What makes a good photo essay

Then, try to place your main subject in one section with a focal point where the sections cross. Even snapping candid shots, which you may need to capture quickly, take a few moments to think about how objects are placed to make the most impact. Take more photos than you need. Capture each image from a variety of angles. Climb up high or take images from the ground to provide a variety of perspectives for your viewers.

Zoom in for details and zoom out for overall shots. Shoot each shot several times to make sure you get what you need and give yourself options.

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Let the project evolve. Odds are, if you think this is the really interesting part of the shoot, your viewers will think so too. Part Four of Four: Organizing the Essay. The first step in organizing your essay is to get rid of unnecessary images. Delete photos that are blurry, unfocused, or overexposed.

Decide on a Message

You may not necessarily want to delete these photos, as they may come in handy later, or you may change your mind. Find the picture that best summarizes your story.


Think about it as the image on the cover of a book. Your focus or signature image should convey your main goal in creating the essay. If your essay is about the process of building a home, your focus image may be something like a contractor and architect looking at blue prints with the framed up home in the background. If your essay is about a family reunion, the focus image may be a funny shot of the whole family making faces, pretending to be fighting, or a serious photo of the family posed together.

Capture whatever seems natural for the family.

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  • Categorize your remaining photos. Many photographers sort the photos by the type of image close ups, interactions, portraits, etc.

    Photo Essay

    The purpose of this step is to make it easy for you to find specific images, so use whatever categories make sense to you. Lay out possible designs. Once the photos are sorted, choose an image that specifically fits every part of your essay. You can design your essay in any number of ways. Some of the most common narrative choices include day in the life, how to, and progression showing how your subject changes over time. For thematic essays, you have many more options. However, most thematic essays begin with a big picture shot, narrow in to show specific examples of the theme, and zoom back out to provide a clincher image that sums up the big idea.

    Use an overall shot to give context to your essay. Find your final image. This should be something provocative that asks your viewer to think about the topic. Between the focus and overall shot and ending image, include a series of images that move the viewer from the lead-in shots to its result. Use images that build in intensity or draw the viewers further into the essay.

    Ask for feedback. Once you have the images you like in an order you think tells the story, ask a friend or fellow photographer to take a look. You got a different idea. Would any of these images make this point to you more clearly? They may see something you missed. Add text. Your final step should be adding text. Doing this last helps prevent the tendency to explain the essay in words instead of relying on your photos.

    There are three main ways to use text within a photo essay. You can add images to support a written essay, you can add captions to images, or you can limit text to a title and a few introductory or concluding words. If you're commissioned to add photos to an essay, you should make sure images reflect the written word, but also add emotion and context the writing could not capture. For example, an essay on poverty may include an image of a child and parent living on the street could capture more emotional context. Captions should only include information the viewer could not derive from the photo itself.

    Tom De Backer. What is the difference between a portfolio and a photo essay? How many photos should I have in a photo essay? I clicked off only a couple of shots until a guy in a raincoat a few seats down, started making me uncomfortable. I am not joking.

    Sample Photo Essays

    Besides, those old film cameras made a lot of noise as the mirror flipped up and down. A loud KaClack could be heard over the canned music. I think this was my first indication that photography was a way to escape my shyness and find adventure, becoming an adrenaline junkie in the process.

    Not all photo essays have to be in dirty downtown areas, especially now when the streets are full of mentally unstable people and junkies who would just as soon hit you over the head and take your camera gear to pay for another fix. A simple place can be the impetus of a new photo essay: a local bar, a familiar laundromat or a small town nearby that intrigues you. The best approach is not to walk in and just start shooting. Sit awhile, have a cup of coffee, take notes. After a few visits and conversations with the regulars, explain what you are doing, and the next time bring in the camera.

    Big black cameras in front of your face can be rather intimidating. Remember, this is a place you want to visit more than once. You will be nervous, the folks around you will be nervous and the camera will most likely be loud. Shoot easily, and let people get used to the noise and you with the big black camera.

    7 Photojournalism Tips by Reuters Photographer Damir Sagolj

    Later visits will become more effortless, and you will be easier to ignore. Make sure it can do all you want it to do and it allows you to capture your vision. No point in having a great idea in a super location if your camera is not up to snuff. Most people are flattered when you explain what you are doing. Tell them they have a great face — because they will have, otherwise why are you photographing them? If you plan on using captions, get the basic journalism questions out of the way first: Who, What, When, Why and Where.

    The 24 Best Photo Essays Of

    Once you know something about your subject and your location, the actual photography becomes more meaningful. There are photo collections centered around objects, architecture, hood ornaments, classic cars, green peppers, etc. I find I prefer stories with people. But those are more like collections of interesting pictures than a group of story-related images.

    Elements such as empty rooms, stairways, billiard balls and other static things can be part of the tale — the supporting cast to the stars of your show — people. What details surround people are clues to their story, as are their facial characteristics and expressions.

    For your first photo essay, take a walk. Yes, a walk. Walk through your neighborhood. Your church. The diner on the corner. Again, take notes. Writers do best when writing about something they know.

    In order to shoot a meaningful photo essay, you must start with something you understand, as well as something that interests you enough to want to get closer. So get out there. Have experiences. Meet people. Stop being shy. He uses a camera, but his work is less photojournalistic than it is painterly. The world of creative canine coiffure is a truly, deeply weird one. These freakish glamour shots are compiled in a book, Groomed , from Pelluceo Publishing. The juxtaposition of traditional Islamic dress with biker-tough posturing and Western branding upends stereotypes of Muslim women as anti-modern and ultra-conservative.

    Govia, who mainly makes his living as a freelance cinematographer for television, elicits a certain ethereal drama from the remains of old manor houses, decrepit prisons, hospitals, and mental institutions, and even indoor swimming complexes far past their prime. When described right, food in literature can be as memorable and enchanting as the characters themselves.

    In , photographer Danny Lyon returned to his hometown of New York City after spending years documenting the Civil Rights movement in the South and motorcycle gangs in Chicago. In April , artist Angelica Dass started a project , called Humanae , to map every human skin tone and match it with a corresponding Pantone color.