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Photo Essay Ideas: Rules and Hacks

14 December 2021 0 comment
photo essay example

Today the trend of photo essay creation is growing and becoming much-in-demand among bloggers, journalists, and PR people. Whether you are trying to show a news article or make a story about your hobby to friends and relatives, images will help demonstrate a chosen topic from an interesting angle. If you are interested in the process of how to write a photo essay, let us describe it step-by-step. The preparation includes selecting a topic, organizing a photo set, and managing the pictures in the right order.

What Is a Photo Essay?

A photo essay is a set of pictures designed to tell a story and evoke emotions in the viewers. Each presented report should have from 3 to 5 works, but that depends on the competition where you want to participate. The question of how to make a photo essay should not be hard if you have ideas. Divide your thoughts into one exciting topic and create great photographs to make the story real.

If you were hired to work on a particular task to publish, you might be initially given a thematic or narrative style to cover a specific topic. Before you start doing your project and publish it, do not forget to read the task’s requirements. Narrative essays can relate to everyday life, be step-through guides, or a series of timed shots that reflect a gradual change in the photograph’s subject (for example, showing the progress of building houses).

Technical requirements are also important. In addition, you have to make a mini description that was made based on a particular layout. Remember that you need to apply all that demands to each picture without exceptions.

Photo Essay Examples for Students 

Before you create a plan of action, think about your target audience. Answer the question of which categories of people you want to reach and impress with your work, who might benefit from it. Each masterpiece should have a background and story to understand what people find involving. Thus you will get to know who your audience is, so these people will find time to watch your stories.

Advice: Get creative with your topic and title. However, even a simple title, “My Favorite Things,” will be enough if you make an original photo essay itself.

photo essay assignment

For inspiration, we recommend you to search for information on the Internet and do the following actions:

  • Look through current news feeds. They can find a terrific selection base of photo essay topics. People who partially know the theme you have chosen might be a help. They may supply you with the right auditory, who will be interested in your essay. The subject might be simple, like Christmas shopping, or complex, like the growth of an unemployment percentage in your region. If you want to read about it means that there are people who also would like to know.   
  • A hobby is a great theme. This essay will be of interest to your fellow hobbyists and those who still only dream of doing it. With the help of photographs, you will tell others about your hard work and the pleasure you get. Consider devoting a photo essay to your favorite hobby. You are already familiar with these topics, so it will be easier for you to plan a profound theme. Compose a workflow photo essay so that other people can learn and enjoy your hobby.
  • Try to create a tutorial photo essay describing your workflow. Take photos of your workplace and the people you work with. Not only will this help you get to know your coworkers better and become more familiar with the work process, but it can also help the essay become good promotional material for your company. Find an interesting subject to shoot. When you have a few ideas ready, think about expressing them in photographs to present to the viewers. Think of the things that are the easiest to capture and show from the most interesting angle. And more importantly, choose something that inspires you. It can be people, animals, landscape, still life. There is a chance that the object you are interested in will be of interest to the rest of the auditory.
  • Check the calendar on the local arrangements like student events, fundraisers, or annual open festivals. They may become a theme for an article. If you discuss your plans for preparing your photo essay ideas in advance with the event managers, you may even have a ready-made place to publish your work on their official website or in the local newspaper.
  • Themed essays often cover such significant topics as the federal weapons law, risky youth, climate change essay or military personnel’s return from war zones.

Do not forget to obtain permission to shoot and publish the material. Schools, kindergartens, and other childcare facilities will have their rules regarding who can be photographed there and for what purposes. In addition to permission to manage such institutions, parental consent is also required for photographing children.

Great Photo Essay Topics

Life has many sides, and a great storyteller aims to find and picture single moments of it. It is hard to stop your choice on one subject and make a truly impressive piece; you have to concentrate on the topic. There is a list of the most common topics that may assist you:

  • animals;
  • travel;
  • different cultures;
  • cooking;
  • education;
  • lifestyle, and so on.

Maybe you are an expert yourself in some narrow field. Then it is possible to share your knowledge with others.

The Order of How to Write a Proper Photo Essay

To start writing, you have to understand the photo essay assignment. If you have to prepare a student event project, then having some relevant information might help you finish the project in no time. But! Since we are talking about photography, to improve the finished shot’s quality, it is recommended to know how to choose a focal frame, what the general background will be, what kind of details will be around, and how to complete your presentation effectively. There are some life hacks and a photo essay example of how to make an unforgettable photographic masterpiece:

photographic essay
  • Pick the subject for the focus shot. A focal frame is also called a mainframe because it should contain an image that reflects your theme’s essence.
  • Think of a baseline shot. You have to make it with a wide-angle lens and embrace the whole story. If you want to tell about a working day in the office, the base shot might include your colleagues or workers who are hurrying to work and entering the main door,
  • Schedule the shooting of detailed pictures. These photographs should have various portraits, close-up shots, demonstrating individual operations, and actions. For example, you can take a picture of your essay’s “protagonist” at work in the office while he or she is sitting at the computer. You can also include photographs of the person interacting with other workers, like at a meeting or talking to someone in the break room over coffee. Close-up shots may show hands typing on a computer keyboard in close-up or show an image in detail on a computer monitor.
  • Remember to make the final, conclusive shot. At the very beginning of working on an essay, you may not yet imagine how it should look. But most photographers agree that as soon as such a picture appears before their eyes, awareness will come by itself. For the viewer, the image should contain a summary of the entire photo essay. In this case, the photograph should, as it were, say the phrase “end,” call for action or show the final result of a sequence of steps or the past day.

You can find a photo essay template and act in accordance with it.

Advice: You have to be skillful with the camera. Thus the composition organization will be easier and would not take much time. 

Do not forget to check these significant staff:

#1 Examine the Lighting

Make test shots to understand which set of ISO you need. ISO defines how much light passing through the lens will be caught by the camera’s sensor and how quickly. A low indicator can be used for brightly lit, slow-moving, or stationary objects. To photograph items in motion or dim lighting, it is necessary to raise the indicator. 

Many photographers avoid using high ISO indicators because of the noise created by huge amounts of lighting that passes through the lens. However, such images are easier to edit later, as they contain more information to process.

If there is bright natural light where you will be shooting or setting up artificial lighting, it makes sense to use a low ISO setting. For darker areas, you will likely need to use a higher indicator. Many cameras have the standard ISO level equals to 200. You can raise it by doubling the previous number (400, 800, and so on).

It doubles the camera matrix’s sensitivity to the light, which allows you to shoot in less time. It takes a second to shoot at ISO 100, and at ISO 800, it will take only 1/8 of a second.

photo essay template

#2 Speculate About the Composition

If you have the necessary experience in photography, you may use different methods of creating it. If you are an amateur, it is better to begin learning the rule of the thirds. It tells you that each shot may be separated into nine sections by dividing into three parts vertically and horizontally. In this case, the object of photography itself and the focus should be located in the frame at one intersection points of the horizontal and vertical lines that divide the frame into parts.

Even when shooting non-stop shots that have to be caught quickly, take some time to think about how best to position the objects in the frame, and achieve the most expressiveness.

Always try to take into account the background’s role in the overall perception of the image while trying to create different levels and aspects of interest.

In some cases, you may complete the composition by editing the pictures. That is why if it is difficult for you to take an ideal place for the shooting, do not let these upsetting circumstances steal your valuable image:

  • Take more photos than you need. If you are going to create an essay of 10-15 good images, you may need to shoot several hundred frames to find the ones that will be most suitable among them.
  • Exclude the images that you don’t need. The first step in organizing a photo essay is getting rid of unnecessary pictures. Remove blurry or blown out ones, out of focus. Filter out photos that do not fit into the subject of the essay. These photos do not have to be deleted, as they may be useful to you later, or you can still change your mind about using them. The aim is to limit the number of images you have to work with to those that will best describe your story. Read how to make an essay longer.
  • Ask somebody to access the result of your work. When your first test with the picture set is ready, ask your friends or another photographer for their opinion. Do not tell them the topic and about the goal you wanted to achieve with the story. Let them have a look at the photographs and their order, and then ask the person what he or she sees here.

Regard some of the mentioned ideas, and you will make a decent workpiece.

Final Thoughts

The only thing we need to compose a great essay is inspiration. It does not mean that you can sit and wait for it to come. Time is the most valuable thing so try to find the inspiration you need in books, music, and nature. If you succeed in that, then half of the assignment is done. Draw your ideas and continue creating.


Christopher Ferguson

Chris is energetic and creative Academic Tutor. He provides educational assistance and help students to improve their academic performance. He supplies students with the necessary tools for better understanding their level and needs to achieve academic goals. Got an excellent communication and problem solving skills and gives support to create a personalized learning experience for all students.


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