Last Updated on July 28, 2021
If someone said that you needed to write a photo essay, what would you do? Would you just randomly go out, take a few photos and then try to put them together in some sort of order? Would you even find yourself asking “What’s a photo essay?” (it’s a story or account of something told predominantly through photos with some associated text to help to understand).
Chances are, if that’s the approach you take, you’ll not do very well at all. Instead, follow these steps to create a photo essay masterpiece…
A masterpiece photo essay will fall into one of two categories. It is either a task you are given, in which case you do not yet have the photos, or of something which you have already been involved in, in which case (hopefully!) you’ll have loads of photos.
Either way, it’s important to plan. If it’s going to be of an event which has already taken place then you might find that you have to ask around to get a broad range of photos.
2. What is the topic and who is the audience?
There are two really important steps here – know who the for your photo essay is and what the topic is going to be.
Well, if the topic has not already been given to you then go and find a topic! It could be literally anything, but it has to be something which interests you. It might sound obvious, but if you are more engaged and excited about a topic then that will show through in your photo story. You might, for example, choose to create a photo essay about a party that is happening.
Once you have chosen the topic, you then need to do your research. Without the research, your photo essay won’t tell the complete story – there will be too many gaps.
3. Make sure you understand!
You need to understand things like:
- Why the party is happening (ie, the real story behind the event)
- Who it is for;
- How it is being paid for, and who is paying for it;
- Who is organizing it;
- Where it is taking place;
- Who has been invited and their connection to the party;
- What the decorations and food will be like;
- Any other significant features (for example, it might be taking place in a venue which has great personal significance to someone, or it might be a party celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Will culturally significant rituals and traditions be taking place? If so, what are they and why are they important?)
This is all before the actual party takes place!
Waiting until the actual party to start taking photos will lead to an incomplete story. You’ll want photos of the whole process, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to literally sit and plan out every stage in the planning process … and being present for it.
Is there a planning meeting? Take photos of it.
Will there be a shopping trip to buy party supplies? Go with them and take photos!
Be there when the food is being prepared, when the invitations go out (or are received, if it’s possible to organize this), when items are being delivered for the party and when the venue is being decorated.
And, once the party is over … be there for the clean-up. Remember, you’re looking for the complete essay written professionally!
(Hint: You may even want to write down a list of the photos that you want, so you can cross them off as you take them.)
You need to remember to be flexible. Don’t be so intent on taking certain photos that you miss other extraordinary things that might be going on around you, which you hadn’t planned on recording.
4. The photos are taken! What will your photo story be conveying?
Hopefully, you will have more photos than you can possibly use. Now, you need to really carefully select the photos you think are most powerful in terms of the emotions you are trying to convey.
So, using the example of a party, the emotions you’re probably looking to convey are those of happiness and excitement, maybe an intense conversation, laughter…
Look for pictures which really demonstrate those emotions. Then, put these pictures together in a logical way (for example, don’t put end-of-the-party pictures before the planning pictures!)
If necessary, ask for help in choosing the pictures. Someone else might see something that you have missed!
5. Add the text
You have your pictures, they are in the right order and now you need to add your text.
However, you might find putting the text to the photos really hard. You were there, you know exactly what went on, and you want to make sure that your audience understands too.
The difficulty here is that you write too much, and it detracts from the end product. A specialist writer will help you to get the information that you need to convey over to your audience in a clear, concise manner.