Pictures That Tell Stories: A Photo Essay

by | Apr 21, 2022 | Featured Article

While some of the most creative people can invoke emotion or convey a thought with one single photo, the rest of humanity will rely on photo essays.

It is a photographer’s job to convey a story through their pictures. Stories are essential to all of humanity. While some people gravitate to written accounts, others are much more attuned to visual imagery. You can tell a story without the written words with a photo essay. Your use of contrast, composition, color, and perspective in photography will convey ideas and evoke emotions.

The following article will detail what a photo essay is and how to craft one while providing some detailed photo essay examples. 

So what is a Photo Essay?

A photo essay is a string of photographs that tell a unique and compelling story when assembled in a particular order. Although some photographers choose only to use pictures in their presentations, others will incorporate comments, captions, or even entire paragraphs of text to provide more exposition for the scene they are revealing.  

Photo essays are a substantial part of photojournalism and have been used to present various information to the reader. And there are thousands of photo essay examples out there from which you can draw inspiration.

Why Photo Essay?

The old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This saying is, for many photographers, reason enough to hold photo essays in exceptionally high regard.

For some, photo essays allow them to take pictures that are already interesting and construct emotionally-charged, intricate tales out of them. For Nicki Geigert and her photography wall art, she loves to get up close and personal to capture the candid moments of life. You can check out her website to see her fantastic photography prints. All of her beautiful images are available for purchase. 

As expected, photo essays have had a long history associated with photojournalism. Many compelling stories have been told alone through images, text, or photos. Photo essays often evoke an intense reaction, whether artistic or designed to prove a socio-political point.

Photo Essay Tips and Tricks

Before approaching the art of photo essaying for the first time, you might want to consider with these photo essay examples some tips, techniques, and tricks that can make your session more enjoyable and your final results more interesting. Below is a list of the best advice one could find on photo essays. 

1. Experiment All You Want. You should, and can, plan your topic and your theme with as much attention to detail as possible. Some of the best photo essay examples come to you from photographers that got caught up in the spur of the moment and decided to experiment in different ways.

2. Take More Photos Than You Need. If you use traditional film instead of a digital camera, you will want to stock up. Getting the perfect shots for a photo essay usually involves taking hundreds of images that will end up in the trash. Taking extra pictures, you would not use just the nature of the photography process. Luckily, there is nothing better than coming home to realize that you managed to capture that one perfect photograph. 

3. Set The Scene. You are not just telling a story to your audience; you are also writing it. If the scene you want to capture does not have a look you want, do not be afraid to move things around until it does. While this does not often apply to photographing events that you have no control over, you should not be scared to take a second to make an OK shot a great shot. 

4. Capture Now, Edit Later. Cropping, editing, and digital effects can add a lot of drama and artistic flair to your photos. It would be best if you did not waste time thinking about how you could edit it later on a shoot. Instead, make sure you capture everything you want and not miss out on any unique pictures. If you need to make changes later, you will have plenty of time! 

5. Make It Fun! For photographers, they know that taking pictures is part skill, part art, and part performance. If you want to perform at your best, you need to have fun and loosen up. Again, you will want to plan for your topic as best as possible, but do not be afraid to lose yourself in the experience. Once you relax, both the ideas and the opportunities will manifest.

Final Words

The world is waiting to tell people story after story. Through photo essays, you can capture the elements of those stories and create a narrative that can invoke various emotions in your audience.

No matter the type of cameras you choose, the techniques you embrace, or the topics you select, what matters is that the photos say something about the people, objects, and events that make this world incredible.

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