What Is a Photo Essay?

A photo essay is a documentary story on a topic with the help of photographs, which should evoke emotions. Photos can be supplemented with the explanatory text, but the ideal photo essay should be understandable without words. As usual, most materials are accompanied by one photo. This photo should summarize the entire event in one shot.

A photo essay is ideal for journalists and reporters since this is primarily a documentary genre of photography. However, it is also suitable for anyone who wants to show an interesting topic.


You can take pictures of things that interest you and affect your emotions. Some photographers shoot essays about their families or even more serious topics, such as global warming or the extinction of animals.


When planning an essay, you must create a narrative basis. Think about the main issue, culmination, and the solution. Reflect on the causes and effects. Photos should follow the plot as the written material does this with the help of words. The greatest strength of photography is its ability to illustrate the universal human experience. Good works are built around a character or personality with whom the readers can identify themselves. Audience need someone or something close to them, or something that absorbs the imagination and captures the plot. There are several available ways to structure the narrative in your essay. Keep an idea that embodies your material in your head and take pictures to illustrate this thought. Each next shot should be informative and illustrative.

Staged Photo Essay

This kind of essay shows a process, from the beginning to the end. For example, you can write about the stages of the experiment or a step-by-step instruction for cooking.

Close Up

Emphasize every detail in your photo essay. Sometimes it is called a detailed photo. It is intended not for informing but for drawing attention to a certain detail.


Focus on the subject when he or she is in contact with other people during the event. The image of your character in this environment will give the credibility of the readers.


Such a photo can be used to complete the plot and say "the end." For example, it may be the image of the store owner closing the door, or the picture of the child who fell asleep in the hospital after the operation.

Photo Series

This is a selection of similar images intended to illustrate one specific topic. For example, a series of pictures of destroyed buildings or ultra-fashioned sunglasses. Such images should have a close style. It is a great way to illustrate the idea in combination with text material.

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A photo essay can be built on a person's image. You will need good portraits that will represent a character to the readers. Shoot various portraits, such as sincere pictures and staged photos.
You need to shoot using minimum of equipment and maximum of skills. If the topic of shooting is not interesting for you, you will not create a good photo essay.


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