Visual Storytelling


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Visual Storytelling


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Teacher Molly Flanagan

As photographers we have the power to tell stories of extraordinary and mundane moments that will become a part of our collective history.  Rather than posing life’s moments, step away from typical photographer-driven pictures and learn to let life speak for itself.

In this 4-week class we will go beyond merely taking a pretty picture. We will explore the key elements one must know to tell realistic and compelling visual stories.  We will discover how to work with clients, friends and our family members without manipulating or posing. The end result will be stepping away with a holistic depiction of our lives in photographs.

Lastly, we will learn how to photograph and display our images to best showcase them as they are: stories.

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WEEK ONE: What is your story: discovering your unique voice.

WEEK TWO: Tall tales: the essentials of visual storytelling.

WEEK THREE: Short stories: telling a compelling story in a single image.

WEEK FOUR: Stories for strangers: compiling a story for clients.

The Schedule

All participation and interaction for this class will take place in a private online forum. (Registered students will receive instructions on how to access the forum a few days before class begins.)

On the first Monday of class, Molly will share Lesson 1 in the forum and e-mail it to every student. She will be available during the week to answer questions and facilitate discussions in the forum as you read and work through your lessons.

Homework will be due on Sunday and personal critiques will take place the following Mondays. Each week will follow the same pattern.

The beauty of this class and every other class at DEFINE is that you can read, practice, and participate throughout the week whenever it is convenient for you- from any timezone, anywhere you have Internet access, at any time of day. Most students spend 3-5 hours per week “in class.”

If you have any questions, please feel free to email

Is this class for you?

This class is for students wanting to better train their eyes to see the story before them and learn techniques to convey that message with its utmost potential. Knowing how to shoot in manual is not required, however knowing your camera well will help you express the intricacies of your story best. Whether taking pictures around your home, documenting a vacation or event, working for hire with families or covering weddings, this course will help you refine your ability to document life with purpose.

Material(s) Needed

A DSLR camera, a computer, access to light, an off-camera flash (optional)



  1. :

    Molly’s Visual Storytelling class has forever changed the way I approach photography. This class wasn’t about the mechanics and technical details of shooting images, but rather about the heart and motivation that fuels our desire to tell a story through images, and how to find our voice. I’ve spent so much time focusing on the technical aspects of photography that I had never even realized that I was failing to address the one of the most powerful components of the final product: perspective.

    Molly includes wonderful information on image composition and shares with you those artists and photographers (both modern and historical) who have inspired her along her personal journey. I truly feel like I’ve discovered photography for the first time all over again after taking this class! I am so excited to continue to grow and learn with Molly’s insights – and even a few of my own self-discoveries!


  2. :

    Before I was a photographer, I was a writer. Nothing famous. Never published. I didn’t even have a blog. What I did have was three partial novels, a half of a novelette, and a handful of short stories. I had been on this writing kick since high school (we’re talking over a decade ago) and had finished NOTHING. I picked up a camera and never looked back.

    I always approached my photography as a potential story, but I never (not ever) went to the depths of story making (of course I thought I had…) I literally felt like Molly pried open my head, took my brain out, yelled at until it woke up, washed it in the sink and told it to never, EVER, forget myself or how to make a story.

    Since her class, I have started (re-started?) doing a lot more writing… although now I am writing about my images instead of made-up people and events. I feel that if I can write about my images now and literally tell people what they should be seeing, eventually, when I go out for a shoot, I will have the (un)written words in my mind and make the story purely with visuals. Then maybe I wouldn’t have to do as much writing.

    I’m not sure if that was the intended outcome, but it definitely woke me up. I didn’t learn new photography tips, I didn’t learn how to be a better businesswoman, I didn’t learn any editing miracles…
    I was changed though.

    I am a different photographer than I was when I came into the class… and for me, you can’t put a price on that.


  3. :

    The information I gained in Molly’s class has been invaluable. I could try to pinpoint the different things she did, but it was all of it- the PDFs, the discussions, the links, the critiques, the personalization, etc. There was so much, and it inspired and challenged me on so many different levels. I’ll always be grateful for the new perspectives I gained as a result of taking this class. Thank you, Molly!


  4. :

    So where would one even begin to describe Molly’s course?? First and foremost-it’s worth its weight in gold. Molly has put her heart and soul into this course and it totally shows. She is willing to answer ANY question that you have and her wisdom and insight into storytelling is AMAZING! I couldn’t wait for each Monday to come and for a fresh new reading to appear in my inbox. I would pour over the lessons again and again and have since printed each one off and placed into a binder so that I can continue to go over them and be reminded of the direction that I need to go with my photography. The lessons are like little road maps on how to shoot with your heart and on how to live your life as a whole-using your senses to direct you.

    I always knew that something was off with my photography and Molly really is the one who helped me focus in on what direction I want to go. She is the one who taught me to begin the process of shooting with my heart, with my five senses. I know the road is not going to be easy- it’s a marathon and not a sprint- but I am happy to be going in the right direction and I have Molly to thank for that. Do yourself a favor and take this course-it is absolutely life changing!


  5. :

    I can’t say enough good things about Molly Flanagan’s “Visual Storytelling” class at The Define School. The course content was complete, and the lessons were thoughtful and well-organized. The assignments stretched me technically and creatively, and led to some great personal soul-searching regarding photography.

    By far, what impressed me most about this experience was Molly’s attention to each student in the class. She provided meaningful response/critique to all assignments posted and questions asked. It was obvious, every step of the way, that she poured her heart and soul into creating the lessons and guiding each one of us through our own journey to become visual storytellers. She shared openly and honestly and really helped build a comfortable environment for sharing and growth on the forum.

    Since completing this class, I have noticed a definite difference in the way I shoot and the details I attempt to capture. I have to wholeheartedly thank Molly for giving so much of herself during this 4-week course. The class was inspiring and challenging, and I look forward to my future storytelling sessions.


  6. :

    I wasn’t sure what I could get from 4 weeks of Visual Storytelling. Isn’t visual storytelling all about taking pictures of your subjects in an unposed setting? No props, no worrying about clearing the clutter? But yet, I signed up because I wanted to know how to take honest, heartfelt pictures of my everyday- just like Molly Flanagan’s!

    Of course, Molly did not disappoint. From start to finish, all of the class materials were presented beautifully. There were so many tips and thought provoking inspiration from Molly on how to approach storytelling photography. She starts right from the beginning by guiding you to think about your own vision and finally shows you how to define your own story.There was very active class participation and I found myself truly inspired by all.

    The Define School classes have always been refreshing. The instructors have always been passionate and able to inspire and guide me towards seeing photography in a new light.


  7. :

    As a result of this workshop, I feel more centered on what matters the most to ME in my photography and more present in the moment- capturing the stories, memories, details, places and activities I want my family to remember. This workshop was an amazing experience and smart investment of my money and my time.

    It made me think hard and soul search deep inside about MY photography and my stories. I was not prepared for this when I signed up …. and I LOVED IT.

    It liberated me from 100% “technical perfection,” and while I do want to master light, white balance, and other technical elements, after this workshop I will NEVER pass an opportunity to capture a story and a memory.

    The quality and amount of content continues to inspire me and give me tools to work with, even after the class has ended. The material from the four weeks along with the numerous references to other artists will be an everlasting source of inspiration and growth for me.

    Molly answered EVERY SINGLE QUESTION in detail, with examples, honestly and openly. She is a fantastic teacher and it was a pleasure spending four weeks with her in class. Her feedback is more than “right vs wrong”- it is really filled with ideas on how to approach things differently to make your story stronger or with a better fit for to your vision.

    The interaction with my classmates was phenomenal. From hobbyists to pros, in business and not, the richness in personalities and strengths of the group made the experience even better.

    The Visual Storytelling workshop with Molly Flanagan was one of the highlights of my 2013 and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested in telling stories via photos.


  8. :

    I thought long and hard before I decided to invest my money in a workshop and I went in with very high expectations. I can enthusiastically say that Molly’s class not only met my expectations but exceeded them. Her class is much more than a how-to, although she does gives some very detailed information on composition and basics of storytelling, but before she jumps in to that, she has you dig deep and search to identify: your story, vision and voice… Once I knew what I wanted to say, she offered us some very important tools that helped us speak through our work.

    Her feedback on our assignments was so helpful. I devoured every critique she offered not only on my assignment but my classmates assignments as well. She is so talented at not only telling stories, but seeing them in other’s work as well.

    Finally, the forum community was a great place to offer insight and resources, as well as encourage one another and build friendships. Thanks to Molly and my classmates, I have a more defined vision and am more confident in my work. If you have a desire to give your images a defined voice and story, and you want to be challenged to grow, then Molly’s class is for you!

  9. :

    There are a lot of online photography classes out there. They’ll teach you about limb chops and golden spirals and tell you to avoid horizon lines going through your child’s head. I’ve taken a lot of those classes. But Molly’s class is different.

    It’s freeing, it’s fun, and the work is important. Molly provides links and book ideas for continued learning, and her PDF’s are clear and well-written. The forum itself is well organized and free of distractions which allowed me to focus on getting to know my classmates and the material. This class focuses on telling your story: the real and the raw. It’s because of this class that I had the motivation to document my Dad’s cancer journey, and to consider photographing life at its rawest. And for that, I’m so thankful.

  10. :

    This class is about looking inward and feeling outward- exploring your senses while using the tools Molly teaches to be able to soak up the moment in a photograph. It’s not about taking 1,000 pictures and hoping for a few good ones. It’s about patience, and allowing everything to come together at the right time.

    Molly was also able to answer the many, many questions our group had – about anything and everything – and shared with us other inspiring photographers and resources.

    This is a really wonderful class and I highly recommend it anyone, but especially those still struggling to find their voice.

  11. :

    We all struggle to loosen our grasp on the reins. Whether it’s with our kids or our life goals or our technically solid photographs, we just…don’t…want…to let go. We like control, and many times we have wrestled hard to get it, so letting go is counter-intuitive. But many of us have this pestering thought that if we would loosen up and let go, perhaps we’d make space for the life and joy to flood back in.

    At the beginning of Molly’s class, she asks us to do that. Step back, take a look at the big picture, and let go of the stress of the “perfect image.” Because an image can have all the right elements, but if it lacks heart–a personal heart–it will only fade into the sea of other technically beautiful images. Our hearts and visions are what will enable our images to say something unique and (dare I say) profound.

    And so Molly challenges her students to find their personal lens. This changes everything. Everything. It gives us a story to tell.

    From this foundation, Molly offers the tools needed to tell that story in a clear and captivating way. She does not leave her students hanging! Telling real stories through images is not easy. Even after taking Molly’s class, it still isn’t easy. But I know exactly what to practice and why certain images I make are successful. And I’m very happy to say that the more I practice and take Molly’s lessons to heart, the more successful my images become!

    We all know there is no quick and easy path to becoming a photographer who can cut through the cacophony of beautiful but voiceless images. It’s a journey for the patient and hard working. I am prepared for the long haul, but I still needed a map. Visual Storytelling and Molly herself have been a huge piece of my map.

    Through Molly’s guidance I have been able to put things in their proper place: those reins we’re all afraid to loosen? They have their place. I now see technical elements as some of the tools that enable me to clearly and captivatingly tell visual stories. But what good are reins and horses and journeys unless we have somewhere to go and something to share? Having that lens–that vision–is worth every penny and minute I spent with Molly. Every…single…one.

  12. :

    Visual Storytelling is AMAZING! Molly’s storytelling style and lessons reminded me why I fell in love with photography in the first place! It was not because I wanted to master a camera, or lighting, or post-processing skills, but I wanted to preserve all the GENUINE, REAL, BEAUTIFULLY IMPERFECT moments of everyday life. Molly’s openness at sharing her knowledge and passion for visual storytelling has inspired and refueled my passion for photography and has reminding me of what it most important, connecting to my subjects story! Seeking out the story, and using the tools Molly shares in her course to best tell that story, will certainly strengthen my work!

  13. :

    I’ve admired Molly’s work for a few months before taking her class. I studied her work and tried figuring out why I loved her eye so much. It wasn’t until I took her class that I realized the techniques that she uses and her thought process. It is genius! You can tell her puts all of her heart and knowledge into her lessons and her feedback. The assignments are very useful and she is an open book as far a questions go. This class would definitely get 5 stars…so glad to have this knowledge of storytelling to incorporate into my business and to have the skill to capture my own family and friends!

  14. :

    I’ve been a fan of Molly Flanagan’s work for a year or so now. When I heard she was teaching a class at The Define School, I set about three reminders for myself to register as soon as the class opened! Happily, I got a spot, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I did!

    Molly had written very informative, eye-opening, and plain fun lessons for us each week. She challenged us to ‘shoot outside the box’, and I believe we all gained the tools we need to create our own visual storytelling style. Molly never expected us to do what she does – she encouraged us to shoot as we see the world, adding our own voice to the pictures! Her positive energy was such a boost…it’s like you could sense her excitement in where she knew we could go with our photography!

    There’s so much more I could say, but more than anything, I appreciated her involvement in the forum. Anytime she was tagged, anytime anyone had a question, she was there, giving her expertise! She commented on ALL of our homework – I know that took some time! – and was an encouragement through the entire process. Thank you, Molly, for giving so much of yourself to our class!

  15. :

    This class was such a breath of fresh air for me! I welcomed the opportunity to set aside strict rules and really embrace photography for the art that it is! Molly pours her heart and soul into the weekly assignments and you will finish each pdf inspired to tell your story!

    I enrolled in this course unsure if I would learn anything new since I’m already in the habit of shooting to tell a story. But I can absolutely say I walked away with new techniques, more confidence and feeling inspired and motivated to pick up my camera and capture my vision in a unique and authentic way.

    I cannot recommend this course highly enough! I wish I could take it twice!

  16. :


    I just can’t thank you enough. Your class was exactly what I needed–eye opening and inspiring.

    You provided such a wealth of information as well as encouragement to dig deep within ourselves.

    I already see such a positive change in my photography. I’m now shooting intentionally–really thinking about what story I am trying to tell + the best way to tell it– which makes my work so much more personal + meaningful.

    Thank you for being so open and helpful. You are a wonderful teacher and I would recommend your class to anyone and everyone.

  17. :

    Hi Molly,

    Here I am to tell you my experiece in Visual Storitelling class.. that was, really great.

    Since I started learning things about photography, 2 years ago, I was a little bit frustrated. I have signed up different couses/classes in order to learn everything but I always finished all of them with the same sensation: people focused on edition, on having perfect skins (as you say) but without any feeling in the shot, a lot of empty/boring pictures, ideas that I think were ridiculous.. and so on. I felt all this time like a freak, or a strange person because I like something different (from the most of people) and nobody understood me.

    Then, some time ago I read an interview some girsl did to you and ohhh… I felt in love with your photography. I liked it so much! And I started following your blog.. and well, when you published that you were going to give a course about storitelling I thougt: I want that!! I have to sign up!

    And here I am… 😉

    The course has been great. A lot of information given in a very clear way, you are a great communicator, and you do things easy and funny. In a very entertainng way…

    The rest of the people in the course/class have been great also, with a big participation in the forum. Their questions and thoughts have been very usefull for me too. And I felt I was belonging to a community….

    It has been very pleasant also finding more people with the same photography taste 😉 We all of us like real photography, without posing, no artificial edition.. so I do not feel a strange person or a freak. Very few people understand me in that… the most of people here (around me) prefer other kind of photographs, but well, I have finded my way.

    I don’t know shooting as I would like yet, but I have the information now, and I need to practice, practice, and practice and I suppose that with time, I will grow and be better in this. I hope that 🙂

    So thank you very much for everything. I have enjoyed a lot with this storitelling course and I have learned a lot too. I feel now that 4 weeks ago, I was a little bit lost in photography world, I didn’t know what was my place there, and now, I know it clearer. And that’s great!

    So, thank you very much for everything. I am glad of knowing you and having you as a teacher.
    Best regards

  18. :

    Molly’s a true artist and teacher- her lesson’s we’re filled with heart and tons of wisdom- I will be re-reading her lessons for a while!! By the end of the class I developed an overarching theme for my photography (which we all know is hard to do) and greater confidence to know what to do with my camera when I pick it up! I’m beyond excited to start showing the stories I see in my life- Thank you, Molly!!

  19. :

    Weeks after wrapping up Visual Storytelling, my mind is still churning with the things I’ve learned. While I see changes in my images since taking the course (which is exciting and gratifying), the biggest change is to my approach, particularly when photographing my own family. Where I used to be anxious to capture an expression or a more posed, structured image (which projected a fair amount of stress on myself and my kids), I now find myself being still and quiet, thinking about the elements I want to include in an image, and waiting for a wonderful moment. Far from the chaotic approach I used to have, I am now thinking and observing more, which has made me more open to the unplanned, yet wonderful moments. It is a welcomed change. Not only am I enjoying telling these stories as I see them unfold, my children are happy to be photographed, rather than running the other direction. Thank you, Molly!

  20. :

    When Molly’s class was first introduced on the Define website I’ll be honest with you, I did not know who she was. After looking up her blog and seeing her work and hearing what other photographers had to say about her vision for storytelling I knew I needed to sign up for this class.

    I’m a storyteller at heart and was curious if I was going to learn anything new or be wowed by the lessons. Well, let me tell you, I was pleasantly WOWED and challenged.

    You see, it’s not just the art of storytelling that you get when you sign up for Molly’s class, it’s her passion and her love for what she does that inspires you. Makes you want to see just that much more when looking through that viewfinder. You start to learn that there is much more to this photographer than meets the eye. She has a love for art and when she speaks of it you can tell that she’s not bluffing her way through a conversation. You can sense that she has actually taken the time to learn of them, their art, their style, the way they see things. There are names and famous photographers that she keeps throwing at you and you find yourself trying to take it all in and then you realize that you just need to make notes and go back because there is no way to truly dive into all this wonderful information all at once!

    Her lessons are thick with knowledge and insight. I found myself having to read it again and again. Who would’ve thought of looking at photography through our five senses? To stop and really reflect at what we are trying to portray? What are we trying to say about our story? About our images? Molly made me really take a deep look inside and challenge myself and question myself as to what my overarching vision as a photographer truly is?

    Although composition and knowledge of taking a good solid image is important, she’s not hung up on that. With Molly, it’s more about what the story tells, what are you trying to say, how does an image make you feel? I loved that about her.

    I could go on and on, but I’m afraid of making that sweet, southern gal too big for her britches! lol (love ya Molly:)

    So pretty much what I’m trying to say is, “If you aren’t sure if Molly’s class is one you are going to want to take, don’t deny yourself this experience. I promise you won’t regret it.” This is one of Define’s must take classes for sure.

  21. :

    So if I told you that Visual Storytelling is a great class, it would be a lie…because it is soooo much more than that. It truly is the best photography class I have taken…ever. I loved every minute of it and have learned a tremendous amount about myself as both a person and photographer, the most exciting being that I concretely discovered my vision as a photographer in this class.

    With other photography classes, there is usually some part of the class, even a small part, that I find could be tweaked or improved, but this class…it was PERFECT. All four lessons from beginning to end was chock full of information, and much of the material was completely new to me. It was so nice to have new concepts to delve into that hadn’t been introduced in other classes. There is seriously no other class like this one. I learned a ton, grew a ton and am forever changed as a photographer.

    As an instructor, Molly was a wealth of knowledge and shared so much beyond the lessons as well. She made us dig deep and pushed us beyond our comfort zone to explore and expand our craft. The way she organized each lesson was very clear and concise, each week expanding on the previous week’s lesson. As a Type A person, I loved how the material was richly layered in both an intentional and methodical manner.

    I cannot recommend this class highly enough. By whatever means necessary, take this class!

  22. Robin


    I wanted to take this class for a long time but didn’t because I thought it was geared toward people with a photo business. I’m glad I finally decided to take it anyways because that is not the case at all. So if you don’t have a photograph business and are on the fence about taking this class, TAKE IT. It’s perfect for anyone who just wants to take better pictures.

    Molly’s class was packed with information and made me think more about photography than I ever have before. My class has been over for weeks, and I’m still thinking so much about the lessons. She helped me to learn to slow down and be more intentional before pressing the shutter and how to inject more feeling into my photos.

    She was a wealth of knowledge and super open to answering all kinds of questions we had.

    This is a really wonderful class, and I highly recommend it to anyone – especially those who are looking to find their voice with photography.

  23. :

    This class opened my eyes to see differently than ever before. I now have specific areas I can identify to work on. I think in the creative process we are always striving to get better but sometimes without a sense how to get there. Molly’s class did this for me. The story is a process and through her class I was given tools to help see the elements of story. I didn’t arrive in her class nor have I ended my journey after, but have tools to help me keep growing in telling the stories around me. Also, the format of the class allows you to work alongside your fellow peers and see and learn from their journey as well. So much good happens in community! Thank you Molly!

  24. :

    I’ve learned so much about myself in this class. I’ve started to pick up my camera and find it cathartic rather than work. I’m able to pick it up and photograph my family and come away with images that I know I’ll hold forever and look back on with love in the future.

  25. :

    I have learned a lot and am ready to pick up the camera a lot more than I have this year. Hopefully my annual albums will be more of a story than just a series of images.

    I think I will spend the next couple of weeks re-reading and practicing the exercises you have given. Thank-you again.

  26. :

    I just wanted to say thank you for a truly wonderful course, one that I will revisit as I continue to work on this craft, this way of looking at the world. I love the way you see things and how you articulate your process. It has helped me tremendously in starting to figure out my vision. I don’t know if I have the talent to do this professionally, but I won’t know unless I give it a shot and practice, practice, practice. I’ve also enjoyed virtually meeting some of the people on the course. What a lovely community you’ve managed to create in such a short time. Thank you Molly and I wish you all nothing but the best as you move forward. So much inspiration here.

  27. :

    I had been eyeing this class for a while now and was so excited to finally enroll.
    There is something about having a lesson each week along with projects and feedback that just puts the Define School at the top of online learning platforms.
    For this class, I learned so much… I honestly feel like it changed the way I see and compose my photographs. I’m a lifelong learner and know I will revisit the rich content of these lessons for many months to come.
    Molly’s feedback makes sense to me and pushes me to keep growing within this art.
    Great class and great teacher. Thank you so much!

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