May 28, 2021 / Esther Choy
In fact, Dely says she is “obsessed” with trying to find moments like the one with this bride slurping from a soft drink cup, and feels a surge of adrenaline as she stays alert for them. If there’s a mom with a hanky in her hand, Dely will be sure to photograph that, knowing this detail shows the emotions of the day and speaks to the years she has enjoyed with her daughter.
So… what is the story behind this bride’s photo?
The couple was young, says Dely, and the groom’s attitude was, “Wahooo! It’s my wedding day!” He was all about being with his friends and enjoying drinking beer! The bride’s way of enjoying the day was different. She made sure to take time for herself. Dely found a moment where she was by herself, with the party going on behind her, and she was sipping from a big soft drink cup.
Dely loved capturing this moment where the bride took time to “keep up with who she is,” and stay true to herself.
Not only does this photo capture a moment, it creates suspense. Immediately, we want to know, “What’s in the cup?” True to the bride’s quiet personality, it wasn’t full of vodka or gin, just water!
Using one image to tell a story is “a crazy way of storytelling,” says Dely. “How do you tell a story in one snap?”
True, at an event like a wedding, you’ll take more than one photo, so you can thread the story together, but Dely keeps in mind that the couple will only frame one or two! So it’s important to encapsulate the story in an image. With images that capture honest, real-life moments rather than poses, people are going to ask about the photo, and then the couple can tell the story, and the moment lives on.
The lesson for business storytellers? Intrigue your audience right from the start. Find the quirky details that will draw them in, just as Dely did with this bride.
Capturing the Resilience and Beauty of Real Life
Dely celebrates human resilience by finding beauty in everything. Even the hardest things.
For a year or two, she volunteered with a nonprofit called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep that offers free professional photographs of stillborn babies and babies who die in the NICU. It was an enormous challenge, but she wanted to show grieving parents, “You’re going to get through this.”
Life is always a mixture of beauty and difficulty, sometimes difficulty that is so extreme it blurs the beauty. For parents facing this tragedy, Dely wanted to “make even the bad moments pretty.”
In photos that are not being taken in the wake of a tragedy, sometimes what is not pretty is what’s actually important to capture. She photographs the bloopers–and people often ask for them later. People look at photos of themselves and their families and say, “YES! That’s what really happened!”
In business storytelling, capturing resilience can be part of showing your character. As for whether or not to include the “blooper reel” and less perfect moments that went into the story, I have 6 tips for deciding how to tell a personal story without oversharing – read them here.
Telling a story about yourself through your visual storytelling
Usually, Dely has an hour with clients, so she does not often share her story with them. Recently, however, her brother’s company, LegaSee, captured the story of her life and her business in this powerful video.
In it, she shares about going through two divorces and continuing to go to weddings every weekend for photo shoots. She wants to communicate resilience. She had a tattoo that says, “this too shall pass,” a saying she says people often apply to the bad moments, but it’s true of the good moments too, she believes.
“Moments are so fleeting,” says Dely. “We have to take advantage of the good moments.” At each photo shoot, she thinks, “we’re going to find the moments.”
Maybe “the kids are sobbing, there’s buggers coming out,” but it’s okay. “Life isn’t perfect.”
Yet, because Dely blends beauty and difficulty, families will see themselves in a new light, recognizing the power of the moments. Often, when she shares the images with families, they say, “was that us?”
Seeing your life from someone else’s perspective can suddenly reveal the value of your story.
Business storytellers can also benefit from seeing their story through someone else’s eyes. At Leadership Story Lab trainings, we dedicate 20 minutes to a “paired introduction” exercise where each participant spends time talking with one other participant in order to uncover the essentials of their character (here’s an example). Participants are often stunned to see how others see them!
Dely knows it’s equally important to do for herself what she does for others: to remind herself of her story, to remember “what I’ve climbed out of.”
Dely tells visual stories by intriguing her audience, capturing resilience, and showing others how fascinating their lives look from her perspective. These are essentials for all storytelling, whether visual or verbal.
We are so grateful to Erika Dely for capturing our Leadership Story Lab moments!
Better Every Story
"This is an amazing and insightful post! I hadn’t thought of that so you broadened my perspective. I always appreciate your insight!" - Dan B.
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