storytelling with images is so effective.

I’ve designed hundreds of magazine pages, web pages, ads, emails, (and more) that hooked people’s attention with pictures and words.

Learn how to use images in my free visual marketing workshop.

Why should you tell your story in pictures?

Images communicate fast.

Our brains process images in 13 milliseconds (or less). Source: MIT

Let’s put that speed to work for you!

Images are the first thing we notice when we’re absorbing information. It’s images before words.

But when you pair images with words, you get your viewer’s brain firing on all cylinders. Their visual cortex and their verbal processing centers light up!

But it’s not just a matter of finding pretty pictures and pairing them up with brand fonts and brand colors. That’s not a bad place to start — but it’s just the first step.

In order to truly tell a story, we need to be strategic. With a little bit of pre-planning, you’ll tell a story in pictures and keep your brand at the forefront of people’s minds.

Here’s how to get started.

How to tell a story in pictures? Start with a story arc: Hook, delivery, call to action.

Step 1: Build your story arc

Before you put a single pixel on your screen, map out how you’ll tell a story in pictures, step-by-step.

The typical story arc is:

  • Beginning
  • Middle
  • End

When you’re using Pinterest Story Pins, Instagram Stories, or any series of images that share information, I recommend using a specific framework so you can not only tell a story in pictures — you can keep viewers engaged and encourage them to take action.

Here’s the simple story framework:

  • Hook
  • Delivery
  • Summary + call to action

Using this framework will help you tell a story in pictures that grab attention from the first image!

Let’s look at each component:

1. Hook

The number one job of your first image is to make your viewer want to click through to the next one.

To draw your viewer in and encourage her to interact with your visual content, use the first image to:

  • Make a bold promise
  • Share surprising facts
  • Begin a story

Here’s what a hook image looks like in close up:

The goal of your hook is to get people swiping!

It’s similar to the goal for the first sentence of your blog post, podcast, or video.

(I wrote a whole chapter about writing strong first sentences in my book Master Content Marketing: I’m kind of a fan of how powerful they can be.)

2. Delivery

In the next 3-5 images, deliver your information. Tell a story in pictures that move your viewer through your information.

To do this, break your information up into small chunks so it’s easy to follow. Find a graphic or a photo that illustrates each component of you’re sharing.

Here are a few delivery images from a story about writing strong headlines fast:

How to tell a story in pictures with 3-5 delivery images, where you deliver the information you promised.

3. Summary and call to action

In the last image, summarize what you’ve shared. By doing this, you’ll reinforce what you’ve taught them.

You can summarize in a short list, a series of graphics, or both.

End with a call to action. What does that look like? A call to action is any of these:

  • Ask the viewer to share your content
  • State your website URL
  • Share the name of your book, course, or business

Here are two images from my story about writing headlines.

How to tell a story in pictures? Add a summary and a call to action at the end.

The first one quickly summarizes the information shared. The second one is a prompt that encourages people to buy my books, where they can learn more about creating strong content marketing.

How to tell a story in pictures? Gather your materials — the photos or graphics you'll use.

Step 2: Gather your photos or graphics

Your Pinterest Story pins, Instagram Story, or any image sequence you’re putting together needs to look consistent across the series.

No consistency? Your story will look hodgepodge and distracting.

How can you gather a group of images that look related?

I have two tips:

For photos, find a group of photos that communicate the concept you want to share in your story. Crop them similarly. Apply the same photo filter to all.

This jumbled group of photos:

Become this cohesive group of photos when you crop them similarly and apply a black and white filter.

How to tell a story in pictures? Grab a group of photos and make them look visually cohesive by applying a filter and cropping them similarly across each story image.

This is a quick way to make an unrelated group of photos look consistent.

Not sure how to find photos? Learn more about finding great (free!) stock photos here. Don’t own fancy design software? You don’t need it! Try PicMonkey (affiliate link), my favorite tool for creating story images.

For graphics, look for a group of graphics within a collection. Apply similar color treatments to all.

PicMonkey makes this easy. Their graphics collections feature multiple images and editable colors. You can find the perfect graphic and edit its colors in just a few clicks.

How to tell a story in pictures? Make the final product swipeable.

Step 3: Make your story swipeable 

What is that je ne sais quoi that makes you want to swipe-swipe-swipe through a story?

I have a theory …

It’s a combination of powerful content that you want to absorb and connector graphics.

What are “connector graphics?”

They’re graphic elements that span the entire story. They make your story hang together as a visual “unit” that’s cohesive and unified. They give your separate story images a beautiful visual harmony.

It’s easier to show you than to try to explain it, so take a look at this example:

How to tell a story in pictures? Try using connector graphics to make story images feel swipeable.

See how there’s a consistent background image that leads you from story image to story image? These connector graphics keep fingers swiping!

Remember, when you’re applying a graphic treatment to your story images, you want to brand them so they look like they come from your business. That means:

  • Use your brand colors for image backgrounds
  • Use your brand fonts
  • Use your logo where possible

Bonus! Cohesive branding is a “connector graphic” that will make all your story elements look related. So add a small (but readable) version of your logo, and use consistent visual brand elements in the same place on each of your story images.

Instagram Stories vs Pinterest Story Pins: which is better?

Each platform has its advantages and you want to build your presence where your audience resides, of course. But there’s one more important difference to keep in mind — the lifetime of your visual story.

  • Pinterest is a search-based platform where you can share content and continue to get results from it for weeks, months, and years.
  • Instagram and Facebook Stories disappear after 24 hours.

On the one hand, disappearing stories might be just your style. There’s less risk if you know that whatever you create is going to evaporate into thin air in a day!

But … going to all that effort only to have it disappear can be frustrating.

One workaround to disappearing stories on Instagram and Facebook?

Create multiple images and share them in your story and in your feed. Your story will still disappear, but that group of images you shared in your feed will keep working for you months and years from now.

How to tell a story in pictures: Ideas you can use for Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook

Let’s get started using a series of images — paired with text — to tell your brand story!

Pinterest Story Pin tips

As of this writing, the Pinterest Story pin creator gives you the tools you need to practically create your story pins from scratch. Get best practices and specifications for Pinterest Story pins here.

To create a winning Pinterest Story pin, you’ll need:

  1. Your story arc: hook, delivery, summary and call to action
  2. A group of 5-20 images total
  3. Text that describes and summarizes your story. This is a description paired with a bulleted list and it will appear to the right of your story on desktop and at the end of your story on mobile.
  4. Tags related to your topic: as of this writing you can use up to ten tags to help people find your story on Pinterest.

At the time of publication, Pinterest doesn’t allow you to link to a page on your website from your story pin. This makes your call-to-action pin and your cohesive branding even more important.

Be sure to make your business name clear and tell people where they can connect to learn more.

Want to see the Pinterest Story Pins I created for this post? Here you go:

Instagram and Facebook Story tips

To create a winning Instagram or Facebook Story, you’ll need:

  1. Your story arc: hook, delivery, summary and call to action
  2. A group of 3-7 images
  3. Short text to add to your story
  4. Ideas for hashtags related to your topic

As mentioned above, Facebook and Instagram stories are designed to disappear after a day. If you’re new to story creation, these platforms might be easier to try first because whatever you create will evaporate!

But … that means if you create a masterpiece of visual storytelling, that’s going to disappear, too.

That’s why I like using a combination of a search-based story platform like Pinterest and a disappearing story platform like Instagram or Facebook.

You can recycle the same story images to be used on more than one platform. PicMonkey’s Smart Resize tool, a paid feature, makes this a snap:

PicMonkey's Smart Resize tool makes it easy to recycle your images and use them on multiple platforms.

Tell a story in pictures to draw attention to your brand

As the internet becomes more visual with easy passing day, it’s easier (and faster) to tell a story in pictures.

Even Google is getting into the game with a new story feature which you’ll begin seeing in search engine results soon:

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a trained designer to take advantage of how visual marketing draws attention to your business.

Just follow this simple process:

1. Build a story arc. Here’s the framework:

  • Hook
  • Delivery
  • Summary + call to action

2. Deliver your information. Keep in mind you need to:

  • Use cohesive images or graphics
  • Brand your story images
  • Use connector graphics so the final story is swipe-friendly

3. Add a summary and a call to action. Remember:

  • It’s smart to reinforce the information you share with a “summary” slide at the end so they can apply what they learned
  • Add a prompt for viewers to take the next step: visit your site, buy your product, sign up for your emails list, or share the story

Ready to learn more about how to tell a story in pictures you create yourself? Register for my free, on-demand visual marketing workshop.

What's your visual strategy? Three multi-colored dandelions represent a visual identity you'll share with the world.

What’s Your Visual Strategy? 5 Easy Ways to Start Building a Vivid Visual Identity for Your Online Business

You have a content strategy, an email strategy, and a launch strategy. But do you have a visual strategy?

If that question makes you want to run for the hills and hide, stick around — I’ve got you covered.

This article is going to share five easy ways to get started building a visual strategy for your online business.

No design degree required!

These are strategies anyone can implement, starting today. 

I’m going to share resources to help you — and plenty of examples so you can see what a memorable visual strategy looks like.

Dive in to learn visual strategy: Use the five tips in this article.

Let’s dive in! 

Read article …What’s Your Visual Strategy? 5 Easy Ways to Start Building a Vivid Visual Identity for Your Online Business

Rich font examples with a photo of a pool overlooking a beautiful, upscale neighborhood.

Type Styles of the Rich and Famous

Typography tells a story: What do these rich font examples say?

Well-designed, rich fonts are beautiful to behold. Their angles and forms are an inspiration.

Fonts have a “personality,” and if you tune into what their shapes are trying to say, you can make those traits work for your business.

Let’s say on the other side of your town a company is developing an upscale neighborhood high on a hill overlooking the ocean. They’ve decided to call it “Grandview Estates.” Their tagline is “Rising Above the Rest.”

[Pretty snobby, right?]

Now let’s say you’ve been asked to design the sign that will sit at the entrance to the neighborhood.

You’ve been told that the sign needs to “reflect the caliber of people we want to attract to our estate properties.”

You know what that really means.

You need to attract rich people!

Time to break out …

Read article …Type Styles of the Rich and Famous

Why I Hate the Verdana Font

Of all the web-compatible typefaces available, the least appealing is the Verdana font.

And yes, I know it’s used all over. Believe me, I notice!

We’ve spoken about choosing typefaces and brand fonts a lot around here.

Your font matters — maybe more than you realize. Think about it:

Your font choice become the visual voice of your brand. Your words are delivered wrapped in fonts — is your font speaking in the brand voice you want?

So, is Verdana a good font choice, or a bad one? Is there a smart Verdana alternative?

The Verdana font was one of the earliest fonts designed for reading on screens. It’s a “web 1.0” version of a screen-readable font, in my opinion. We’ve come a long way since then.

Use your fonts to get attention online. Register and watch my free workshop, How to Use Visual Marketing to Get Attention — and Customers.

A brief history of the Verdana font

The Verdana font was released in 1996, so it’s a modern typeface. It was designed with one purpose in mind: to improve readability in text used very small on a computer screen.

Microsoft included Verdana as part of its Windows operating system, and so did Mac.

99% of Windows machines and 96% of Macs have it, so it’s widely compatible.

When typeface designers set out to make a typeface that will be readable at small sizes, they streamline the letters to remove flourishes that would get lost at a small size.

They also give the letters a large “x-height,” which is the vertical space between the baseline the letters sit on, and the top of lower-case letters like e, x, a, etc.

And they tend to add extra space between letters, because when typefaces are reduced very small, letters will blur together unless they’re spaced out quite a bit.

The examples below show you why I hate Verdana for regular text copy, and what it’s good for.

You’re about to see what I think is the best Verdana alternative, too.

Keep scrolling, my friend!

Read article …Why I Hate the Verdana Font

Choose the best brand color palette for your business with the five free tools in this post.

5 Free Tools for Getting Your Brand Color Palette Right

Ready to create your brand color palette … but not sure where to start?

This article shares five tools you can explore right now. Find the one you enjoy the most and use it to put together a winning color palette for your business.

The best way to harness the power of color in your marketing is to use colors that support and reinforce your brand.

And don’t go color crazy: pick two main colors, and use them consistently in everything you do.

You may not feel “artistic” enough to do this.

You haven’t studied color theory and you don’t need to know all of that anyway. You just want a nice set of colors that will work for your business.

I don’t blame you — color is an essential part of your visual brand.

In this post, I’m going to share my favorite tools for choosing your brand color palette. The right colors for your brand may be just a click away …

Read article …5 Free Tools for Getting Your Brand Color Palette Right

Choose your brand color palette with a simple, two-step method.

The Simplest Way to Choose Your Brand Colors in Just 2 Steps

If this, “What should my brand colors be?” question is making you nervous, I get it. It’s a scary step to choose your brand colors.

Your brand color choice has a powerful impact on how your customers perceive your business.

What if you get it wrong?

No pressure!

Here’s the good news:

Unlike designing print marketing materials, adding color to your online marketing materials doesn’t cost anything. The only cost? The time it takes you to decide what brand colors to use.

Taking time to choose your brand colors carefully is a smart investment.

One warning: Because it’s free to use, many people go overboard with color.

After all, how can you possibly choose just a handful of brand colors from the millions available?

But showing restraint when choosing a color palette is the #1 way professional graphic designers create memorable brands.

Read on to learn how it’s done!

Read article …The Simplest Way to Choose Your Brand Colors in Just 2 Steps