23 Photo Essay Ideas and Examples (to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing!)

A Post By: Kevin Landwer-Johan

Ideas for compelling photo essays

Looking for inspiration? Our 23 photo essay ideas will take your photography skills to new heights!

A single, strong photograph can convey a lot of information about its subject – but sometimes we have topics that require more than one image to do the job. That’s when it’s time to make a photo essay: a collection of pictures that together tell the bigger story around a chosen theme.

In the following sections, we’ll explore various photo essay ideas and examples that cover a wide range of subjects and purposes. From capturing the growth of your children to documenting local festivals, each idea offers an exciting opportunity to tell a story through your lens, whether you’re a hobbyist or a veteran professional.

So grab your camera, unleash your creativity, and let’s delve into the wonderful world of photo essay examples!

What is a photo essay?

Simply put, a photo essay is a series of carefully selected images woven together to tell a story or convey a message. Think of it as a visual narrative that designed to capture attention and spark emotions.

Karen woman portrait

Now, these images can revolve around a broad theme or focus on a specific storyline. For instance, you might create a photo essay celebrating the joy of companionship by capturing 10 heartwarming pictures of people sharing genuine laughter. On the other hand, you could have a photo essay delving into the everyday lives of fishermen in Wales by following a single fisherman’s journey for a day or even a week.

It’s important to note that photo essays don’t necessarily have to stick to absolute truth. While some documentary photographers prefer to keep it authentic, others may employ techniques like manipulation or staging to create a more artistic impact. So there is room for creativity and interpretation.

Why you should create a photo essay

Photo essays have a way of expressing ideas and stories that words sometimes struggle to capture. They offer a visual narrative that can be incredibly powerful and impactful.

Firstly, photo essays are perfect when you have an idea or a point you want to convey, but you find yourself at a loss for words. Sometimes, emotions and concepts are better conveyed through images rather than paragraphs. So if you’re struggling to articulate a message, you can let your photos do the talking for you.

Second, if you’re interested in subjects that are highly visual, like the mesmerizing forms of architecture within a single city, photo essays are the way to go. Trying to describe the intricate details of a building or the play of light and shadows with words alone can be challenging. But through a series of captivating images, you can immerse your audience in the architecture.

And finally, if you’re aiming to evoke emotions or make a powerful statement, photo essays are outstanding. Images have an incredible ability to shock, inspire, and move people in ways that words often struggle to achieve. So if you want to raise awareness about an environmental issue or ignite a sense of empathy, a compelling series of photographs can have a profound impact.

Photo essay examples and ideas

Looking to create a photo essay but don’t know where to start? Here are some handy essay ideas and examples for inspiration!

1. A day in the life

Your first photo essay idea is simple: Track a life over the course of one day. You might make an essay about someone else’s life. Or the life of a location, such as the sidewalk outside your house. 

The subject matter you choose is up to you. But start in the morning and create a series of images showing your subject over the course of a typical day.

(Alternatively, you can document your subject on a special day, like a birthday, a wedding, or some other celebration.)

woman with a backpack getting on a train photo essay ideas

2. Capture hands

Portraits focus on a subject’s face – but why not mix it up and make a photo essay that focuses on your subject’s hands?

(You can also focus on a collection of different people’s hands.)

Hands can tell you a lot about a person. And showing them in context is a great way to narrate a story.

people on a train

3. Follow a sports team for a full season

Sports are all about emotions – both from the passionate players and the dedicated fans. While capturing the intensity of a single game can be exhilarating, imagine the power of telling the complete story of a team throughout an entire season.

For the best results, you’ll need to invest substantial time in sports photography. Choose a team that resonates with you and ensure their games are within a drivable distance. By photographing their highs and lows, celebrations and challenges, you’ll create a compelling photo essay that traces their journey from the first game to the last.

4. A child and their parent

Photographs that catch the interaction between parents and children are special. A parent-child connection is strong and unique, so making powerful images isn’t challenging. You just need to be ready to capture the special moments as they happen. 

You might concentrate on a parent teaching their child. Or the pair playing sports. Or working on a special project.

Use your imagination, and you’ll have a great time with this theme.

5. Tell a local artist’s story 

I’ve always enjoyed photographing artists as they work; studios have a creative vibe, so the energy is already there. Bring your camera into this environment and try to tell the artist’s story!

An artist’s studio offers plenty of opportunities for wonderful photo essays. Think about the most fascinating aspects of the artist’s process. What do they do that makes their art special? Aim to show this in your photos.

Many people appreciate fine art, but they’re often not aware of what happens behind the scenes. So documenting an artist can produce fascinating visual stories.

artist at work with copper

6. Show a tradesperson’s process

Do you have a plumber coming over to fix your kitchen sink? Is a builder making you a new deck?

Take photos while they work! Tell them what you want to do before you start, and don’t forget to share your photos with them.

They’ll probably appreciate seeing what they do from another perspective. They may even want to use your photos on their company website.

hot iron in crucible

7. Photograph your kids as they grow

There’s something incredibly special about documenting the growth of our little ones. Kids grow up so quickly – before you know it, they’re moving out. Why not capture the beautiful moments along the way by creating a heartwarming photo essay that showcases their growth?

There are various approaches you can take, but one idea is to capture regular photos of your kids standing in front of a distinct point of reference, such as the refrigerator. Over a year or several years, you can gather these images and place them side by side to witness your childrens’ incredible transformations.

8. Cover a local community event

A school fundraiser, a tree-planting day at a park, or a parade; these are are all community events that make for good photo essay ideas.

Think like a photojournalist . What type of images would your editor want? Make sure to capture some wide-angle compositions , some medium shots, and some close-ups.

(Getting in close to show the details can often tell as much of a story as the wider pictures.)

9. Show fresh market life

Markets are great for photography because there’s always plenty of activity and lots of characters. Think of how you can best illustrate the flow of life at the market. What are the vendors doing that’s most interesting? What are the habits of the shoppers?

Look to capture the essence of the place. Try to portray the people who work and shop there.

woman at the fresh market

10. Shoot the same location over time

What location do you visit regularly? Is there a way you can make an interesting photo essay about it?

Consider what you find most attractive and ugly about the place. Look for aspects that change over time. 

Any outdoor location will look different throughout the day. Also think about the changes that occur from season to season. Create an essay that tells the story of the place.

11. Document a local festival

Festivals infuse cities and towns with vibrant energy and unique cultural experiences. Even if your own town doesn’t have notable festivals, chances are a neighboring town does. Explore the magic of these celebrations by documenting a local festival through your lens.

Immerse yourself in the festivities, arriving early and staying late. Capture the colorful displays and the people who make the festival come alive. If the festival spans multiple days, consider focusing on different areas each time you visit to create a diverse and comprehensive photo essay that truly reflects the essence of the event.

12. Photograph a garden through the seasons

It might be your own garden . It could be the neighbor’s. It could even be the garden at your local park.

Think about how the plants change during the course of a year. Capture photos of the most significant visual differences, then present them as a photo essay.

lotus flower

13. Show your local town or city

After spending several years in a particular area, you likely possess an intimate knowledge of your local town or city. Why not utilize that familiarity to create a captivating photo essay that showcases the essence of your community?

Delve into what makes your town special, whether it’s the charming streets, unique landmarks, or the people who shape its character. Dedicate time to capturing the diverse aspects that define your locale. If you’re up for a more extensive project, consider photographing the town over the course of an entire year, capturing the changing seasons and the dynamic spirit of your community.

14. Pick a local cause to highlight

Photo essays can go beyond passive documentation; they can become a part of your activism, too!

So find a cause that matters to you. Tell the story of some aspect of community life that needs improvement. Is there an ongoing issue with litter in your area? How about traffic; is there a problematic intersection?

Document these issues, then make sure to show the photos to people responsible for taking action.

15. Making a meal

Photo essay ideas can be about simple, everyday things – like making a meal or a coffee.

How can you creatively illustrate something that seems so mundane? My guess is that, when you put your mind to it, you can come up with many unique perspectives, all of which will make great stories.

plate of Thai curry photo essay ideas

16. Capture the life of a flower

In our fast-paced lives, it’s easy to overlook the beauty that surrounds us. Flowers, with their mesmerizing colors and rapid life cycles, offer a captivating subject for a photo essay. Try to slow down and appreciate the intricate details of a flower’s existence.

With a macro lens in hand, document a single flower or a patch of flowers from their initial shoots to their inevitable wilting and decomposition. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to bring viewers into the enchanting world of the flower. By freezing these fleeting moments, you’ll create a visual narrative that celebrates the cycle of life and the exquisite beauty found in nature’s delicate creations.

17. Religious traditions

Religion is often rich with visual expression in one form or another. So capture it!

Of course, you may need to narrow down your ideas and choose a specific aspect of worship to photograph. Aim to show what people do when they visit a holy place, or how they pray on their own. Illustrate what makes their faith real and what’s special about it.

photo essay idea monks walking

18. Historic sites

Historic sites are often iconic, and plenty of photographers take a snapshot or two.

But with a photo essay, you can illustrate the site’s history in greater depth.

Look for details of the location that many visitors miss. And use these to build an interesting story.

19. Show the construction of a building

Ever been away from a familiar place for a while only to return and find that things have changed? It happens all the time, especially in areas undergoing constant development. So why not grab your camera and document this transformation?

Here’s the idea: Find a building that’s currently under construction in your area. It could be a towering skyscraper, a modern office complex, or even a small-scale residential project. Whatever catches your eye! Then let the magic of photography unfold.

Make it a habit to take a photo every day or two. Watch as the building gradually takes shape and evolves. Capture the construction workers in action, the cranes reaching for the sky, and the scaffolding supporting the structure.

Once the building is complete, you’ll have a treasure trove of images that chronicle its construction from start to finish!

20. Document the changing skyline of the city

This photo essay example is like the previous one, except it works on a much larger scale. Instead of photographing a single building as it’s built, find a nice vantage point outside your nearest city, then photograph the changing skyline.

To create a remarkable photo essay showcasing the changing skyline, you’ll need to scout out the perfect vantage point. Seek high ground that offers a commanding view of the city, allowing you to frame the skyline against the horizon. Look for spots that give you an unobstructed perspective, whether a rooftop terrace, a hillside park, or even a nearby bridge.

As you set out on your photography expedition, be patient and observant. Cities don’t transform overnight; they change gradually over time. Embrace the passage of days, weeks, and months as you witness the slow evolution unfold.

Pro tip: To capture the essence of this transformation, experiment with various photographic techniques. Play with different angles, framing, and compositions to convey the grandeur and dynamism of the changing skyline. Plus, try shooting during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset , when the soft light bathes the city in a warm glow and accentuates the architectural details.

21. Photograph your pet

If you’re a pet owner, you already have the perfect subject for a photo essay!

All pets , with the possible exception of pet rocks, will provide you with a collection of interesting moments to photograph.

So collect these moments with your camera – then display them as a photo essay showing the nature and character of your pet.

Woman and elephant

22. Tell the story of a local nature preserve

Ah, the wonders of a local nature preserve! While it may not boast the grandeur of Yosemite National Park, these hidden gems hold their own beauty, just waiting to be discovered and captured through the lens of your camera.

To embark on this type of photo essay adventure, start by exploring all the nooks and crannies of your chosen nature preserve. Wander along its winding trails, keeping an eye out for unique and captivating subjects that convey the essence of the preserve.

As you go along, try to photograph the intricate details of delicate wildflowers, the interplay of light filtering through a dense forest canopy, and the lively activities of birds and other wildlife.

23. Show the same subject from multiple perspectives

It’s possible to create an entire photo essay in a single afternoon – or even in a handful of minutes. If you don’t love the idea of dedicating yourself to days of photographing for a single essay, this is a great option.

Simply find a subject you like, then endeavor to capture 10 unique images that include it. I’d recommend photographing from different angles: up above, down low, from the right and left. You can also try getting experimental with creative techniques, such as intentional camera movement and freelensing. If all goes well, you’ll have a very cool set of images featuring one of your favorite subjects!

By showcasing the same subject from multiple perspectives, you invite viewers on a visual journey. They get to see different facets, textures, and details that they might have overlooked in a single photograph. It adds depth and richness to your photo essay, making it both immersive and dynamic.

Photo essay ideas: final words

Remember: Photo essays are all about communicating a concept or a story through images rather than words. So embrace the process and use images to express yourself!

Whether you choose to follow a sports team through a thrilling season, document the growth of your little ones, or explore the hidden treasures of your local town, each photo essay has its own magic waiting to be unlocked. It’s a chance to explore your creativity and create images in your own style.

So look at the world around you. Grab your gear and venture out into the wild. Embrace the beauty of nature, the energy of a bustling city, or the quiet moments that make life special. Consider what you see every day. What aspects interest you the most? Photograph those things.

You’re bound to end up with some amazing photo essays!

Now over to you:

Do you have any photo essay examples you’re proud of? Do you have any more photo essay ideas? Share your thoughts and images in the comments below!

23 Photo Essay Ideas and Examples (to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing!)

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kevin Landwer-Johan

Kevin Landwer-Johan is a photographer, photography teacher, and author with over 30 years of experience that he loves to share with others.

Check out his website and his Buy Me a Coffee page .

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How to Create an Engaging Photo Essay (with Examples)

Photo essays tell a story in pictures. They're a great way to improve at photography and story-telling skills at once. Learn how to do create a great one.

Learn | Photography Guides | By Ana Mireles

Photography is a medium used to tell stories – sometimes they are told in one picture, sometimes you need a whole series. Those series can be photo essays.

If you’ve never done a photo essay before, or you’re simply struggling to find your next project, this article will be of help. I’ll be showing you what a photo essay is and how to go about doing one.

You’ll also find plenty of photo essay ideas and some famous photo essay examples from recent times that will serve you as inspiration.

If you’re ready to get started, let’s jump right in!

Table of Contents

What is a Photo Essay?

A photo essay is a series of images that share an overarching theme as well as a visual and technical coherence to tell a story. Some people refer to a photo essay as a photo series or a photo story – this often happens in photography competitions.

Photographic history is full of famous photo essays. Think about The Great Depression by Dorothea Lange, Like Brother Like Sister by Wolfgang Tillmans, Gandhi’s funeral by Henri Cartier Bresson, amongst others.

What are the types of photo essay?

Despite popular belief, the type of photo essay doesn’t depend on the type of photography that you do – in other words, journalism, documentary, fine art, or any other photographic genre is not a type of photo essay.

Instead, there are two main types of photo essays: narrative and thematic .

As you have probably already guessed, the thematic one presents images pulled together by a topic – for example, global warming. The images can be about animals and nature as well as natural disasters devastating cities. They can happen all over the world or in the same location, and they can be captured in different moments in time – there’s a lot of flexibility.

A narrative photo essa y, on the other hand, tells the story of a character (human or not), portraying a place or an event. For example, a narrative photo essay on coffee would document the process from the planting and harvesting – to the roasting and grinding until it reaches your morning cup.

What are some of the key elements of a photo essay?

  • Tell a unique story – A unique story doesn’t mean that you have to photograph something that nobody has done before – that would be almost impossible! It means that you should consider what you’re bringing to the table on a particular topic.
  • Put yourself into the work – One of the best ways to make a compelling photo essay is by adding your point of view, which can only be done with your life experiences and the way you see the world.
  • Add depth to the concept – The best photo essays are the ones that go past the obvious and dig deeper in the story, going behind the scenes, or examining a day in the life of the subject matter – that’s what pulls in the spectator.
  • Nail the technique – Even if the concept and the story are the most important part of a photo essay, it won’t have the same success if it’s poorly executed.
  • Build a structure – A photo essay is about telling a thought-provoking story – so, think about it in a narrative way. Which images are going to introduce the topic? Which ones represent a climax? How is it going to end – how do you want the viewer to feel after seeing your photo series?
  • Make strong choices – If you really want to convey an emotion and a unique point of view, you’re going to need to make some hard decisions. Which light are you using? Which lens? How many images will there be in the series? etc., and most importantly for a great photo essay is the why behind those choices.

9 Tips for Creating a Photo Essay

photo essay topics photos

Credit: Laura James

1. Choose something you know

To make a good photo essay, you don’t need to travel to an exotic location or document a civil war – I mean, it’s great if you can, but you can start close to home.

Depending on the type of photography you do and the topic you’re looking for in your photographic essay, you can photograph a local event or visit an abandoned building outside your town.

It will be much easier for you to find a unique perspective and tell a better story if you’re already familiar with the subject. Also, consider that you might have to return a few times to the same location to get all the photos you need.

2. Follow your passion

Most photo essays take dedication and passion. If you choose a subject that might be easy, but you’re not really into it – the results won’t be as exciting. Taking photos will always be easier and more fun if you’re covering something you’re passionate about.

3. Take your time

A great photo essay is not done in a few hours. You need to put in the time to research it, conceptualizing it, editing, etc. That’s why I previously recommended following your passion because it takes a lot of dedication, and if you’re not passionate about it – it’s difficult to push through.

4. Write a summary or statement

Photo essays are always accompanied by some text. You can do this in the form of an introduction, write captions for each photo or write it as a conclusion. That’s up to you and how you want to present the work.

5. Learn from the masters

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Making a photographic essay takes a lot of practice and knowledge. A great way to become a better photographer and improve your storytelling skills is by studying the work of others. You can go to art shows, review books and magazines and look at the winners in photo contests – most of the time, there’s a category for photo series.

6. Get a wide variety of photos

Think about a story – a literary one. It usually tells you where the story is happening, who is the main character, and it gives you a few details to make you engage with it, right?

The same thing happens with a visual story in a photo essay – you can do some wide-angle shots to establish the scenes and some close-ups to show the details. Make a shot list to ensure you cover all the different angles.

Some of your pictures should guide the viewer in, while others are more climatic and regard the experience they are taking out of your photos.

7. Follow a consistent look

Both in style and aesthetics, all the images in your series need to be coherent. You can achieve this in different ways, from the choice of lighting, the mood, the post-processing, etc.

8. Be self-critical

Once you have all the photos, make sure you edit them with a good dose of self-criticism. Not all the pictures that you took belong in the photo essay. Choose only the best ones and make sure they tell the full story.

9. Ask for constructive feedback

Often, when we’re working on a photo essay project for a long time, everything makes perfect sense in our heads. However, someone outside the project might not be getting the idea. It’s important that you get honest and constructive criticism to improve your photography.

How to Create a Photo Essay in 5 Steps

photo essay topics photos

Credit: Quang Nguyen Vinh

1. Choose your topic

This is the first step that you need to take to decide if your photo essay is going to be narrative or thematic. Then, choose what is it going to be about?

Ideally, it should be something that you’re interested in, that you have something to say about it, and it can connect with other people.

2. Research your topic

To tell a good story about something, you need to be familiar with that something. This is especially true when you want to go deeper and make a compelling photo essay. Day in the life photo essays are a popular choice, since often, these can be performed with friends and family, whom you already should know well.

3. Plan your photoshoot

Depending on what you’re photographing, this step can be very different from one project to the next. For a fine art project, you might need to find a location, props, models, a shot list, etc., while a documentary photo essay is about planning the best time to do the photos, what gear to bring with you, finding a local guide, etc.

Every photo essay will need different planning, so before taking pictures, put in the required time to get things right.

4. Experiment

It’s one thing to plan your photo shoot and having a shot list that you have to get, or else the photo essay won’t be complete. It’s another thing to miss out on some amazing photo opportunities that you couldn’t foresee.

So, be prepared but also stay open-minded and experiment with different settings, different perspectives, etc.

5. Make a final selection

Editing your work can be one of the hardest parts of doing a photo essay. Sometimes we can be overly critical, and others, we get attached to bad photos because we put a lot of effort into them or we had a great time doing them.

Try to be as objective as possible, don’t be afraid to ask for opinions and make various revisions before settling down on a final cut.

7 Photo Essay Topics, Ideas & Examples

photo essay topics photos

Credit: Michelle Leman

  • Architectural photo essay

Using architecture as your main subject, there are tons of photo essay ideas that you can do. For some inspiration, you can check out the work of Francisco Marin – who was trained as an architect and then turned to photography to “explore a different way to perceive things”.

You can also lookup Luisa Lambri. Amongst her series, you’ll find many photo essay examples in which architecture is the subject she uses to explore the relationship between photography and space.

  • Process and transformation photo essay

This is one of the best photo essay topics for beginners because the story tells itself. Pick something that has a beginning and an end, for example, pregnancy, the metamorphosis of a butterfly, the life-cycle of a plant, etc.

Keep in mind that these topics are linear and give you an easy way into the narrative flow – however, it might be difficult to find an interesting perspective and a unique point of view.

  • A day in the life of ‘X’ photo essay

There are tons of interesting photo essay ideas in this category – you can follow around a celebrity, a worker, your child, etc. You don’t even have to do it about a human subject – think about doing a photo essay about a day in the life of a racing horse, for example – find something that’s interesting for you.

  • Time passing by photo essay

It can be a natural site or a landmark photo essay – whatever is close to you will work best as you’ll need to come back multiple times to capture time passing by. For example, how this place changes throughout the seasons or maybe even over the years.

A fun option if you live with family is to document a birthday party each year, seeing how the subject changes over time. This can be combined with a transformation essay or sorts, documenting the changes in interpersonal relationships over time.

  • Travel photo essay

Do you want to make the jump from tourist snapshots into a travel photo essay? Research the place you’re going to be travelling to. Then, choose a topic.

If you’re having trouble with how to do this, check out any travel magazine – National Geographic, for example. They won’t do a generic article about Texas – they do an article about the beach life on the Texas Gulf Coast and another one about the diverse flavors of Texas.

The more specific you get, the deeper you can go with the story.

  • Socio-political issues photo essay

This is one of the most popular photo essay examples – it falls under the category of photojournalism or documental photography. They are usually thematic, although it’s also possible to do a narrative one.

Depending on your topic of interest, you can choose topics that involve nature – for example, document the effects of global warming. Another idea is to photograph protests or make an education photo essay.

It doesn’t have to be a big global issue; you can choose something specific to your community – are there too many stray dogs? Make a photo essay about a local animal shelter. The topics are endless.

  • Behind the scenes photo essay

A behind-the-scenes always make for a good photo story – people are curious to know what happens and how everything comes together before a show.

Depending on your own interests, this can be a photo essay about a fashion show, a theatre play, a concert, and so on. You’ll probably need to get some permissions, though, not only to shoot but also to showcase or publish those images.

4 Best Photo Essays in Recent times

Now that you know all the techniques about it, it might be helpful to look at some photo essay examples to see how you can put the concept into practice. Here are some famous photo essays from recent times to give you some inspiration.

Habibi by Antonio Faccilongo

This photo essay wan the World Press Photo Story of the Year in 2021. Faccilongo explores a very big conflict from a very specific and intimate point of view – how the Israeli-Palestinian war affects the families.

He chose to use a square format because it allows him to give order to things and eliminate unnecessary elements in his pictures.

With this long-term photo essay, he wanted to highlight the sense of absence and melancholy women and families feel towards their husbands away at war.

The project then became a book edited by Sarah Leen and the graphics of Ramon Pez.

photo essay topics photos

Picture This: New Orleans by Mary Ellen Mark

The last assignment before her passing, Mary Ellen Mark travelled to New Orleans to register the city after a decade after Hurricane Katrina.

The images of the project “bring to life the rebirth and resilience of the people at the heart of this tale”, – says CNNMoney, commissioner of the work.

Each survivor of the hurricane has a story, and Mary Ellen Mark was there to record it. Some of them have heartbreaking stories about everything they had to leave behind.

Others have a story of hope – like Sam and Ben, two eight-year-olds born from frozen embryos kept in a hospital that lost power supply during the hurricane, yet they managed to survive.

photo essay topics photos

Selfie by Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman is an American photographer whose work is mainly done through self-portraits. With them, she explores the concept of identity, gender stereotypes, as well as visual and cultural codes.

One of her latest photo essays was a collaboration with W Magazine entitled Selfie. In it, the author explores the concept of planned candid photos (‘plandid’).

The work was made for Instagram, as the platform is well known for the conflict between the ‘real self’ and the one people present online. Sherman started using Facetune, Perfect365 and YouCam to alter her appearance on selfies – in Photoshop, you can modify everything, but these apps were designed specifically to “make things prettier”- she says, and that’s what she wants to explore in this photo essay.

Tokyo Compression by Michael Wolf

Michael Wolf has an interest in the broad-gauge topic Life in Cities. From there, many photo essays have been derived – amongst them – Tokyo Compression .

He was horrified by the way people in Tokyo are forced to move to the suburbs because of the high prices of the city. Therefore, they are required to make long commutes facing 1,5 hours of train to start their 8+ hour workday followed by another 1,5 hours to get back home.

To portray this way of life, he photographed the people inside the train pressed against the windows looking exhausted, angry or simply absent due to this way of life.

You can visit his website to see other photo essays that revolve around the topic of life in megacities.

Final Words

It’s not easy to make photo essays, so don’t expect to be great at it right from your first project.

Start off small by choosing a specific subject that’s interesting to you –  that will come from an honest place, and it will be a great practice for some bigger projects along the line.

Whether you like to shoot still life or you’re a travel photographer, I hope these photo essay tips and photo essay examples can help you get started and grow in your photography.

Let us know which topics you are working on right now – we’ll love to hear from you!

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Ana Mireles is a Mexican researcher that specializes in photography and communications for the arts and culture sector.

Penelope G. To Ana Mireles Such a well written and helpful article for an writer who wants to inclue photo essay in her memoir. Thank you. I will get to work on this new skill. Penelope G.

Herman Krieger Photo essays in black and white

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18 Immersive Photo Essay Examples & Tips

By Tata Rossi 13 days ago, Professional photography

photo essay topics photos

A photo essay tells a story or evokes emotion through a series of photographs. The essays allow you to be creative and fully explore an idea. Such essays exist in a variety of forms – from photos only to images with brief comments or written essays accompanied by shots. Choose a photo essay example that you can easily do based on your professional level and the equipment you use.

1. Protests

  • View the “Resistance” photo essay by David Moore .

A great idea for photo essays for students is to shoot the protest to show its power. You can capture people with signs and banners to demonstrate what they are standing for. Besides, you can learn how to capture moving subjects. Use the best example of photo essay and don’t forget about angles, composition, and framing.

To create a photo essay , go up to the front and photograph the leader of the protesters walking forward. After that, go back to the end of the group to take pictures of families joining the protest. As a result, you will gain experience shooting big groups of people in motion.

2. Transformation

  • View the “A Self-Portrait Every Day” photo essay by Noah Kalina .

This idea is all about capturing the way a person changes. You may take photos of a pregnant woman and then capture the same model with a child. By documenting the development of the child for several years, you can tell a great story in the form of a photo essay.

However, you can also create a photo essay about the transformation of different objects. For instance, you can create a time-lapse series to capture the history of a renovated building. While you will have to take a lot of similar photos to bring this idea to life, it will allow you to achieve an impressive result.

3. Local Event

  • View the “Monday Marathon” photo essay by Quinn G. Perini .

Whether you are a resident of a large city or a small town, you can find an opportunity to visit a local event, like a marathon or a festival. This is a nice chance to follow modern photography trends and bring photo essay ideas to life.

You can capture the before-and-after stages of the event. Arrive earlier and take pictures of the preparation activities, then shoot the actual event starting with the official beginning.

Keep photographing even when the event is over and capture the cleaning up and disassembling processes.

4. Photowalk

  • View the “Empty Campus” photo essay by Elise Trissel .

Explore the location where you live and find interesting objects to capture in the vicinity. Using the most interesting photo essay examples, you can decide how to make the best decisions. Don’t hurry and try to discover which angles you can use to capture the unique atmosphere of each place.

If you live in the city, you may capture architectural details, wide shots of busy streets, or just take photos of passersby and street signs. Think about the details that make every location unique. For instance, you can try capturing reflections to see how they allow you to see the city from an unusual angle. You can find reflections everywhere, so be sure to pay attention to mirrored buildings, puddles, and fountains.

5. Place Over Time

  • View the “At Home in the Ozarks” photo essay by Kylee Cole .

If you want to document changes and show how the streets, buildings, and parks in your city change over time, select your favorite locations and start to visit them regularly to capture the way they look during different seasons.

  • View the “Last Moments” photo essay by Ross Taylor .

You don’t necessarily have to focus on profound photo essay topics to evoke emotions. Capturing pets enjoying their worry-free and untroubled life seems like an easy but interesting activity.

Choose any animal – from a domestic bird to a dog, cat, or horse. For more emotional images, use such pet photography ideas when your pet is still a baby and recreate these shots when it is older or is in its final days.

7. Street Style

  • View the Tribal Street Photography photo essay by Hans Eijkelboom .

People often express themselves with the help of clothes. The way passers-by on the streets are dressed may reflect the clothing style of a whole society. That’s why you can travel around the world and capture people’s outfits in various areas. When taking portrait photos in the streets, you can also include some of the surroundings to put them in the context.

You can ask people in the streets to pose for you or try to capture them in movement. Select a suitable location for taking photos and create a photo essay to document what kinds of people one can meet in this location. When doing urban photography , you should ask people for permission before taking photos of them. You can ask their contacts and send them your photos later.

8. Abandoned Building

  • View the “Lost Collective” photo essay by Bret Pattman .

Old buildings are excellent architecture photography essay topics for students since you can capture a large number of elements. They allow you to imagine what a particular street looked like in the past. You may use a photo essay example for students as references.

Get approval before going in, but mind that such places are far from being totally safe. Bring various lenses: the macro lenses – for details and the wide-angle one – when you want to include many elements in one shot.

9. Alternative Lifestyles

  • View the “Last Nomad Hippies” photo essay by Roberto Palomo .

Some people decide to lead a lifestyle that differs from the one generally accepted by society. Explore different areas and look for people with an unusual way of living. You can capture candid photos of regular people or take pictures of a person with an unusual hobby.

Take pictures of those, who reside in extraordinary conditions, representatives of various subcultures, or the LBGTQ community. These photo essay topics show other people that it is okay to go out of their comfort zone and run against the wind.

10. Social Issues

  • View the “Juveniles in Prison” photo essay by Isadora Kosofsky .

The best photo essay examples for students are related to social issues, like unemployment, domestic violence, gender discrimination, and more. Address the topic carefully and look for a proper perspective.

Your shots may draw the people’s attention to a truly burning and relevant matter and have a stronger effect than any text.

11. Behind the Scenes

  • View the “Follow Me” photo essay by Marius Masalar .

If you are going to visit an event, get ready to take some behind-the-scenes photos. For instance, you can document the preparations for a festival. Capture the work of the lead event planner and other professionals to tell the story of the festival from an unusual angle.

Alternatively, you can capture the events happening backstage during a drama production. Take pictures of actors and actresses when they are getting ready for the performance. Try capturing the emotions of the main lead and show how stage workers make final preparations. You can also document the work of designers and makeup professionals.

12. Landmarks

  • View the “Volte-Face” photo essay by Oliver Curtis .

The pictures of landmarks are typically taken from a certain spot. One of the best photo essay ideas is to try shooting sights from various angles. You will also have an opportunity to improve your composition and your framing skills.

If you take a look at any pictorial essay example, you will see that the variety of perspectives is endless: through the streets, in the morning, afternoon, and evening, with a drone or including reflections.

    • View the “Family” photo essay by Olivia Moore .

You can capture the way family members interact with each other and demonstrate the strong connection they share. In some cases, it makes sense to focus on capturing candid photos when doing family photography .

However, you may also opt for a different approach and focus on more difficult social topics. For instance, if you want to examine the issue of immigration, you can take pictures of a family from another country. In addition, you may show how families cope with other social issues, including poverty or unequal access to healthcare.

14. A Day in the Life

  • View the “A Day in the Life of Carlos Gaytan” photo essay by Sandy Noto .

One of the best photo essays concepts is related to a day in a person’s life. The main character can be any person – a relative, family member, teacher, writer, or policeman.

People are generally interested in finding out facts about the lives and daily routines of others. The life of every human is incredible, especially if you learn it in more detail. This idea is especially suitable for taking documentary photos. For instance, you can select any photo essay sample you like and then capture a portrait of a person with the tools they use for their work.

15. Education

  • View the “School Day” photo essay by Nancy Borowick .

You can also take great photos in the classroom capturing the interactions of teachers and their students. Avoid distracting them, as it will be easier for you to take natural shots. Using a variety of settings, you can make your photo essay more engaging. For instance, you may visit chemistry labs, capture teachers during a break, and take photos in other locations.

  • View the “Meals From the Motherland” photo essay by James Tran .

You can also focus on specific meals to create a professional photo essay about food. To make it more attention-grabbing, try using different food photography ideas .

For instance, you can take photos of popular meals, capture the meals made by a specific person, or document cooking traditions in different countries. When taking photos in a restaurant, pay attention to the surroundings as well to capture the unique atmosphere of a place.

17. Capture the Neighbors

  • View the “Our Neighbors” photo essay by Jeanne Martin .

Regardless of the place where you live, you have to establish good relationships with your neighbors. People who live nearby can also be great models for professionals who specialize in portrait photography. To implement this idea, make sure to capture people at home or in front of their houses to include some of the surroundings in your photo essay.

You will discover many interesting facts about people who live nearby. Shooting a photo essay will allow you to learn them better and establish a strong connection with them. This way, you can create a sense of community and discover what holds its members together.

18. Climate Change

  • View the “Effects of Climate Change” photo essay by Sanya Gupta .

It is possible to a variety of photo story ideas bring to life examining the impact of climate change. Travel to places most affected by climate change, for instance, glaciers or famous resorts.

Capture the way the continuous drought has influenced the environment, animals, and the inhabitants. As an alternative, take pictures of environmentalist protests or inexhaustible energy sources.

Photo Essay Tips for Students

Explore your topic . An in-depth exploration of the main topic of your photo essay will help you find the best ideas for conveying your message. You can also find some sources for inspiration and useful materials. This stage allows you to learn more about your subject and select the best way of organizing your photo essay.

Create a storyboard . Using a storyboard, you can better understand what shots you need to take and what order can help you to tell a story in the best way. It will also allow you to create the right mood.

Take as many pictures as you can . To create a compelling story, make sure to take a lot of photos. It will allow you to choose the best pictures for your photo essay. Besides, you will always have backup photos if some of your pictures get damaged.

Experiment with different techniques . By changing the angle and using a variety of editing techniques, you can transform the way your photos look. When taking photos, try using different angles to capture the subject in the best way. You can also try changing the distance from the model, using black-and-white film, or employing a range of developing methods.

Add text . While some photographers create photo essays without text, it can still help you bring your point across more clearly and make it easier for a viewer to understand what you imply. By providing extra information, such as some facts, you can change the perception of your image. If you don’t know how to write descriptions, you can hire a professional writer to perform this task.

Enhance your photos . To edit your pictures, make sure to use professional photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. Using the available tools, you can improve and change your photos. They allow you to fix issues with lighting, adjust WB, make colors richer, crop your pics to improve the composition, and perform other tasks. In case you need to edit your photos in a consistent style, you can use Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets.

In some cases, your pictures may require more advanced editing. If you see that your skills are insufficient or if you don’t have enough time, you can outsource the task of enhancing your photos to the FixThePhoto team. They will professionally enhance your pictures for a budget price. Their prices start from $1.50 per photo.

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45 Photo Essay Topics

Most academic writing assignments involve just that – writing. But in the case of a photo essay, the assignment becomes one of both writing and photography. A photo essay is simply an essay that uses images instead of (or in addition to) words to tell a story or make a point.

A good photo essay will capture your audience’s attention and tell a story that resonates with them on an emotional level. To create a successful photo essay, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

This detailed guide will walk you through the essential steps of creating a photo essay and provide you with 45 photo essay topics to get you started.

What Is a Photo Essay?

A photo essay is a written piece that uses images to tell a story or make a point. In other words, it’s an essay that depends primarily on visuals rather than text to communicate its message.

Photo essays are usually themed around a particular subject or topic and can be created for a variety of purposes. They can be used to:

  • Tell a news story
  • Raise awareness about an important issue
  • Share a personal experience
  • Document a place or event
  • Highlight the work of a specific artist or photographer

No matter what the purpose of your photo essay is, there are a few key elements that should be included in order to impact the audience to the best degree.

What Makes a Good Photo Essay?

A good photo essay will have a clear focus, with each image adding something new to the story. It should also be structured to make sense so that the viewer can easily follow along and understand the point you’re trying to make.

When choosing images for your photo essay, be sure to select ones that are high quality and have a consistent theme or style. This will help create a cohesive story that is visually pleasing and easy to follow.

It’s also important to ensure that your images are appropriately captioned and credited, especially if you’re using someone else’s work. This ensures that your photo essay is both accurate and legal.

Steps for Creating a Photo Essay

Creating a photo essay is a process that requires time, patience, and careful planning. Follow these steps to create a successful photo essay:

1. Choose a topic or theme

The first step in creating a photo essay is to choose the topic or theme you want to focus on. This can be anything from a place, an event, or even a person. Once you’ve decided on your subject, it’s time to start brainstorming ideas for your essay.

2. Do your research

If you’re documenting a place or an event, it’s important to do your research beforehand. This will help you understand your subject’s background and give you a better idea of what to include in your essay.

3. Gather your material

Now it’s time to start gathering the material for your essay. This includes both images and text. Remember, if you’re using someone else’s photos, be sure to get their permission first.

4. Choose a format

There are a few different ways you can format your photo essay. The most common is to create a series of images that progress in a linear fashion, such as from left to right or top to bottom.

Another option is to arrange your images more abstractly, such as in a grid or collage. This can help to add visual interest and variety to your essay.

5. Edit your material

Once you have all of your material gathered, it’s time to start editing. This includes both choosing which images to use and writing the accompanying text.

For the images, you’ll want to select those that are the most visually appealing and that best support the story you’re trying to tell. As you edit, also be sure to crop and resize your images as needed.

For the text, you’ll want to write a brief introduction and conclusion, as well as captions for each of your images. The goal is to provide just enough context and information to help viewers understand what they’re seeing.

6. Design your essay

Now it’s time to start putting your photo essay together. If you’re using a linear format, begin by arranging your images in the order you want them to appear. Then, add the accompanying text.

If you’re using a more creative format, start by playing around with different ways to arrange your images. Then, add the text once you’ve settled on a design you like.

7. Finalize and Hand it in

Once you’ve designed your photo essay, it’s time to finalize it and hand it in. Be sure to proofread the text for any errors and check the images to ensure they’re properly captioned. It is highly recommended to use a professional printing service to print your photo essay to ensure the best possible quality.

Understanding how to create a photo essay is only half the battle. The other half is finding a topic that you’re passionate about that will also interest your audience. To help get you started, here are 45 ideas for photo essay topics:

Photo Essay Topics About Places

  • Your hometown
  • A nearby city or town
  • A favorite vacation spot
  • An interesting landmark
  • A place from your childhood
  • A hidden gem in your town
  • The most beautiful place you’ve ever been
  • The most interesting place you’ve ever been
  • The strangest place you’ve ever been
  • A place that is significant to you for personal reasons
  • A place that is significant to your family
  • A place with a lot of history
  • A place that is in danger of disappearing

Photo Essay Topics About Events

  • A sporting event
  • A music festival
  • A parade or procession
  • A protest or demonstration
  • An annual celebration in your town
  • A once-in-a-lifetime event that you witnessed
  • An event that had a significant impact on you
  • An event that had a significant impact on your community
  • An event that is widely considered to be positive
  • An event that is widely considered to be negative
  • A controversial event
  • A natural disaster
  • A man-made disaster

Photo Essay Topics About People

  • The people in your neighborhood
  • The people at your job
  • Your family
  • Your friends
  • The elderly
  • A group of people with a common interest or hobby
  • A group of people from a different culture than your own
  • A group of people who are disadvantaged or marginalized in some way
  • A group of people who are often misunderstood
  • Celebrities
  • Politicians
  • Everyday people

Photo Essay Topics About Concepts

A photo essay is an interesting assignment that can help you express your creativity while also teaching you how to pay attention to detail, tell a story, and edit images. If you follow the steps outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful photo essay.

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17 Awesome Photo Essay Examples You Should Try Yourself

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If you’re looking for a photo essay example (or 17!), you’ve come to the right place. But what is the purpose of a photo essay? A photo essay is intended to tell a story or evoke emotion from the viewers through a series of photographs. They allow you to be creative and fully explore an idea. But how do you make one yourself? Here’s a list of photo essay examples. Choose one that you can easily do based on your photographic level and equipment.

Top 17 Photo Essay Examples

Here are some fantastic ideas to get you inspired to create your own photo essays!

17. Photograph a Protest

Street photography of a group of people protesting.

16. Transformation Photo Essays

A photo essay example shot of a couple, the man kissing the pregnant womans stomach

15. Photograph the Same Place

A photo essay example photography grid of 9 photographs.

14. Create a Photowalk

Street photography photo essay shot of a photographer in the middle of the street

13. Follow the Change

Portrait photography of a man shaving in the mirror. Photo essay examples.

12. Photograph a Local Event

Documentary photography essay of a group of people at an event by a lake.

11. Photograph an Abandoned Building

Atmospheric and dark photo of the interior of an abandoned building as part of a photo-essay

10. Behind the Scenes of a Photo Shoot

Photograph of models and photographers behind the scenes at a photo shoot. Photo essay ideas.

9. Capture Street Fashion

Street photography portrait of a girl outdoors at night.

8. Landmark Photo Essay

9 photo grid of the Eiffel tour. Photo essays examples.

7. Fathers & Children

An essay photo of the silhouettes of a man and child standing in a dark doorway.

6. A Day In the Life

 Photo essay examples of a bright red and orange building under blue sky.

5. Education Photo Essay

Documentary photoessay example shot of a group of students in a classroom watching their teacher

4. Fictitious Meals

 Photo essay detail of someone placing a sugar cube into a cup of tea.

3. Photograph Coffee Shops Using Cafenol

A photo of a coffee shop interior created with cafenol.

2. Photograph the Photographers

Street photography of a group of media photographers.

1. Capture the Neighbors

Street photography of 2 pink front doors of brick houses.

Photo essays tell stories. And there are plenty of amazingly interesting stories to tell! Photographing photo essays is a great way to practice your photography skills while having fun. You might even learn something! These photo essay examples are here to provide you with the inspiration to go out and tell your own stories through photos!

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What is a Photo Essay? 9 Photo Essay Examples You Can Recreate

A photo essay is a series of photographs that tell a story. Unlike a written essay, a photo essay focuses on visuals instead of words. With a photo essay, you can stretch your creative limits and explore new ways to connect with your audience. Whatever your photography skill level, you can recreate your own fun and creative photo essay.

9 Photo Essay Examples You Can Recreate

  • Photowalk Photo Essay
  • Transformation Photo Essay
  • Day in the Life Photo Essay
  • Event Photo Essay
  • Building Photo Essay
  • Historic Site or Landmark Photo Essay
  • Behind the Scenes Photo Essay
  • Family Photo Essay
  • Education Photo Essay

Stories are important to all of us. While some people gravitate to written stories, others are much more attuned to visual imagery. With a photo essay, you can tell a story without writing a word. Your use of composition, contrast, color, and perspective in photography will convey ideas and evoke emotions.

To explore narrative photography, you can use basic photographic equipment. You can buy a camera or even use your smartphone to get started. While lighting, lenses, and post-processing software can enhance your photos, they aren’t necessary to achieve good results.

Whether you need to complete a photo essay assignment or want to pursue one for fun or professional purposes, you can use these photo essay ideas for your photography inspiration . Once you know the answer to “what is a photo essay?” and find out how fun it is to create one, you’ll likely be motivated to continue your forays into photographic storytelling.

1 . Photowalk Photo Essay

One popular photo essay example is a photowalk. Simply put, a photowalk is time you set aside to walk around a city, town, or a natural site and take photos. Some cities even have photowalk tours led by professional photographers. On these tours, you can learn the basics about how to operate your camera, practice photography composition techniques, and understand how to look for unique shots that help tell your story.

Set aside at least two to three hours for your photowalk. Even if you’re photographing a familiar place—like your own home town—try to look at it through new eyes. Imagine yourself as a first-time visitor or pretend you’re trying to educate a tourist about the area.

Walk around slowly and look for different ways to capture the mood and energy of your location. If you’re in a city, capture wide shots of streets, close-ups of interesting features on buildings, street signs, and candid shots of people. Look for small details that give the city character and life. And try some new concepts—like reflection picture ideas—by looking for opportunities to photographs reflections in mirrored buildings, puddles, fountains, or bodies of water.

2 . Transformation Photo Essay

With a transformation photography essay, you can tell the story about change over time. One of the most popular photostory examples, a transformation essay can document a mom-to-be’s pregnancy or a child’s growth from infancy into the toddler years. But people don’t need to be the focus of a transformation essay. You can take photos of a house that is being built or an urban area undergoing revitalization.

You can also create a photo narrative to document a short-term change. Maybe you want to capture images of your growing garden or your move from one home to another. These examples of photo essays are powerful ways of telling the story of life’s changes—both large and small.

3 . Day in the Life Photo Essay

Want a unique way to tell a person’s story? Or, perhaps you want to introduce people to a career or activity. You may want to consider a day in the life essay.

With this photostory example, your narrative focuses on a specific subject for an entire day. For example, if you are photographing a farmer, you’ll want to arrive early in the morning and shadow the farmer as he or she performs daily tasks. Capture a mix of candid shots of the farmer at work and add landscapes and still life of equipment for added context. And if you are at a farm, don’t forget to get a few shots of the animals for added character, charm, or even a dose of humor. These types of photography essay examples are great practice if you are considering pursuing photojournalism. They also help you learn and improve your candid portrait skills.

4 . Event Photo Essay

Events are happening in your local area all the time, and they can make great photo essays. With a little research, you can quickly find many events that you could photograph. There may be bake sales, fundraisers, concerts, art shows, farm markets, block parties, and other non profit event ideas . You could also focus on a personal event, such as a birthday or graduation.

At most events, your primary emphasis will be on capturing candid photos of people in action. You can also capture backgrounds or objects to set the scene. For example, at a birthday party, you’ll want to take photos of the cake and presents.

For a local or community event, you can share your photos with the event organizer. Or, you may be able to post them on social media and tag the event sponsor. This is a great way to gain recognition and build your reputation as a talented photographer.

5. Building Photo Essay

Many buildings can be a compelling subject for a photographic essay. Always make sure that you have permission to enter and photograph the building. Once you do, look for interesting shots and angles that convey the personality, purpose, and history of the building. You may also be able to photograph the comings and goings of people that visit or work in the building during the day.

Some photographers love to explore and photograph abandoned buildings. With these types of photos, you can provide a window into the past. Definitely make sure you gain permission before entering an abandoned building and take caution since some can have unsafe elements and structures.

6. Historic Site or Landmark Photo Essay

Taking a series of photos of a historic site or landmark can be a great experience. You can learn to capture the same site from different angles to help portray its character and tell its story. And you can also photograph how people visit and engage with the site or landmark. Take photos at different times of day and in varied lighting to capture all its nuances and moods.

You can also use your photographic essay to help your audience understand the history of your chosen location. For example, if you want to provide perspective on the Civil War, a visit to a battleground can be meaningful. You can also visit a site when reenactors are present to share insight on how life used to be in days gone by.

7 . Behind the Scenes Photo Essay

Another fun essay idea is taking photos “behind the scenes” at an event. Maybe you can chronicle all the work that goes into a holiday festival from the early morning set-up to the late-night teardown. Think of the lead event planner as the main character of your story and build the story about him or her.

Or, you can go backstage at a drama production. Capture photos of actors and actresses as they transform their looks with costuming and makeup. Show the lead nervously pacing in the wings before taking center stage. Focus the work of stagehands, lighting designers, and makeup artists who never see the spotlight but bring a vital role in bringing the play to life.

8. Family Photo Essay

If you enjoy photographing people, why not explore photo story ideas about families and relationships? You can focus on interactions between two family members—such as a father and a daughter—or convey a message about a family as a whole.

Sometimes these type of photo essays can be all about the fun and joy of living in a close-knit family. But sometimes they can be powerful portraits of challenging social topics. Images of a family from another country can be a meaningful photo essay on immigration. You could also create a photo essay on depression by capturing families who are coping with one member’s illness.

For these projects on difficult topics, you may want to compose a photo essay with captions. These captions can feature quotes from family members or document your own observations. Although approaching hard topics isn’t easy, these types of photos can have lasting impact and value.

9. Education Photo Essay

Opportunities for education photo essays are everywhere—from small preschools to community colleges and universities. You can seek permission to take photos at public or private schools or even focus on alternative educational paths, like homeschooling.

Your education photo essay can take many forms. For example, you can design a photo essay of an experienced teacher at a high school. Take photos of him or her in action in the classroom, show quiet moments grading papers, and capture a shared laugh between colleagues in the teacher’s lounge.

Alternatively, you can focus on a specific subject—such as science and technology. Or aim to portray a specific grade level, document activities club or sport, or portray the social environment. A photo essay on food choices in the cafeteria can be thought-provoking or even funny. There are many potential directions to pursue and many great essay examples.

While education is an excellent topic for a photo essay for students, education can be a great source of inspiration for any photographer.

Why Should You Create a Photo Essay?

Ultimately, photographers are storytellers. Think of what a photographer does during a typical photo shoot. He or she will take a series of photos that helps convey the essence of the subject—whether that is a person, location, or inanimate object. For example, a family portrait session tells the story of a family—who they are, their personalities, and the closeness of their relationship.

Learning how to make a photo essay can help you become a better storyteller—and a better photographer. You’ll cultivate key photography skills that you can carry with you no matter where your photography journey leads.

If you simply want to document life’s moments on social media, you may find that a single picture doesn’t always tell the full story. Reviewing photo essay examples and experimenting with your own essay ideas can help you choose meaningful collections of photos to share with friends and family online.

Learning how to create photo essays can also help you work towards professional photography ambitions. You’ll often find that bloggers tell photographic stories. For example, think of cooking blogs that show you each step in making a recipe. Photo essays are also a mainstay of journalism. You’ll often find photo essays examples in many media outlets—everywhere from national magazines to local community newspapers. And the best travel photographers on Instagram tell great stories with their photos, too.

With a photo essay, you can explore many moods and emotions. Some of the best photo essays tell serious stories, but some are humorous, and others aim to evoke action.

You can raise awareness with a photo essay on racism or a photo essay on poverty. A photo essay on bullying can help change the social climate for students at a school. Or, you can document a fun day at the beach or an amusement park. You have control of the themes, photographic elements, and the story you want to tell.

5 Steps to Create a Photo Essay

Every photo essay will be different, but you can use a standard process. Following these five steps will guide you through every phase of your photo essay project—from brainstorming creative essay topics to creating a photo essay to share with others.

Step 1: Choose Your Photo Essay Topics

Just about any topic you can imagine can form the foundation for a photo essay. You may choose to focus on a specific event, such as a wedding, performance, or festival. Or you may want to cover a topic over a set span of time, such as documenting a child’s first year. You could also focus on a city or natural area across the seasons to tell a story of changing activities or landscapes.

Since the best photo essays convey meaning and emotion, choose a topic of interest. Your passion for the subject matter will shine through each photograph and touch your viewer’s hearts and minds.

Step 2: Conduct Upfront Research

Much of the work in a good-quality photo essay begins before you take your first photo. It’s always a good idea to do some research on your planned topic.

Imagine you’re going to take photos of a downtown area throughout the year. You should spend some time learning the history of the area. Talk with local residents and business owners and find out about planned events. With these insights, you’ll be able to plan ahead and be prepared to take photos that reflect the area’s unique personality and lifestyles.

For any topic you choose, gather information first. This may involve internet searches, library research, interviews, or spending time observing your subject.

Step 3: Storyboard Your Ideas

After you have done some research and have a good sense of the story you want to tell, you can create a storyboard. With a storyboard, you can write or sketch out the ideal pictures you want to capture to convey your message.

You can turn your storyboard into a “shot list” that you can bring with you on site. A shot list can be especially helpful when you are at a one-time event and want to capture specific shots for your photo essay. If you’ve never created a photo essay before, start with ten shot ideas. Think of each shot as a sentence in your story. And aim to make each shot evoke specific ideas or emotions.

Step 4: Capture Images

Your storyboard and shot list will be important guides to help you make the most of each shoot. Be sure to set aside enough time to capture all the shots you need—especially if you are photographing a one-time event. And allow yourself to explore your ideas using different photography composition, perspective, and color contrast techniques.

You may need to take a hundred images or more to get ten perfect ones for your photographic essay. Or, you may find that you want to add more photos to your story and expand your picture essay concept.

Also, remember to look for special unplanned, moments that help tell your story. Sometimes, spontaneous photos that aren’t on your shot list can be full of meaning. A mix of planning and flexibility almost always yields the best results.

Step 5: Edit and Organize Photos to Tell Your Story

After capturing your images, you can work on compiling your photo story. To create your photo essay, you will need to make decisions about which images portray your themes and messages. At times, this can mean setting aside beautiful images that aren’t a perfect fit. You can use your shot list and storyboard as a guide but be open to including photos that weren’t in your original plans.

You may want to use photo editing software—such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop— to enhance and change photographs. With these tools, you can adjust lighting and white balance, perform color corrections, crop, or perform other edits. If you have a signature photo editing style, you may want to use Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets to give all your photos a consistent look and feel.

You order a photo book from one of the best photo printing websites to publish your photo story. You can add them to an album on a photo sharing site, such as Flickr or Google Photos. Also, you could focus on building a website dedicated to documenting your concepts through visual photo essays. If so, you may want to use SEO for photographers to improve your website’s ranking in search engine results. You could even publish your photo essay on social media. Another thing to consider is whether you want to include text captures or simply tell your story through photographs.

Choose the medium that feels like the best space to share your photo essay ideas and vision with your audiences. You should think of your photo essay as your own personal form of art and expression when deciding where and how to publish it.

Photo Essays Can Help You Become a Better Photographer

Whatever your photography ambitions may be, learning to take a photo essay can help you grow. Even simple essay topics can help you gain skills and stretch your photographic limits. With a photo essay, you start to think about how a series of photographs work together to tell a complete story. You’ll consider how different shots work together, explore options for perspective and composition, and change the way you look at the world.

Before you start taking photos, you should review photo essay examples. You can find interesting pictures to analyze and photo story examples online, in books, or in classic publications, like Life Magazine . Don’t forget to look at news websites for photojournalism examples to broaden your perspective. This review process will help you in brainstorming simple essay topics for your first photo story and give you ideas for the future as well.

Ideas and inspiration for photo essay topics are everywhere. You can visit a park or go out into your own backyard to pursue a photo essay on nature. Or, you can focus on the day in the life of someone you admire with a photo essay of a teacher, fireman, or community leader. Buildings, events, families, and landmarks are all great subjects for concept essay topics. If you are feeling stuck coming up with ideas for essays, just set aside a few hours to walk around your city or town and take photos. This type of photowalk can be a great source of material.

You’ll soon find that advanced planning is critical to your success. Brainstorming topics, conducting research, creating a storyboard, and outlining a shot list can help ensure you capture the photos you need to tell your story. After you’ve finished shooting, you’ll need to decide where to house your photo essay. You may need to come up with photo album title ideas, write captions, and choose the best medium and layout.

Without question, creating a photo essay can be a valuable experience for any photographer. That’s true whether you’re an amateur completing a high school assignment or a pro looking to hone new skills. You can start small with an essay on a subject you know well and then move into conquering difficult ideas. Maybe you’ll want to create a photo essay on mental illness or a photo essay on climate change. Or maybe there’s another cause that is close to your heart.

Whatever your passion, you can bring it to life with a photo essay.

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How to Make a Photo Essay

Last Updated: September 27, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Heather Gallagher . Heather Gallagher is a Photojournalist & Photographer based in Austin, Texas. She runs her own photography studio named "Heather Gallagher Photography" which was voted Austin's Best Family Photographer and top 3 Birth Photographers in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Heather specializes in family Photojournalism and has over 15 years of experience documenting individuals, families, and businesses all over the world. Her clients include Delta Airlines, Oracle, Texas Monthly, and her work has been featured in The Washington Post and The Austin American Statesman. She is a member of the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers (IAPBP). There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 285,735 times.

Photo essays are an increasingly popular medium for journalists, bloggers, and advertisers alike. Whether you’re trying to show the emotional impact of a current news story or share your hobby with friends and family, images can capture your topic in a personal, emotional, and interesting way. Creating a photo essay can be as easy as choosing a topic, getting your images, and organizing the essay.

Things You Should Know

  • Reflect long and hard on your topic, considering your audience, current events, and whether to go for a thematic or narrative approach.
  • Create an outline, including your focus image, establishing shot, clincher, and other image details.
  • When you finally take your photos, remember to take more photos than you think you need and don't be afraid to let the project change as you create it.

Finding Your Topic

Step 1 Review current events.

  • Offer a photo essay of your place of business as a training tool.
  • Use a photo essay about your business as a sales or social tool by publishing it on your website or social media page.
  • Create a how to photo essay to help others learn about your hobby, so they can take it up as well. [4] X Research source

Step 4 Select an interesting subject.

  • Thematic subjects are big ideas including things like local gun laws, at-risk youth, or welcoming home soldiers.
  • Narrative essays can include a day in the life, how to tutorials, or progression series that show changes over time such as tracking a building project.
  • If you have been given a commission or specific publication to work with, you may need to choose a topic that will fit a thematic or narrative approach as outlined by the publication. Make sure you are aware of any publication guidelines in advance.

Organizing Your Shoot

Step 1 Get permission.

  • Consider how difficult it will be to get permission to photograph your subjects. If you already have relationships established, it will be easier. If not, allow for extra time to get permission and/or waivers.
  • Schools, daycares, and other places with kids typically have more regulations on who can be photographed and for what purposes. You’ll usually need to get parental approval, in addition to permission from those in charge. [7] X Research source

Step 2 Research your subject.

  • Consider doing interviews with people involved prior to the shoot. Ask things like, “What’s the most interesting thing you do during this event?” or “How long have you been involved with this organization?”
  • These interviews are also a great opportunity to ask for permission and get waivers.
  • If you’re going to visit a job site, charitable event, or other large group activity, ask the person or persons in charge to explain what you’re doing to everyone before you arrive. [8] X Research source

Step 3 Create an outline.

Capturing Your Images

Step 1 Check the light.

  • Many new photographers stay away from high ISO shots because they allow more light through producing a “busy” image. However, these images are often easier to edit later as there’s more information to work with. [11] X Research source
  • If it’s very bright in your location or you’ve set up artificial lighting, a low ISO is likely adequate, For darker areas, you’ll likely need to use a higher ISO.
  • If you need one second to capture an image with a base ISO of 100, you’ll need one eighth of a second to capture with an ISO of 800. [13] X Research source

Step 2 Consider composition.

  • 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.
  • Always think about how the main subject’s surroundings play into the overall image, and try to create different levels and points of interest.
  • You can change composition as part of the editing process in some cases, so if you can’t line up the shot just right, don’t let it deter you from capturing the image you want. [14] X Research source

Step 3 Take more photos than you need.

Organizing the Essay

Step 1 Exclude photos you don’t need.

  • If you’re doing a day in the life photo essay about a frustrated person working in an office, an image of that person struggling to open the front door against the wind might be an apt focus shot.
  • 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. [18] X Research source

Step 3 Categorize your remaining photos.

  • Regardless of essay type, you’ll need a focus image to grab attention.
  • Use an overall shot to give context to your essay. Where is it, when is it happening, who’s involved, what’s going on, and why should someone be interested? The five “W’s” of journalism are a great way to determine what your overall shot should capture.
  • 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.

Step 5 Ask for feedback.

  • If the images aren’t telling the story, ask your friends to look at your other photos and ask, “I wanted this image to make this point. You got a different idea. Would any of these images make this point to you more clearly?”
  • If the others like the images you’ve chosen, you may still want to ask them to look at your other photos and tell you if they think any of the images you didn’t include should be added in. They may see something you missed. [20] X Research source

Step 6 Add text.

  • 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. For instance, you can include a date, the subject’s name, or a statistic relevant to your subject in the caption.
  • If you choose not to have any text or just a title and some introductory and/or closing words, make sure you convey all necessary information succinctly. [21] X Research source

Expert Q&A

Heather Gallagher

  • Be creative with your topics. However, something as simple as "things I like" will suffice so long as you stay creative. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Make sure you're familiar with your camera. It will make the photo composition a lot easier. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Don't get discouraged. It may take several tries to get the desired results in your photos. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ http://digital-photography-school.com/5-photo-essay-tips/
  • ↑ Heather Gallagher. Professional Photojournalist & Photographer. Expert Interview. 8 April 2020.
  • ↑ http://improvephotography.com/30816/10-ideas-creative-photo-essays/
  • ↑ http://www.apogeephoto.com/how-to-create-a-photo-essay/
  • ↑ https://petapixel.com/how-to-create-a-photo-essay/
  • ↑ http://photo.journalism.cuny.edu/week-5/
  • ↑ http://clickitupanotch.com/2010/12/creating-a-photo-essay/
  • ↑ https://photographylife.com/what-is-iso-in-photography
  • ↑ https://wiredimpact.com/blog/how-to-make-a-photo-essay-nonprofit/
  • ↑ http://digital-photography-school.com/5-tips-for-creating-a-photo-essay-with-a-purpose/
  • ↑ https://www.format.com/magazine/resources/photography/how-to-make-photo-essay-examples

About This Article

Heather Gallagher

To make a photo essay, start by selecting a subject that is easy to capture and that inspires you, like a friend or a family pet. Then, decide if you want to present your photo essay as thematic, which shows specific examples of a big idea, or narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end. Next, create an outline of your essay to determine which photos you’ll need, like an establishing shot. Finally, take your photos, select which images you want to use in your essay, and organize them according to your theme before adding text to explain the essay. To learn how to capture the best images, keep scrolling! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to create a photo essay

By Marissa Sapega

A close up of a camera that might be used to create a photo essay.

According to LDV Capital, there will be 45 billion cameras in the world by 2022 . The proliferation of smartphones with hi-res cameras — coupled with our obsession with documenting the mundane on social media — has led to a glut of images shared on the web .

We're talking 3.2 billion images shared online every single day.

A decade ago, observers were predicting that this would spell the end of professional photography. But as we all know from our Instagram feeds, the need for professional photography — properly produced, contextualised, and published — has never been greater.

With the emergence of next generation digital publishing platforms, we're seeing a new era for photographic essays. Many of the most powerful examples are from journalism, where immersive photos are transforming long-form journalism into a more dynamic and interactive experience.

But powerful photos — coupled with immersive, interactive digital storytelling techniques — are being increasingly incorporated in marketing and communications across multiple industries, from brands to nonprofits. 

In this guide, we'll cover:

  • The main types of photo essays
  • The new era of photo essays
  • Tips for making thoughtful and powerful photo essays
  • How to make a compelling photo essay
  • We'll also provide a range of photo essay examples as we go

If you're looking for more examples, check out our roundup of photo essay examples .

Let's dive in!

What do the BBC, Tripadvisor, and Penguin have in common? They craft stunning, interactive web content with Shorthand. And so can you! Publish your first story for free — no code or web design skills required. Sign up now.

Types of photo essays

There are two primary types of photo essays: thematic and narrative.

Thematic photo essays

Thematic essays focus on a topical story (like a natural disaster). One example of a great thematic essay comes from NBC News Olympics photos: Emotion runs high .

This piece encapsulates the overall gloom of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics — through a series of powerful behind-the-scenes photographs of athletes in varying levels of distress — but does not focus on a particular subject. 

Screenshots from NBC's photo essay on the Olympics, spread across several devices.

Another example of a great photo story comes from the BBC. In “ From Trayvon Martin to Colin Kaepernick , they tell the story of how Black Lives Matter became entwined with sports. 

Screenshots from the BBC's photo essay on Black Lives Matter in sport , spread across several devices.

Narrative photo essays

Narrative photo essays take the story a step further and tell a specific story through images. 

One striking example is SBS's 28 Days in Afghanistan . This narrative essay documents photojournalist Andrew Quilty's time in the war-ravaged nation through stark photographs and supplementary text.

Screenshots from SBS's photo essay on Afghanistan, spread across several devices.

What is a photo essay in 2023?

A traditional photo essay aims to replace the written word with photographs. Done poorly, it is nothing more than series of images lumped together. Done well, though, the photojournalist or artist takes the reader on an engaging journey.

The main difference between photo essays of yore and photo essays in 2023 is the sophistication of digital publishing. With the rise of digital storytelling platforms, we're seeing a rise in truly interactive and immersive digital photo essays. 

Today, many digital photo essays include quotes and text to supplement the visuals and are formatted using interactive scrollytelling techniques. Scrollytelling is a form of visual storytelling that leverages user engagement (scrolling) to reveal images and text in an interesting and dynamic way. The interactivity compels the viewer to continue consuming the content, and creators have a wide latitude when designing the overall effect.    

Given the benefits of a more dynamic and interactive form of photo essays, it’s easy to see why they have become so popular in recent years. But as with any photo essay, creating an exceptional digital photo essays requires planning, structure, and know-how.

Let's take a closer look with ten tips for great photo essays.

Looking to learn more about interactive visual storytelling? Check out our guide, 8 tips for powerful visual storytelling .

10 tips for great photo essays

A close up of a camera that might be used to create a photo essay.

1. Create visual structure

An authentic photo essay requires visual markers to help transform a collection of images into a narrative. For example, photo chapter headings in Growing up young introduce each new girl in the story.

Similarly, in SBS’s photojournalism story — 28 days in Afghanistan , mentioned above — each dated header delineates a part of the story, providing an easy-to-follow chronological structure and pace.

Daniel Boud intersperses his own thoughts in between a haunting series of photographs of the iconic Sydney Opera House as it underwent a restoration during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic in The Sydney Opera House at Rest .

Text can add depth to the photo essay—but take care where you add it. It should support and enhance the final product, not overshadow it.

Screenshots from the Sydney Opera House's photo essay on life during lockdown, spread across several devices.

2. Make it interactive

In 2023, the best photo essays are interactive. 

One great example of an interactive photo essay is WaterAid’s essay, Water and Climate . This photo essay highlights the people climate change has impacted most brutally, including a video, stark close-up photography, and graphics to get its point across. 

The photo essay uses minimal text, preferring to allow the images to speak for themselves. As a user scrolls, it exposes them to more content. Each visual and supplemental text further immerses the viewer into the story until the end, where they encounter a call to action to join WaterAid in helping those in need.

Nonprofits like WaterAid often use interactive photo essays to compel people to act , because they work. Half the battle of convincing someone to part with their money is creating an emotional connection with them—something a photo essay does particularly well.

Screenshots from the WaterAid's photo essay, spread across several devices.

3. Produce more content than you need

Have you ever seen how much film footage ends up on the cutting room floor for the average movie (known as the shooting ratio)? It’s a lot.   

Why is this? First, filmmakers know that many of the shots they take will be either poor-quality or simply not up to their exacting standards. Second, if a director included all the footage they took throughout the entire production in the final product, her movie would be a bloated mess.

The editor’s job is to strip away the dead weight to reveal a clean, refined, final product that keeps viewers raptly engaged. However, an editor may struggle to do his job if the director has not provided enough usable footage.

The same principles apply to creating an exceptional photo essay. Always assemble more visuals and content than you think you’ll need so you can use the cream of the crop for the final product. Shedding content may be difficult, but it’s necessary, so be prepared to edit your piece without mercy.

Publishing photos on the web, but confused about the range of file formats? Check out our guide to file formats .

4. Use only the best photos

A photo essay is not an excuse to throw together all the imagery you have. Just like any good story, it needs a focused and compelling narrative that keeps things connected. Each image needs to bring something to the table. 

Remember that photo quality plays a significant role in the overall caliber of a photo essay. If your iPhone isn’t doing your subject justice, don’t be afraid to pull in a professional to make your work come alive.

A great example of this comes from Sky Sports. In their photo essay, Pictured: Diego Maradona , they had to be ruthless when deciding upon the imagery to include.

Screenshots from the Sky New's photo essay, spread across several devices.

They no doubt had hundreds — perhaps thousands — of photos to choose from from the many photo shoots in Maradona's life. Yet they knew that each one had to be poignant and compelling in its own way. 

5. Don’t be afraid to edit your photos

Not everyone can be Ansel Adams or Annie Leibovitz. Happily, with the readily available photo-editing software like Photoshop and high-quality cameras on every smartphone, you don’t need to be. Do your best to acquire top-quality photos, but don’t be timid about improving them!

Thanks to heavy exposure to advertising, viewers today now expect doctored images. Whether you’re refining a photo for a flawless finish or adding a touch of grittiness, use this expectation to your advantage. Dial up the contrast, crop out unnecessary elements, and use filters if they suit your needs.

6. Visit the archives

With so many gleaming, airbrushed-to-perfection photographs online today, exposure to imagery that’s not polished within an inch of its life can be a refreshing change. 

For example, take a look at Mancity’s My Debut Trevor Francis (v Stoke 1981) , which exclusively uses archival images. Not only was this a necessity (the focus was on a decades-old football match), but it lent the entire piece a tattered legitimacy. You wouldn’t expect “Insta-worthy” images because that’s not the experience the author is trying to convey.

Screenshots from the Man City's photo essay, spread across several devices.

7. Storyboard before building

You wouldn’t build a house without drafting a blueprint, would you? (Well, not unless you weren’t too invested in the end-product.) Much like a blueprint, a storyboard helps you convert the vision inside your head into a concrete plan for construction. It can also contribute to your shot list for your photography project. 

Storyboarding forces you to take a step back and evaluate how each element fits into the larger narrative. You may find that half your content is no longer necessary, and that’s okay. It may seem like a barrier to “getting to the fun part” of adding fancy flourishes and creative details, but it’s a critical step for building a good photo essay that genuinely influences viewers.

8. Experiment!

While there are certainly best practices to follow when creating a photo essay, no “one true path” will culminate in perfection every time. Photo essays are a way to express a story; such art is not limited to a template or cookie-cutter outputs.

So, mix it up! Test out different photos, filter effects, text, quotes, and visuals. Pretend you’re playing with a Rubik’s cube when you’re storyboarding and shuffle the content around with abandon. There is no right way to draft a photo essay, and you’ll never settle on one that you believe best conveys your story without a bit of experimentation. (Of course, your first iteration may end up being your best, but at least this way you won’t have any doubts.)

9. Combine data and maps

Adding hard metrics and maps to a photo essay can help support a narrative in ways that photographs can’t. In this essay on segregation in Detroit , NBC included interactive maps of the city that underscored the severity of Detroit’s redlining policy. 

These maps drive home this multimedia photo essay’s primary takeaway: Detroit’s enforced segregation has resulted in almost a century of lower quality of life for its black residents.

10. Get inspired

No matter how compelling the vision in your head is, you can still benefit from a little inspiration. If you're looking for photo essay ideas, consider: 

  • Focusing on a single subject for a day (known as a day in the life photo essay).
  • Document local events, such as art shows, protests, or community gatherings — this is an endless source of photo essay topics.
  • Capture social issues from your local area.
  • Start a photo series, in which you document the same specific subject over a period of time.
  • Research the great photo essayists from history, such as W. Eugene Smith, and James Nachtwey.
  • Dive into the archives of the great photo essay magazines, such as National Geographic and Life Magazine.
  • Do some research on your potential subject. This will help you formulate different angles from which to approach your photo essay.
  • Sign up to Shorthand's newsletter , which rounds up the best visual stories on the web every other week. 

Now, let's dive into how to make a stunning photo essay using Shorthand.

How to make a stunning digital photo essay

Traditionally, photo essays on the web were little more than a series of images pasted into a blog post. Because most blogs are structured primarily for words, these photos essays didn't do justice to their source media. 

However, as web browsers became more powerful and bandwidth increased, a range of content platforms — including no-code digital storytelling platforms like Shorthand — have evolved to make it easier to create stunning visual stories. We've linked to many of these in this guide. 

In this section, we're going to run through how to make a photo essay using Shorthand. If you're not a Shorthand customer, you can sign up here and follow along.

1. Create a new story

In your Shorthand dashboard, click 'New Story.' If you'd like, you can choose from any of our templates to help you get started. For now, though, we're going to start with a blank canvas.

A screenshot of the template gallery in the Shorthand app.

The template chooser

2. Add your title image

Every photo essay needs a stunning title image to hook the reader. Depending on what kind of photo essay you're creating, this could be a photo of the subject or theme of the piece. You can also choose to add a title, subtitle, and author. 

A screenshot of the title image in the Shorthand app

3. Add a text section

Every photo essay needs a written introduction, to help contextualise the images that follow. Simply click 'New Section' and 'Text', before pasting in your introductory copy.

A screenshot of how to select a Text section in the Shorthand app

Adding a Text section.

4. Add your first photo

Now it's time to add the first photo in your essay. Simply click 'New Section' and 'Media.' In photo essays, hierarchy is critical, so make sure you've thought about which photo is most appropriate at the top of your essay. In Shorthand, your photo will appear in all its  full-screen glory.

A screenshot of how to add a photo to your photo essay in the Shorthand app

Image in a 'Media' section.

5. Add a Reveal section

You also have the option of adding a 'Reveal' section, which allows you to add text that floats over your images. This text can act as a commentary or de facto caption for each photo in your essay.

Simply click 'New Section' and 'Reveal.' You'll be able to also upload a version of the image for mobile, and set focus areas to make sure the most important parts of your image are shown.

photo essay topics photos

A 'Reveal' section with accompanying text box.

6. Add transition effects

Depending on the nature of your photo essay, you may wish to add transition effects between some images. A ‘Reveal’ section is the best way to achieve this. You'll have the option of choosing from several types of transitions that occur as your reader scrolls from one full-screen image to the next, and each image can have its own text box, too.

Testing a Reveal section in the Shorthand editor

7. Add Scrollmation effects

If you want to use images in concert with large amounts of text, then consider using Shorthand's Scrollmation feature. This allows you to transition through a range of images as the reader scrolls down a column of text. 

To do this — you guessed it — simply click 'New Section' and 'Scrollmation' or 'Background Scrollmation.' 

The difference between the two is simple: In a Scrollmation section, the text appears in a column beside your images, while in a Background Scrollmation section,  images fill the screen and the text column appears over the images. A sequence of related images can give the effect of animation triggered by the reader’s scrolling.

A Scrollmation section within the editor

Background Scrollmation in the editor

8. Add a Media Gallery

If you have many different images, and want to create a mosaic effect in your essay, then you can use a media gallery. To do this, simply click 'New Section' and 'Media Gallery.' 

You can then upload your images, and experiment with their size and arrangement to achieve your intended effect.

A screenshot of a Media Gallery in the Shorthand app

Creating a Media Gallery section in the editor

9. Preview your story

Photo essays — more than many other genres of content on the web — can run into problems with different screen sizes. Before you publish, make sure you test your story using Shorthand's preview option. 

You'll be able to see what your story looks like on desktop, mobile, and tablet viewports, and make adjustments as needed. You can also share your preview link with collaborators, and get pre-publication feedback and quality-assurance.

Examples of previews of a Shorthand story in two different devices.

Story previews in the editor, simulating a phone and iPad.

10. Publish 🚀

The final step is to publish your essay to the world! You now have an immersive, potentially interactive photo essay — without writing a line of code. 

Contemporary photo essays are creative endeavours rife with opportunities for interactivity. Organisations and artists alike use them as modern, impactful vehicles to convey powerful stories. Try creating one for yourself using Shorthand for free today!

Publish your first story free with Shorthand

Craft sumptuous content at speed. No code required.

Pictures That Tell Stories: Photo Essay Examples

laptop with someone holding film reel

Like any other type of artist, a photographer’s job is to tell a story through their pictures. While some of the most creative among us can invoke emotion or convey a thought with one single photo, the rest of us will rely on a photo essay.

In the following article, we’ll go into detail about what a photo essay is and how to craft one while providing some detailed photo essay examples.

What is a Photo Essay? 

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

A photo essay is a well-established part of photojournalism and have been used for decades to present a variety of information to the reader. Some of the most famous photo essayists include Ansel Adams , W. Eugene Smith, and James Nachtwey. Of course, there are thousands of photo essay examples out there from which you can draw inspiration.

Why Consider Creating a Photo Essay?

As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth 1000 words.” This adage is, for many photographers, reason enough to hold a photo essay in particularly high regard.

For others, a photo essay allow them to take pictures that are already interesting and construct intricate, emotionally-charged tales out of them. For all photographers, it is yet another skill they can master to become better at their craft.

As you might expect, the photo essay have had a long history of being associated with photojournalism. From the Great Depression to Civil Rights Marches and beyond, many compelling stories have been told through a combination of images and text, or photos alone. A photo essay often evokes an intense reaction, whether artistic in nature or designed to prove a socio-political point.

Below, we’ll list some famous photo essay samples to further illustrate the subject.

Women holding polaroid

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Famous Photo Essays

“The Great Depression” by Dorothea Lange – Shot and arranged in the 1930s, this famous photo essay still serves as a stark reminder of The Great Depression and Dust Bowl America . Beautifully photographed, the black and white images offer a bleak insight to one of the country’s most difficult times.

“The Vietnam War” by Philip Jones Griffiths – Many artists consider the Griffiths’ photo essay works to be some of the most important records of the war in Vietnam. His photographs and great photo essays are particularly well-remembered for going against public opinion and showing the suffering of the “other side,” a novel concept when it came to war photography.

Various American Natural Sites by Ansel Adams – Adams bought the beauty of nature home to millions, photographing the American Southwest and places like Yosemite National Park in a way that made the photos seem huge, imposing, and beautiful.

“Everyday” by Noah Kalina – Is a series of photographs arranged into a video. This photo essay features daily photographs of the artist himself, who began taking capturing the images when he was 19 and continued to do so for six years.

“Signed, X” by Kate Ryan – This is a powerful photo essay put together to show the long-term effects of sexual violence and assault. This photo essay is special in that it remains ongoing, with more subjects being added every year.

Common Types of Photo Essays

While a photo essay do not have to conform to any specific format or design, there are two “umbrella terms” under which almost all genres of photo essays tend to fall. A photo essay is thematic and narrative. In the following section, we’ll give some details about the differences between the two types, and then cover some common genres used by many artists.

⬥ Thematic 

A thematic photo essay speak on a specific subject. For instance, numerous photo essays were put together in the 1930s to capture the ruin of The Great Depression. Though some of these presentations followed specific people or families, they mostly told the “story” of the entire event. There is much more freedom with a thematic photo essay, and you can utilize numerous locations and subjects. Text is less common with these types of presentations.

⬥ Narrative 

A narrative photo essay is much more specific than thematic essays, and they tend to tell a much more direct story. For instance, rather than show a number of scenes from a Great Depression Era town, the photographer might show the daily life of a person living in Dust Bowl America. There are few rules about how broad or narrow the scope needs to be, so photographers have endless creative freedom. These types of works frequently utilize text.

Common Photo Essay Genres

Walk a City – This photo essay is when you schedule a time to walk around a city, neighborhood, or natural site with the sole goal of taking photos. Usually thematic in nature, this type of photo essay allows you to capture a specific place, it’s energy, and its moods and then pass them along to others.

The Relationship Photo Essay – The interaction between families and loved ones if often a fascinating topic for a photo essay. This photo essay genre, in particular, gives photographers an excellent opportunity to capture complex emotions like love and abstract concepts like friendship. When paired with introspective text, the results can be quite stunning. 

The Timelapse Transformation Photo Essay – The goal of a transformation photo essay is to capture the way a subject changes over time. Some people take years or even decades putting together a transformation photo essay, with subjects ranging from people to buildings to trees to particular areas of a city.

Going Behind The Scenes Photo Essay – Many people are fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes of big events. Providing the photographer can get access; to an education photo essay can tell a very unique and compelling story to their viewers with this photo essay.

Photo Essay of a Special Event – There are always events and occasions going on that would make an interesting subject for a photo essay. Ideas for this photo essay include concerts, block parties, graduations, marches, and protests. Images from some of the latter were integral to the popularity of great photo essays.

The Daily Life Photo Essay – This type of photo essay often focus on a single subject and attempt to show “a day in the life” of that person or object through the photographs. This type of photo essay can be quite powerful depending on the subject matter and invoke many feelings in the people who view them.

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Photo Essay Ideas and Examples

One of the best ways to gain a better understanding of photo essays is to view some photo essay samples. If you take the time to study these executions in detail, you’ll see just how photo essays can make you a better photographer and offer you a better “voice” with which to speak to your audience.

Some of these photo essay ideas we’ve already touched on briefly, while others will be completely new to you. 

Cover a Protest or March  

Some of the best photo essay examples come from marches, protests, and other events associated with movements or socio-political statements. Such events allow you to take pictures of angry, happy, or otherwise empowered individuals in high-energy settings. The photo essay narrative can also be further enhanced by arriving early or staying long after the protest has ended to catch contrasting images. 

Photograph a Local Event  

Whether you know it or not, countless unique and interesting events are happening in and around your town this year. Such events provide photographers new opportunities to put together a compelling photo essay. From ethnic festivals to historical events to food and beverage celebrations, there are many different ways to capture and celebrate local life.

Visit an Abandoned Site or Building  

Old homes and historical sites are rich with detail and can sometimes appear dilapidated, overgrown by weeds, or broken down by time. These qualities make them a dynamic and exciting subject. Many great photo essay works of abandoned homes use a mix of far-away shots, close-ups, weird angles, and unique lighting. Such techniques help set a mood that the audience can feel through the photographic essay.

Chronicle a Pregnancy

Few photo essay topics could be more personal than telling the story of a pregnancy. Though this photo essay example can require some preparation and will take a lot of time, the results of a photographic essay like this are usually extremely emotionally-charged and touching. In some cases, photographers will continue the photo essay project as the child grows as well.

Photograph Unique Lifestyles  

People all over the world are embracing society’s changes in different ways. People live in vans or in “tiny houses,” living in the woods miles away from everyone else, and others are growing food on self-sustaining farms. Some of the best photo essay works have been born out of these new, inspiring movements.

Photograph Animals or Pets  

If you have a favorite animal (or one that you know very little about), you might want to arrange a way to see it up close and tell its story through images. You can take photos like this in a zoo or the animal’s natural habitat, depending on the type of animal you choose. Pets are another great topic for a photo essay and are among the most popular subjects for many photographers.

Show Body Positive Themes  

So much of modern photography is about showing the best looking, prettiest, or sexiest people at all times. Choosing a photo essay theme like body positivity, however, allows you to film a wide range of interesting-looking people from all walks of life.

Such a photo essay theme doesn’t just apply to women, as beauty can be found everywhere. As a photo essay photographer, it’s your job to find it!

Bring Social Issues to Life  

Some of the most impactful social photo essay examples are those where the photographer focuses on social issues. From discrimination to domestic violence to the injustices of the prison system, there are many ways that a creative photographer can highlight what’s wrong with the world. This type of photo essay can be incredibly powerful when paired with compelling subjects and some basic text.

Photograph Style and Fashion

If you live in or know of a particularly stylish locale or area, you can put together an excellent thematic photo essay by capturing impromptu shots of well-dressed people as they pass by. As with culture, style is easily identifiable and is as unifying as it is divisive. Great photo essay examples include people who’ve covered fashion sub-genres from all over the world, like urban hip hop or Japanese Visual Kei. 

Photograph Native Cultures and Traditions  

If you’ve ever opened up a copy of National Geographic, you’ve probably seen photo essay photos that fit this category. To many, the traditions, dress, religious ceremonies, and celebrations of native peoples and foreign cultures can be utterly captivating. For travel photographers, this photo essay is considered one of the best ways to tell a story with or without text.

Capture Seasonal Or Time Changes In A Landmark Photo Essay

Time-lapse photography is very compelling to most viewers. What they do in a few hours, however, others are doing over months, years, and even decades. If you know of an exciting landscape or scene, you can try to capture the same image in Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, and put that all together into one landmark photo essay.

Alternatively, you can photograph something being lost or ravaged by time or weather. The subject of your landmark photo essay can be as simple as the wall of an old building or as complex as an old house in the woods being taken over by nature. As always, there are countless transformation-based landmark photo essay works from which you can draw inspiration.

Photograph Humanitarian Efforts or Charity  

Humanitarian efforts by groups like Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders can invoke a powerful response through even the simplest of photos. While it can be hard to put yourself in a position to get the images, there are countless photo essay examples to serve as inspiration for your photo essay project.

How to Create a Photo Essay

There is no singular way to create a photo essay. As it is, ultimately, and artistic expression of the photographer, there is no right, wrong, good, or bad. However, like all stories, some tell them well and those who do not. Luckily, as with all things, practice does make perfect. Below, we’ve listed some basic steps outlining how to create a photo essay

Photo essay

Steps To Create A Photo Essay

Choose Your Topic – While some photo essayists will be able to “happen upon” a photo story and turn it into something compelling, most will want to choose their photo essay topics ahead of time. While the genres listed above should provide a great starting place, it’s essential to understand that photo essay topics can cover any event or occasion and any span of time

Do Some Research – The next step to creating a photo essay is to do some basic research. Examples could include learning the history of the area you’re shooting or the background of the person you photograph. If you’re photographing a new event, consider learning the story behind it. Doing so will give you ideas on what to look for when you’re shooting.  

Make a Storyboard – Storyboards are incredibly useful tools when you’re still in the process of deciding what photo story you want to tell. By laying out your ideas shot by shot, or even doing rough illustrations of what you’re trying to capture, you can prepare your photo story before you head out to take your photos.

This process is especially important if you have little to no control over your chosen subject. People who are participating in a march or protest, for instance, aren’t going to wait for you to get in position before offering up the perfect shot. You need to know what you’re looking for and be prepared to get it.

Get the Right Images – If you have a shot list or storyboard, you’ll be well-prepared to take on your photo essay. Make sure you give yourself enough time (where applicable) and take plenty of photos, so you have a lot from which to choose. It would also be a good idea to explore the area, show up early, and stay late. You never know when an idea might strike you.

Assemble Your Story – Once you develop or organize your photos on your computer, you need to choose the pictures that tell the most compelling photo story or stories. You might also find some great images that don’t fit your photo story These can still find a place in your portfolio, however, or perhaps a completely different photo essay you create later.

Depending on the type of photographer you are, you might choose to crop or digitally edit some of your photos to enhance the emotions they invoke. Doing so is completely at your discretion, but worth considering if you feel you can improve upon the naked image.

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Best Photo Essays Tips And Tricks

Before you approach the art of photo essaying for the first time, you might want to consider with these photo essay examples some techniques, tips, and tricks that can make your session more fun and your final results more interesting. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best advice we could find on the subject of photo essays. 

Guy taking a photo

⬥ Experiment All You Want 

You can, and should, plan your topic and your theme with as much attention to detail as possible. That said, some of the best photo essay examples come to us from photographers that got caught up in the moment and decided to experiment in different ways. Ideas for experimentation include the following: 

Angles – Citizen Kane is still revered today for the unique, dramatic angles used in the film. Though that was a motion picture and not photography, the same basic principles still apply. Don’t be afraid to photograph some different angles to see how they bring your subject to life in different ways.

Color – Some images have more gravitas in black in white or sepia tone. You can say the same for images that use color in an engaging, dynamic way. You always have room to experiment with color, both before and after the shoot.

Contrast – Dark and light, happy and sad, rich and poor – contrast is an instantly recognizable form of tension that you can easily include in your photo essay. In some cases, you can plan for dramatic contrasts. In other cases, you simply need to keep your eyes open.

Exposure Settings – You can play with light in terms of exposure as well, setting a number of different moods in the resulting photos. Some photographers even do random double exposures to create a photo essay that’s original.

Filters – There are endless post-production options available to photographers, particularly if they use digital cameras. Using different programs and apps, you can completely alter the look and feel of your image, changing it from warm to cool or altering dozens of different settings.

Want to never run out of natural & authentic poses? You need this ⬇️ 

Click here & get it today for a huge discount., ⬥ take more photos than you need .

If you’re using traditional film instead of a digital camera, you’re going to want to stock up. Getting the right shots for a photo essay usually involves taking hundreds of images that will end up in the rubbish bin. Taking extra pictures you won’t use is just the nature of the photography process. Luckily, there’s nothing better than coming home to realize that you managed to capture that one, perfect photograph. 

⬥ Set the Scene 

You’re not just telling a story to your audience – you’re writing it as well. If the scene you want to capture doesn’t have the look you want, don’t be afraid to move things around until it does. While this doesn’t often apply to photographing events that you have no control over, you shouldn’t be afraid to take a second to make an OK shot a great shot. 

⬥ Capture Now, Edit Later 

Editing, cropping, and digital effects can add a lot of drama and artistic flair to your photos. That said, you shouldn’t waste time on a shoot, thinking about how you can edit it later. Instead, make sure you’re capturing everything that you want and not missing out on any unique pictures. If you need to make changes later, you’ll have plenty of time! 

⬥ Make It Fun 

As photographers, we know that taking pictures is part art, part skill, and part performance. If you want to take the best photo essays, you need to loosen up and have fun. Again, you’ll want to plan for your topic as best as you can, but don’t be afraid to lose yourself in the experience. Once you let yourself relax, both the ideas and the opportunities will manifest.

⬥ It’s All in The Details 

When someone puts out a photographic essay for an audience, that work usually gets analyzed with great attention to detail. You need to apply this same level of scrutiny to the shots you choose to include in your photo essay. If something is out of place or (in the case of historical work) out of time, you can bet the audience will notice.

⬥ Consider Adding Text

While it isn’t necessary, a photographic essay can be more powerful by the addition of text. This is especially true of images with an interesting background story that can’t be conveyed through the image alone. If you don’t feel up to the task of writing content, consider partnering with another artist and allowing them tor bring your work to life.

Final Thoughts 

The world is waiting to tell us story after story. Through the best photo essays, we can capture the elements of those stories and create a photo essay that can invoke a variety of emotions in our audience.

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

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How to Create a Photo Essay in 9 Steps (with Examples)

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What is a photo essay?

  • Photo essays vs photo stories
  • How photo essays help you
  • 9 Steps to create photo essays

How to share your photo essays

Read Time: 11 minutes

Gather up a handful of images that seem to go together, and voila! It’s a photo essay, right? Well… no. Though, this is a common misconception.

In reality, a photo essay is much more thoughtful and structured than that. When you take the time to craft one, you’re using skills from all facets of our craft – from composition to curation.

In this guide, you’ll learn what makes a photo essay an amazing project that stretches your skills. You'll also learn exactly how to make one step by step.

  • Photo essay vs photo story

A photo essay is a collection of images based around a theme, a topic, a creative approach, or an exploration of an idea. Photo essays balance visual variety with a cohesive style and concept.

What's the difference between a photo essay and a photo story?

The terms photo essay and photo story are often used interchangeably. Even the dictionary definition of “photo essay” includes using images to convey either a theme or a story.

But in my experience, a photo essay and a photo story are two different things. As you delve into the field of visual storytelling, distinguishing between the two helps you to take a purposeful approach to what you’re making .

The differences ultimately lie in the distinctions between theme, topic and story.

Themes are big-picture concepts. Example: Wildness

Topics are more specific than themes, but still overarching. Example : Wild bears of Yellowstone National Park

Stories are specific instances or experiences that happen within, or provide an example for, a topic or theme. Example: A certain wild bear became habituated to tourists and was relocated to maintain its wildness

Unlike a theme or topic, a story has particular elements that make it a story. They include leading characters, a setting, a narrative arc, conflict, and (usually) resolution.

With that in mind, we can distingush between a photo essay and a photo story.

Themes and Topics vs Stories

A photo essay revolves around a topic, theme, idea, or concept. It visually explores a big-picture something .

This allows a good deal of artistic leeway where a photographer can express their vision, philosophies, opinions, or artistic expression as they create their images.

A photo story  is a portfolio of images that illustrate – you guessed it – a story.

Because of this, there are distinct types of images that a photo story uses that add to the understanding, insight, clarity and meaning to the story for viewers. While they can certainly be artistically crafted and visually stunning, photo stories document something happening, and rely on visual variety for capturing the full experience.

A photo essay doesn’t need to have the same level of structured variety that a photo story requires. It can have images that overlap or are similar, as they each explore various aspects of a theme.

An urban coyote walks across a road near an apartment building

Photo essays can be about any topic. If you live in a city, consider using your nature photography to make an essay about the wildlife that lives in your neighborhood . 

The role of text with photos

A photo story typically runs alongside text that narrates the story. We're a visual species, and the images help us feel like we are there, experiencing what's happening. So, the images add significant power to the text, but they're often a partner to it.

This isn’t always the case, of course. Sometimes photo stories don’t need or use text. It’s like reading a graphic novel that doesn’t use text. Moving through the different images that build on each other ultimately unveils the narrative.

Photo essays don’t need to rely on text to illuminate the images' theme or topic. The photographer may use captions (or even a text essay), or they may let the images speak for themselves.

Definitions are helpful guidelines (not strict rules)

Some people categorize photo essays as either narrative or thematic. That's essentially just calling photo stories “narrative photo essays” and photo essays “thematic photo essays.”

But, a story is a defined thing, and any writer/editor will tell you themes and topics are not the same as stories. And we use the word “story” in our daily lives as it’s defined. So, it makes far more sense to name the difference between a photo essay and a photo story, and bask in the same clarity writers enjoy .

Photo stories illustrate a particular experience, event, narrative, something that happened or is happening.

Photo essays explore an idea, concept, topic, theme, creative approach, big-picture something .

Both photo essays and photo stories are immensely powerful visual tools. And yes, the differences between them can certainly be blurred, as is always the case with art.

Simply use this distinction as a general guideline, providing extra clarity around what you’re making and why you're making it.

To dig into specific types of images used to create powerful photo stories, check out this training: 6 Must-Have Shots for a Photo Story. 

Meanwhile, let’s dig deeper into photo essays.

A sea nettle jellyfish floats alone on a white surface

Photo essays are a chance to try new styles or techniques that stretch your skills and creativity. This image was part of an essay exploring simplicity and shape, and helped me learn new skills in black and white post-processing.

How photo essays improve your photography

Creating photo essays is an amazing antidote if you’ve ever felt a lack of direction or purpose in your photography. Photo essays help build your photographic skills in at least 3 important ways.

1. You become more strategic in creating a body of work

It's easy to get stuck in a rut of photographing whatever pops up in front of you. And when you do, you end up with a collection of stand-alone shots.

These singles may work fine as a print, a quick Instagram post, or an addition to your gallery of shots on your website. But amassing a bunch of one-off shots limits your opportunities as a photographer for everything from exhibits to getting your work published.

Building photo essays pushes you to think strategically about what you photograph, why, and how. You're working toward a particular deliverable – a cohesive visual essay – with the images you create.

This elevates your skills in crafting your photo essay, and in how you curate the rest of your work, from galleries on your website to selecting images to sell as prints .

2. You become more purposeful in your composition skills

Composition is so much more than just following the rule of thirds, golden spirals, or thinking about the angle of light in a shot.

Composition is also about thinking ahead in what you’re trying to accomplish with a photograph – from what you’re saying through it to its emotional impact on a viewer – and where it fits within a larger body of work.

Photo essays push you to think critically about each shot – from coming up with fresh compositions for familiar subjects, to devising surprising compositions to fit within a collection, to creating compositions that expand on what’s already in a photo essay.

You’re pushed beyond creating a single pleasing frame, which leads you to shoot more thoughtfully and proactively than ever.

(Here’s a podcast episode on switching from reactive shooting to proactive shooting.)

3. You develop strong editing and curation skills

Selecting which images stay, and which get left behind is one of the hardest jobs on a photographer’s to-do list. Mostly, it’s because of emotional attachment.

You might think it’s an amazing shot because you know the effort that went into capturing it. Or perhaps when you look at it, you get a twinge of the joy or exhilaration you felt the moment you captured it. There’s also the second-guessing that goes into which of two similar images is the best – which will people like more? So you’re tempted to just show both.

Ultimately, great photographers appear all the more skilled because they only show their best work. That in and of itself is a skill they’ve developed through years of ruthlessly editing their own work.

Because the most powerful photo essays only show a handful of extraordinary images, you’re bound to develop the very same critical skill (and look all the more talented because of it).

Photo essays are also a great stepping stone to creating photo stories. If you’re interested in moving beyond stand-alone shots and building stories, shooting photo essays will get your creative brain limbered up and ready for the adventure of photo stories.

An American dipper looks into the water of a stream on a cold morning

A photo essay exploring the natural history of a favorite species is an exciting opportunity for an in-depth study. For me, that was a photo essay on emotive images of the American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) as it hunts in streams. 

9 Simple steps to create your photo essays

1. clarify your theme.

Choose a theme, topic, or concept you want to explore. Spend some time getting crystal clear on what you want to focus on. It helps to write out a few sentences, or even a few paragraphs noting:

  • What you want the essay to be about
  • What kinds of images you want to create as part of it
  • How you’ll photograph the images
  • The style, techniques, or gear you might use to create your images
  • What “success” looks like when you’re done with your photo essay

You don’t have to stick to what you write down, of course. It can change during the image creation process. But fleshing your idea out on paper goes a long way in clarifying your photo essay theme and how you’ll go about creating it.

2. Create your images

Grab your camera and head outside!

As you’re photographing your essay, allow yourself some freedom to experiment. Try unusual compositions or techniques that are new to you.

Stretch your style a little, or “try on” the style of other photographers you admire who have photographed similar subjects.

Photo essays are wonderful opportunities to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and grow as a photographer.

Remember that a photo essay is a visually cohesive collection of images that make sense together. So, while you might stretch yourself into new terrain as you shoot, try to keep that approach, style, or strategy consistent.

Don’t be afraid to create lots of images. It’s great to have lots to choose from in the editing process, which comes up next.

3. Pull together your wide edit

Once you’ve created your images, pull together all the images that might make the cut. This could be as many as 40-60 images. Include anything you want to consider for the final essay in the wide edit.

From here, start weeding out images that:

  • are weaker in composition or subject matter
  • stand out like a sore thumb from the rest of the collection
  • Are similar to other stronger images in the collection

It's helpful to review the images at thumbnail size. You make more instinctive decisions and can more easily see the body of work as a whole. If an image is strong even at thumbnail size to stand out from similar frames while also partnering well with other images in the collection, that's a good sign it's strong enough for the essay.

4. Post-process your images for a cohesive look

Now it’s time to post-process the images. Use whatever editing software you’re comfortable with to polish your images.

Again, a photo essay has a cohesive visual look. If you use presets, filters, or other tools, use them across all the images.

5. Finalize your selection

It’s time to make the tough decisions. Select only the strongest for your photo essay from your group of images.

Each image should be strong enough to stand on its own and make sense as part of the whole group.

Many photo essays range from 8-12 images. But of course, it varies based on the essay. The number of images you have in your final photo essay is up to you.

Remember, less is more. A photo essay is most powerful when each image deserves to be included.

6. Put your images in a purposeful order

Create a visual flow with your images. Decide which image is first, and build from there. Use compositions, colors, and subject matter to decide which image goes next, then next, then next in the order.

Think of it like music: notes are arranged in a way that builds energy, or slows it down, surprise listeners with a new refrain, or drop into a familiar chorus. How the notes are ordered creates emotional arcs for listeners.

How you order your images is similar.

Think of the experience a viewer will have as they look at one image, then the next, and the next. Order your images so they create the experience you want your audience to have.

7. Get feedback

The best photographers make space for feedback, even when it’s tough to hear. Your work benefits from not just hearing feedback, but listening to it and applying what you learn from it.

Show your photo essay to people who have different sensibilities or tastes. Friends, family members, fellow photographers – anyone you trust to give you honest feedback.

Watch their reactions and hear what they say about what they’re seeing. Use their feedback to guide you in the next step.

8. Refine, revise, and finalize

Let your photo essay marinate for a little while. Take a day or two away from it. Then use your freshened eyes and the feedback you received from the previous step to refine your essay.

Swap out any selects you might want to change and reorder the images if needed.

9. Add captions

Even if you don’t plan on displaying captions with your images, captioning your images is a great practice to get into. It gives context, story, and important information to each image. And, more than likely, you will want to use these captions at some point when you share your photo essay, which we dive into later in this article.

Add captions to the image files using Lightroom, Bridge, or other software programs.

Create a document, such as a Google or Word doc, with captions for each image.

In your captions, share a bit about the story behind the image, or the creation process. Add whatever makes sense to share that provides a greater understanding of the image and its purpose.

Two rocks sit near each other on a wind-blown beach with long lines of texture in the sand

Photo essays allow you to explore deliberate style choices, such as a focus on shapes, patterns, textures, and lines. Since each photo is part of a larger essay, it encourages you to be bold with choices you might not otherwise make. 

5 Examples of amazing nature photo essays

1. “how the water shapes us” from the nature conservancy.

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay How The Water Shapes Us from Nature Conservancy

This gorgeous essay, crafted with the work of multiple photographers, explores the people and places within the Mississippi River basin. Through the images, we gain a sense of how the water influences life from the headwater all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Notice how each photographer is tasked with the same theme, yet approaches it with their own distinct style and vision. It is a wonderful example of the sheer level of visual variety you can have while maintaining a consistent style or theme.

View it here

2. “A Cyclist on the English Landscape” from New York Times’ The World Through A Lens series

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay A Cyclist on the English Landscape from New York Times

This photo essay is a series of self-portraits by travel photographer Roff Smith while “stuck” at home during the pandemic. As he peddled the roads making portraits, the project evolved into a “celebration of traveling at home”. It’s a great example of how visually consistent you can be inside a theme while making each image completely unique.

3. “Vermont, Dressed In Snow” from New York Times’ The World Through A Lens series

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay Vermont, Dressed in Snow from New York Times

This essay by aerial photographer Caleb Kenna uses a very common photo essay theme: snow. Because all images are aerial photographs, there’s a consistency to them. Yet, the compositions are utterly unique from one another. It’s a great example of keeping viewers surprised as they move from one image to the next while still maintaining a clear focus on the theme.

4. “Starling-Studded Skies” from bioGraphic Magazine

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay Starling-Studded-Skies from bioGraphic Magazine

This beautiful essay is by Kathryn Cooper, a physicist trained in bioinformatics, and a talented photographer. She used a 19th century photographic technique, chronophotography, to create images that give us a look at the art and science of starling murmurations. She states: “I’m interested in the transient moments when chaos briefly changes to order, and thousands of individual bodies appear to move as one.” This essay is a great example of deep exploration of a concept using a specific photographic technique.

View it here   (Note: must be viewed on desktop)

5. “These Scrappy Photos Capture the Action-Packed World Beneath a Bird Feeder” from Audubon Magazine

screenshot of the landing page of photo essay by Carla Rhodes from Audubon Online

This photo essay from conservation photographer Carla Rhodes explores the wildlife that takes advantage of the bounty of food waiting under bird feeders . Using remote camera photography , Rhodes gives viewers a unique ground-level perspective and captures moments that make us feel like we’re in conversation with friends in the Hundred Acre Woods. This essay is a great example of how perspective, personality, and chance can all come into play as you explore both an idea and a technique.

25 Ideas for creative photo essays you can make

The possibilities for photo essays are truly endless – from the concepts you explore to the techniques you use and styles you apply.

Choose an idea, hone your unique perspective on it, then start applying the 9 simple steps from above. 

  • The life of a plant or animal (your favorite species, a species living in your yard, etc)
  • The many shapes of a single species (a tree species, a bird species, etc)
  • How a place changes over time
  • The various moods of a place
  • A conservation issue you care about
  • Math in nature
  • Urban nature
  • Seasonal changes
  • Your yard as a space for nature
  • Shifting climate and its impacts
  • Human impacts on environments
  • Elements: Water, wind, fire, earth
  • Day in the life (of a person, a place, a stream, a tree…)
  • Outdoor recreation (birding, kayaking, hiking, naturalist journaling…)
  • Wildlife rehabilitation
  • Lunar cycles
  • Sunlight and shadows
  • Your local watershed
  • Coexistence

A Pacific wren sings from a branch in a sun dappled forest

As you zero in on a photo essay theme, consider two things: what most excites you about an idea, and what about it pushes you out of your comfort zone. The heady mix of joy and challenge will ensure you stick with it. 

Your photo essay is ready for the world! Decide how you’d like to make an impact with your work. You might use one or several of the options below.

1. Share it on your website

Create a gallery or a scrollytelling page on your website. This is a great way to drive traffic to your website where people can peruse your photo essay and the rest of the photography you have.

Putting it on your website and optimizing your images for SEO helps you build organic traffic and potentially be discovered by a broader audience, including photo editors.

2. Create a scrollytelling web page

If you enjoy the experience of immersive visual experiences, consider making one using your essay. And no, you don’t have to be a whiz at code to make it happen.

Shorthand helps you build web pages with scrollytelling techniques that make a big impression on viewers. Their free plan allows you to publish 3 essays or stories.

3. Create a Medium post

If you don’t have a website and want to keep things simple, a post on Medium is a great option.

Though it’s known for being a platform for bloggers, it’s also possible to add images to a post for a simple scroll.

And, because readers can discover and share posts, it’s a good place for your photos to get the attention of people who might not otherwise come across it.

4. Share it on Instagram

Instagram has changed a lot over the last couple of years, but it’s still a place for photographers to share their work thoughtfully.

There are at least 3 great ways to share your photo essay on the platform.

– Create a single post for each image. Add a caption. Publish one post per day until the full essay is on your feed. Share each post via Instagram Stories to bring more attention and interaction to your photo essay.

– Create a carousel post. You can add up 10 photos to a carousel post, so you may need to create two of them for your full photo essay. Or you might create a series of carousel posts using 3-4 images in each.

– Create a Reel featuring your images as a video.  The algorithm heavily favors reels, so turning your photo essay into a video experience can get it out to a larger audience.

I ran a “create a reel” challenge in my membership community. One member created a reel with her still images around a serious conservation issue. It gathered a ton of attention and landed her opportunities to share her message through YouTube and podcast interviews and publishing opportunities. Watch it here.

5. Exhibit it locally

Reach out to local galleries, cafes, pubs, or even the public library to see if they’re interested in hanging your photo essay for display. Many local businesses and organizations happily support the work of local artists.

6. Pitch your photo essay to publications

One of the best ways to reach an audience with your work is to get it published. Find publications that are a great fit for the theme and style of your photo essay, then pitch your essay for consideration. You gain a fantastic opportunity to share your work widely and can earn a paycheck at the same time.

Remember that if you want to get your photo essay published, you may want to hold back from sharing it publicly before you pitch it to publications.

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  • Grades 6-12
  • School Leaders

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Teaching the Photo Essay

A picture is worth 1,000 words.

photo essay topics photos

Your students, if they’re anything like mine, love to communicate through images—photos on Instagram , GIFs shared in a text, photo stories on Snapchat. And yet, so much of our conversation in school revolves around words. Understanding text is critical to students’ success now and in the future. But do we also help students identify, read and understand images in order to become literate in the visual language that is all around us? The photo essay can be a great middle or high school assignment that will have strong appeal and grow your students’ writing skills.

What Is a Photo Essay?

For those who aren’t familiar with the term “photo essay,” have no fear. A photo essay, in its simplest form, is a series of pictures that evokes an emotion, presents an idea or helps tell a story. You’ve been exposed to photo essays for your entire life—possibly without even knowing it. For example, you may have seen Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother:

teachingphotoessay

An iconic image of the Great Depression, this picture, along with Lange’s other gripping photos, helped Americans better understand the effects of poverty in California as well as across the nation. Migrant Mother is one of countless photographs that helped persuade, influence or engage viewers in ways that text alone could not.

Photo essays can feature text through articles and descriptions, or they can stand alone with simple captions to give context. The versatility of photo essays has helped the medium become a part of our culture for centuries, from the American Civil War to modern environmental disasters like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. This versatility is also what makes the photo essay a great educational asset in classrooms today; teachers can use them in any content area. Math students can use them to show a geometric concept in real life. Science students can document a chemistry process at home. Auto students can photograph the technique—and joys and frustrations—of learning a new procedure.

So, where does a teacher begin? Read further for tips and ideas for making photo essays a part of your teaching toolbox.

Start With Photos

Introducing photo essays as a means of changing lives and changing society can hook student interest in the medium. Begin by simply showing pictures and letting students discuss their reactions. Consider this famous photo of the field at Antietam during the Civil War. Share some of the photos from this collection from CNN of 25 of the Most Iconic Photograph s or this list of 50 Influential Photographs That Changed Our World .

Each of these photographs stirs emotion and sends our minds searching for answers. As a warm-up assignment or series of assignments, have students choose (or assign randomly) a photograph to write about. What’s the story? Why did this happen? Who was involved?

DIY Photographs

Before giving a formal photo essay assignment, give students an opportunity to practice and receive feedback. Consider presenting students with several open-ended, ungraded challenges like “For class tomorrow, take a photo that depicts ‘Struggle.’” Other possible photo topics: chaos, frustration, friendship, school. Have students email you their photo homework and share it as a slideshow. Talk about the images. Do they convey the theme?

You can give examples or suggestions; however, giving too many examples and requirements can narrow students’ creativity. The purpose of this trial run is to generate conversation and introduce students to thinking like photographers, so don’t worry if the photos aren’t what you had in mind; it’s about getting feedback on what the student had in mind.

Technique 101

Even though the goal of a photo essay is to influence and create discussion, there is still benefit in giving students a crash course on simple photography concepts. Don’t feel like you have to teach a master-level course on dark-room development. Even a simple overview on the “Rule of Thirds” and the importance of perspective can be enough to help students create intentional, visually stirring photographs.

You can teach these ideas directly or have students do the work by researching on their own. They have most likely seen hundreds of movies, advertisements and photos, so these lessons are simply labeling what they’ve already experienced. Having some knowledge of composition will not only help students improve their visual literacy, it will also help empower them to take photos of their own.

Choose Your Purpose

Are students telling their own stories of their neighborhoods or their families? Are they addressing a social issue or making an argument through their images and text? A photo essay could be a great assignment in science to document a process or focus on nature.

If you are just getting started, start out small: Have students create a short photo essay (two to five images) to present a topic, process or idea you have been focusing on in class. Here’s a Photo Essay Planning Guide to share with your students.

Photo Essay Planning Guide Image

With pictures becoming a dominant medium in our image-filled world, it’s not a question of if we should give students practice and feedback with visual literacy, it’s a question of how . Photo essays are a simple, engaging way to start. So, what’s your plan?

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Photo Essay

Photo Essay

We all know that photographs tell a story. These still images may be seen from various perspectives and are interpreted in different ways. Oftentimes, photographers like to give dramatic meaning to various scenarios. For instance, a blooming flower signifies a new life. Photographs always hold a deeper meaning than what they actually are.

In essay writing , photographs along with its supporting texts, play a significant role in conveying a message. Here are some examples of these kinds of photo-text combinations.

What is Photo Essay? A photo essay is a visual storytelling method that utilizes a sequence of carefully curated photographs to convey a narrative, explore a theme, or evoke specific emotions. It goes beyond individual images, aiming to tell a cohesive and impactful story through the arrangement and combination of pictures.

Photo Essay Format

A photo essay is a series of photographs that are intended to tell a story or evoke a series of emotions in the viewer. It is a powerful way to convey messages without the need for many words. Here is a format to guide you in creating an effective photo essay:

1. Choose a Compelling Topic

Select a subject that you are passionate about or that you find intriguing. Ensure the topic has a clear narrative that can be expressed visually.

2. Plan Your Shots

Outline the story you wish to tell. This could involve a beginning, middle, and end or a thematic approach. Decide on the types of shots you need (e.g., wide shots, close-ups, portraits, action shots) to best tell the story.

3. Take Your Photographs

Capture a variety of images to have a wide selection when editing your essay. Focus on images that convey emotion, tell a story, or highlight your theme.

4. Edit Your Photos

Select the strongest images that best convey your message or story. Edit for consistency in style, color, and lighting to ensure the essay flows smoothly.

5. Arrange Your Photos

Order your images in a way that makes sense narratively or thematically. Consider transitions between photos to ensure they lead the viewer naturally through the story.

6. Include Captions or Text (Optional)

Write captions to provide context, add depth, or explain the significance of each photo. Keep text concise and impactful, letting the images remain the focus.

7. Present Your Photo Essay

Choose a platform for presentation, whether online, in a gallery, or as a printed booklet. Consider the layout and design, ensuring that it complements and enhances the visual narrative.

8. Conclude with Impact

End with a strong image or a conclusion that encapsulates the essence of your essay. Leave the viewer with something to ponder , reflecting on the message or emotions you aimed to convey.

Best Photo Essay Example?

One notable example of a powerful photo essay is “The Photographic Essay: Paul Fusco’s ‘RFK Funeral Train'” by Paul Fusco. This photo essay captures the emotional journey of the train carrying the body of Robert F. Kennedy from New York to Washington, D.C., after his assassination in 1968. Fusco’s images beautifully and poignantly document the mourning and respect shown by people along the train route. The series is a moving portrayal of grief, unity, and the impact of a historical moment on the lives of ordinary individuals. The photographs are both artistically compelling and deeply human, making it a notable example of the potential for photo essays to convey complex emotions and historical narratives.

Photo Essay Examples and Ideas to Edit & Download

  • A Day in the Life Photo Essay
  • Behind the scenes Photo Essay
  • Event Photo Essay
  • Photo Essay on Meal
  • Photo Essay on Photo walking
  • Photo Essay on Protest
  • Photo Essay on Abandoned building
  • Education photo essay
  • Photo Essay on Events
  • Follow the change Photo Essay
  • Photo Essay on Personal experiences

Photo Essay Examples & Templates

1. narrative photo essay format example.

narrative photo essay

nytimes.com

2. Student Photo Essay Example

student photo example

3. Great Depression Essay Example

great depression essay

thshistory.files.wordpress.com

4. Example of Photo Essay

example of photo essay

weresearchit.co.uk

5. Photo Essay Examples About Nature

photo essay examples about nature

cge-media-library.s3.ca-central-1.amazonaws.com

6. Travel Photo Example

travel photo example2

theguardian.com

7. Free Photo Essay Example

free photo essay

vasantvalley.org

Most Interesting Photo Essays of 2019

Now that you are educated with the fundamentals of photo essays, why not lay eyes on some great photo essays for inspiration. To give you a glimpse of a few epitomes, we collected the best and fascinating photo essays for you. The handpicked samples are as follows:

8. Toys and Us

toys and us

journals.openedition.org

This photo essay presents its subject which is the latest genre of photography, toy photography. In this type of picture taking, the photographer aims to give life on the toys and treat them as his/her model. This photography follows the idea of a toy researcher, Katrina Heljakka, who states that also adults and not only children are interested in reimagining and preserving the characters of their toys with the means of roleplay and creating a story about these toys. This photo essay is based on the self-reflection of the author on a friend’s toys in their home environment.

9. The Faces of Nature Example

the faces of nature

godandnature.asa3.org

This photo essay and collection caters the creativity of the author’s mind in seeing the world. In her composition, she justified that there are millions of faces that are naturally made that some of us have not noticed. She also presented tons of photos showing different natural objects that form patterns of faces. Though it was not mentioned in the essay itself, the author has unconsciously showcased the psychological phenomenon, pareidolia. This is the tendency to translate an obscure stimulus that let the observer see faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or even hearing concealed messages in music.

10. The Country Doctor Example

the country doctor

us1.campaign-archive.com

This photo essay depicts the medical hardships in a small rural town in Colorado called Kremling. For 23 days, Smith shadowed Dr. Ernest Ceriani, witnessing the dramatic life of the small town and capturing the woeful crisis of the region. The picture in this photographic essay was photographed by Smith himself for Life magazine in 1948 but remained as fascinating as it was posted weeks ago.

11. New York City Coffeehouses

new york city coffeehouses

lens.blogs.nytimes.com

Café Latte, cappuccino, espresso, or flat white—of course, you know these if you have visited a coffee shop at least once. However, the photographer of this photo essay took it to a whole new level of experience. Within two to three days of visiting various coffee places, Mr. Gavrysh stayed most of his day observing at the finest details such as the source of the coffee, the procedure of delivering them, and the process of roasting and grounding them. He also watched how did the baristas perfect the drinks and the reaction of the customers as they received their ordered coffee with delights in their faces. Gavrysh did not mean to compose a coffeehouse guide, but to make a composition that describes modern, local places where coffee is sipped and treated with respect.

12. Hungry Planet: What The World Eats

hungry planet

13. Photo Essay Example

photo essay example

cah.utexas.edu

14. Photo Essay in PDF

photo essay in pdf

condor.depaul.edu

15. Sample Photo Essay Example

sample photo essay

colorado.edu

16. Basic Photo Essay Example

basic photo essay

adaptation-undp.org

17. Printable Photo Essay Example

printable photo essay

One of the basic necessity of a person to live according to his/her will is food. In this photo essay, you will see how these necessities vary in several ways. In 2005, a pair of Peter Menzel and Faith D’ Aluisio released a book that showcased the meals of an average family in 24 countries. Ecuador, south-central Mali, China, Mexico, Kuwait, Norway, and Greenland are among the nations they visited.  This photo essay is written to raise awareness about the influence of environment and culture to the cost and calories of the foods laid on the various dining tables across the globe.

Photo essays are not just about photographic aesthetics but also the stories that authors built behind those pictures. In this collection of captivating photo essays, reflect on how to write your own. If you are allured and still can’t get enough, there’s no need for you to be frantic about. Besides, there are thousands of samples and templates on our website to browse. Visit us to check them all out.

What are good topics for a photo essay?

  • Urban Exploration: Document the unique architecture, street life, and cultural diversity of urban environments.
  • Environmental Conservation: Capture the beauty of natural landscapes or document environmental issues, showcasing the impact of climate change or conservation efforts.
  • Everyday Life in Your Community: Showcase the daily lives, traditions, and activities of people in your local community.
  • Family Traditions: Document the customs, rituals, and special moments within your own family or another family.
  • Youth Culture: Explore the lifestyle, challenges, and aspirations of young people in your community or around the world.
  • Behind-the-Scenes at an Event: Provide a backstage look at the preparation and execution of an event, such as a concert, festival, or sports competition.
  • A Day in the Life of a Profession: Follow a professional in their daily activities, offering insights into their work, challenges, and routines.
  • Social Issues: Address important social issues like homelessness, poverty, immigration, or healthcare, raising awareness through visual storytelling.
  • Cultural Celebrations: Document cultural festivals, ceremonies, or celebrations that showcase the diversity of traditions in your region or beyond.
  • Education Around the World: Explore the various facets of education globally, from classrooms to the challenges students face in different cultures.
  • Workplace Dynamics: Capture the atmosphere, interactions, and diversity within different workplaces or industries.
  • Street Art and Graffiti: Document the vibrant and dynamic world of street art, capturing the expressions of local artists.
  • Animal Rescues or Shelters: Focus on the efforts of organizations or individuals dedicated to rescuing and caring for animals.
  • Migration Stories: Explore the experiences and challenges of individuals or communities affected by migration.
  • Global Food Culture: Document the diversity of food cultures, from local markets to family meals, showcasing the role of food in different societies.

How to Write a Photo Essay

First of all, you would need to find a topic that you are interested in. With this, you can conduct thorough research on the topic that goes beyond what is common. This would mean that it would be necessary to look for facts that not a lot of people know about. Not only will this make your essay interesting, but this may also help you capture the necessary elements for your images.

Remember, the ability to manipulate the emotions of your audience will allow you to build a strong connection with them. Knowing this, you need to plan out your shots. With the different emotions and concepts in mind, your images should tell a story along with the essay outline .

1. Choose Your Topic

  • Select a compelling subject that interests you and can be explored visually.
  • Consider the story or message you want to convey. It should be something that can be expressed through images.

2. Plan Your Essay

  • Outline your narrative. Decide if your photo essay will tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end, or if it will explore a theme or concept.
  • Research your subject if necessary, especially if you’re covering a complex or unfamiliar topic.

3. Capture Your Images

  • Take a variety of photos. Include wide shots to establish the setting, close-ups to show details, and medium shots to focus on subjects.
  • Consider different angles and perspectives to add depth and interest to your essay.
  • Shoot more than you need. Having a large selection of images to choose from will make the editing process easier.

4. Select Your Images

  • Choose photos that best tell your story or convey your theme.
  • Look for images that evoke emotion or provoke thought.
  • Ensure there’s a mix of compositions to keep the viewer engaged.
  • Sequence your images in a way that makes narrative or thematic sense.
  • Consider the flow and how each image transitions to the next.
  • Use juxtaposition to highlight contrasts or similarities.

6. Add Captions or Text (Optional)

  • Write captions to provide context or additional information about each photo. Keep them brief and impactful.
  • Consider including an introduction or conclusion to frame your essay. This can be helpful in setting the stage or offering a final reflection.

7. Edit and Refine

  • Review the sequence of your photos. Make sure they flow smoothly and clearly convey your intended story or theme.
  • Adjust the layout as needed, ensuring that the visual arrangement is aesthetically pleasing and supports the narrative.

8. Share Your Essay

  • Choose the right platform for your photo essay, whether it’s a blog, online publication, exhibition, or print.
  • Consider your audience and tailor the presentation of your essay to suit their preferences and expectations.

Types of Photo Essay

Photo essays are a compelling medium to tell a story, convey emotions, or present a perspective through a series of photographs. Understanding the different types of photo essays can help photographers and storytellers choose the best approach for their project. Here are the main types of photo essays:

1. Narrative Photo Essays

  • Purpose: To tell a story or narrate an event in a chronological sequence.
  • Characteristics: Follows a clear storyline with a beginning, middle, and end. It often includes characters, a setting, and a plot.
  • Examples: A day in the life of a firefighter, the process of crafting traditional pottery.

2. Thematic Photo Essays

  • Purpose: To explore a specific theme, concept, or issue without being bound to a chronological sequence.
  • Characteristics: Centers around a unified theme, with each photo contributing to the overall concept.
  • Examples: The impact of urbanization on the environment, the beauty of natural landscapes.

3. Conceptual Photo Essays

  • Purpose: To convey an idea or evoke a series of emotions through abstract or metaphorical images.
  • Characteristics: Focuses on delivering a conceptual message or emotional response, often using symbolism.
  • Examples: Loneliness in the digital age, the concept of freedom.

4. Expository or Informative Photo Essays

  • Purpose: To inform or educate the viewer about a subject with a neutral viewpoint.
  • Characteristics: Presents factual information on a topic, often accompanied by captions or brief texts to provide context.
  • Examples: The process of coffee production, a day at an animal rescue center.

5. Persuasive Photo Essays

  • Purpose: To convince the viewer of a particular viewpoint or to highlight social issues.
  • Characteristics: Designed to persuade or elicit action, these essays may focus on social, environmental, or political issues.
  • Examples: The effects of plastic pollution, the importance of historical preservation.

6. Personal Photo Essays

  • Purpose: To express the photographer’s personal experiences, emotions, or journeys.
  • Characteristics: Highly subjective and personal, often reflecting the photographer’s intimate feelings or experiences.
  • Examples: A personal journey through grief, documenting one’s own home during quarantine.

7. Environmental Photo Essays

  • Purpose: To showcase landscapes, wildlife, and environmental issues.
  • Characteristics: Focuses on the natural world or environmental challenges, aiming to raise awareness or appreciation.
  • Examples: The melting ice caps, wildlife in urban settings.

8. Travel Photo Essays

  • Purpose: To explore and present the culture, landscapes, people, and experiences of different places.
  • Characteristics: Captures the essence of a location, showcasing its uniqueness and the experiences of traveling.
  • Examples: A road trip across the American Southwest, the vibrant streets of a bustling city.

How do you start a picture essay?

1. choose a compelling theme or topic:.

Select a theme or topic that resonates with you and has visual storytelling potential. It could be a personal project, an exploration of a social issue, or a visual journey through a specific place or event.

2. Research and Conceptualize:

Conduct research on your chosen theme to understand its nuances, context, and potential visual elements. Develop a conceptual framework for your photo essay, outlining the key aspects you want to capture.

3. Define Your Storytelling Approach:

Determine how you want to convey your narrative. Consider whether your photo essay will follow a chronological sequence, a thematic structure, or a more abstract and conceptual approach.

4. Create a Shot List:

Develop a list of specific shots you want to include in your essay. This can help guide your photography and ensure you capture a diverse range of images that contribute to your overall narrative.

5. Plan the Introduction:

Think about how you want to introduce your photo essay. The first image or series of images should grab the viewer’s attention and set the tone for the narrative.

6. Consider the Flow:

Plan the flow of your photo essay, ensuring a logical progression of images that tells a cohesive and engaging story. Consider the emotional impact and visual variety as you sequence your photographs.

7. Shoot with Purpose:

Start capturing images with your conceptual framework in mind. Focus on images that align with your theme and contribute to the overall narrative. Look for moments that convey emotion, tell a story, or reveal aspects of your chosen subject.

8. Experiment with Perspectives and Techniques:

Explore different perspectives, compositions, and photographic techniques to add visual interest and depth to your essay. Consider using a variety of shots, including wide-angle, close-ups, and detail shots.

9. Write Descriptive Captions:

As you capture images, think about the accompanying captions. Captions should provide context, additional information, or insights that enhance the viewer’s understanding of each photograph.

What are the key elements of a photo essay?

1. Theme or Topic:

Clearly defined subject matter or theme that unifies the photographs and tells a cohesive story.

2. Narrative Structure:

An intentional narrative structure that guides the viewer through the photo essay, whether chronological, thematic, or conceptual.

3. Introduction:

A strong introduction that captures the viewer’s attention and sets the tone for the photo essay.

4. Captivating Images:

A series of high-quality and visually compelling images that effectively convey the chosen theme or story.

5. Variety of Shots:

A variety of shots, including wide-angle, close-ups, detail shots, and different perspectives, to add visual interest and depth.

6. Sequencing:

Careful sequencing of images to create a logical flow and emotional impact, guiding the viewer through the narrative.

7. Captions and Text:

Thoughtful captions or accompanying text that provide context, additional information, or insights, enhancing the viewer’s understanding.

8. Conclusion:

A concluding section that brings the photo essay to a satisfying close, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer.

Purpose of a Photo Essay

With good writing skills , a person is able to tell a story through words. However, adding images for your essay will give it the dramatic effect it needs. The photographs and the text work hand in hand to create something compelling enough to attract an audience.

This connection goes beyond something visual, as photo essays are also able to connect with an audience emotionally. This is to create an essay that is effective enough to relay a given message.

5 Tips for Creating a Photo Essay

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. Find the right angle and be dramatic with your description, just be creative.
  • Pay attention to detail. Chances are, your audience will notice every single detail of your photograph.
  • Shoot everything. Behind a single beautiful photo is a hundred more shots.
  • Don’t think twice about editing. Editing is where the magic happens. It has the ability to add more drama to your images.
  • Have fun. Don’t stress yourself out too much but instead, grow from your experience.

What is a photo essay for school?

A school photo essay is a visual storytelling project for educational purposes, typically assigned to students. It involves creating a narrative using a series of carefully curated photographs on a chosen theme.

How many pictures should be in a photo essay?

The number of pictures in a photo essay varies based on the chosen theme and narrative structure. It can range from a few impactful images to a more extensive series, typically around 10-20 photographs.

Is a photo essay a story?

Yes, a photo essay is a visual storytelling form. It uses a series of carefully curated photographs to convey a narrative, evoke emotions, or communicate a specific message or theme.

What makes a photo essay unforgettable?

An unforgettable photo essay is characterized by a powerful theme, emotionally resonant images, a well-crafted narrative structure, attention to detail, and a connection that leaves a lasting impact on viewers.

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  • 33 Writing Photo Essays

Writing Photo Essays

Start-Up Activity

Share appropriate magazines that include photos and text, such as National Geographic or Life . Have students page through the magazines, looking for photos that draw their attention. Ask what they like about the photos. Ask what they can learn from the photos. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine the magazine with no photos, just words.

Lead a discussion about the power of pictures. Help students understand that when they connect words and photos, they can reach their audience in all new ways.

Think About It

“We try to grab pieces of our lives as they speed past us. Photographs freeze those pieces and help us remember how we were.”

—Gene McSweeney

State Standards Covered in This Chapter

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.1
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.2
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.3
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2.A
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2.B
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.4
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.5
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.7
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2.C
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2.D
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2.E
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2.F
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.6

LAFS Covered in This Chapter

Lafs.6.ri.1.1, lafs.6.ri.1.2, lafs.6.ri.1.3, lafs.6.ri.3.7, lafs.6.w.1.2, lafs.6.w.2.4, lafs.6.w.2.5, lafs.6.w.3.7, lafs.6.w.2.6, teks covered in this chapter, 110.22.b.5.f, 110.22.b.8.d, 110.22.b.8.d.i, 110.22.b.6.d, 110.22.b.8.d.iii, 110.22.b.8.f, 110.22.b.10, 110.22.b.11.b, 110.22.b.10.a, 110.22.b.10.b.i, 110.22.b.10.b.ii, 110.22.b.10.b, 110.22.b.10.c, 110.22.b.10.d, 110.22.b.12, 110.22.b.10.e, page 171 from write on track, sample photo essay.

Have volunteers read each paragraph of the sample photo essay. When a photo accompanies a paragraph, stop to discuss the photo. "How does the photo make the ideas clearer?" "What is the photo doing that the text can't do?" Point out to students that each photo must be carefully chosen and positioned, just as the words are carefully chosen and positioned.

Related Resource Tags

Click to view a list of tags that tie into other resources on our site

Page 172 from Write on Track

Ask for a student volunteer to read the paragraph in the middle of the photo essay.

Then ask for other volunteers to describe "what the photo shows you." Help students understand that they can learn a great deal from a photo.

Page 173 from Write on Track

Have a volunteer read the paragraph. Then lead a discussion about what they see. Ask students what the photos are doing that words alone can't do.

Then have a volunteer read the last part of the essay.

Page 174 from Write on Track

Writing a photo essay.

Have your students list interesting people they know who have jobs or hobbies that other students would like to find out about. Students then should pick a topic.

Lead students through the next two sets of tips, having them research their topics and collect photos. If they know the person, they may want to interview him or her and take pictures. If they don't know the person, they may need to do research in books and online.

At the bottom of the page, remind students that the photos they include shouldn't just be "for show." They should communicate ideas that words can't express.

Page 175 from Write on Track

Writing, revising, and editing.

After students have gathered information and images for their photo essays, lead them through "Writing a Draft." Then give them time to put their first drafts together.

When the time comes to revise, have students use the questions under "Revising" to improve their work. Also, have peer readers use these questions to suggest improvements.

After revising, have students check for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors.

  • 01 Understanding Writing
  • 02 One Writer's Process
  • 03 Qualities of Writing
  • 04 Selecting a Topic
  • 05 Collecting Details
  • 06 Writing a First Draft
  • 07 Revising and Editing
  • 08 Publishing Your Writing
  • 09 Writing Basic Sentences
  • 10 Combining Sentences
  • 11 Writing Paragraphs
  • 12 Understanding Text Structures
  • 13 Writing in Journals and Logs
  • 14 Writing Lists
  • 15 Making Albums
  • 16 Writing Notes and Emails
  • 17 Writing Friendly Letters
  • 18 Writing Personal Narratives
  • 19 Writing Family Stories
  • 20 Writing Realistic Stories
  • 21 Writing Time-Travel Fantasies
  • 22 Writing Tall Tales
  • 23 Writing Alphabet Books
  • 24 How-To Writing
  • 25 Writing Information Essays
  • 26 Writing Newspaper Stories
  • 27 Writing Persuasive Essays
  • 28 Writing Opinion Letters
  • 29 Writing Book Reviews
  • 30 Making Bookmarks
  • 31 Writing Classroom Reports
  • 32 Writing Summaries
  • 34 Writing Free-Verse Poetry
  • 35 Traditional and Playful Poetry
  • 36 Writing Plays
  • 37 Using the Library
  • 38 Using Technology
  • 39 Reading to Understand Fiction
  • 40 Reading to Understand Nonfiction
  • 41 Reading Graphics
  • 42 Reading New Words
  • 43 Building Vocabulary Skills
  • 44 Using Prefixes, Suffixes, Roots
  • 45 Becoming a Better Speller
  • 46 Learning to View
  • 47 Giving Speeches
  • 48 Performing Poems
  • 49 Telling Stories
  • 50 Learning to Interview
  • 51 Listening to Learn
  • 52 Using Graphic Organizers
  • 53 Thinking Clearly
  • 54 Thinking Creatively
  • 55 Completing Assignments
  • 56 Working in Groups
  • 57 Taking Tests
  • 58 Proofreader's Guide
  • 59 Student Almanac
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Supported by

‘Where We Are’: A Photo Essay Contest for Exploring Community

Using an immersive Times series as inspiration, we invite teenagers to document the local communities that interest them. Contest dates: Feb. 14 to March 20.

A group of friends sitting on an orange picnic blanket in a sun-dappled park, surrounded by green grass and trees.

By The Learning Network

The Covid-19 pandemic closed schools and canceled dances. It emptied basketball courts, theaters, recreation centers and restaurants. It sent clubs, scout troops and other groups online.

Now, many people have ventured back out into physical spaces to gather with one another once again. What does in-person “community” look like today? And what are the different ways people are creating it?

In this new contest, inspired by “ Where We Are ” — an immersive visual project from The New York Times that explores the various places around the world where young people come together — we’re inviting teenagers to create their own photo essays to document the local, offline communities that interest them.

Take a look at the full guidelines and related resources below to see if this is right for your students. We have also posted a student forum and a step-by-step lesson plan . Please ask any questions you have in the comments and we’ll answer you there, or write to us at [email protected]. And, consider hanging this PDF one-page announcement on your class bulletin board.

Here’s what you need to know:

The challenge, a few rules, resources for teachers and students, frequently asked questions, submission form.

Using The Times’s Where We Are series as a guide, create a photo essay that documents an interesting local, offline community. Whether your grandmother’s Mah Jong club, the preteens who hang out at a nearby basketball court, or the intergenerational volunteers who walk the dogs for your neighborhood animal shelter, this community can feature people of any age, as long as it gathers in person.

We encourage you to choose a community you are not a part of for reasons we explain below, in the F.A.Q.

Whichever community you choose, however, it’ll be your job to interview and photograph them. Then, you’ll pull everything together in a visual essay, which will tell the group’s story via a short introduction and a series of captioned photographs.

Your photo essay MUST include:

Between six and eight images, uploaded in the order in which you’d like us to view them.

A short caption of no more than 50 words for each image that helps explain what it shows and why it is important to the story.

A short introduction of up to 300 words that offers important background or context that complements and adds to the information in the photos and captions. You might consider the introduction the beginning of your essay, which the photos and captions will then continue. Together they will answer questions like who this community is, how it came to be, and why it matters. (Our How-To guide offers more detail about this.)

At least one quote — embedded in either the introduction or one of the captions — from a member of the community about what makes it meaningful.

In addition to the guidelines above, here are a few more details:

You must be a student ages 13 to 19 in middle school or high school to participate , and all students must have parent or guardian permission to enter. Please see the F.A.Q. section for additional eligibility details.

The photographs and writing you submit should be fundamentally your own — they should not be plagiarized, created by someone else or generated by artificial intelligence.

Your photo essay should be original for this contest. That means it should not already have been published at the time of submission, whether in a school newspaper, for another contest or anywhere else.

Keep in mind that the work you send in should be appropriate for a Times audience — that is, something that could be published in a family newspaper (so, please, no curse words).

You may work alone, in pairs, or in groups of up to four for this challenge , but students should submit only one entry each.

Remember to get permission from those you photograph, and to collect their contact information. Learn more about this in the F.A.Q. below.

You must also submit a short, informal “artist’s statement” as part of your submission, that describes your process. These statements, which will not be used to choose finalists, help us to design and refine our contests. See the F.A.Q. to learn more.

All entries must be submitted by March 20, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time using the electronic form below.

Use these resources to help you create your photo essay:

A related Student Opinion question to help you brainstorm ideas before you begin taking photos.

A step-by-step guide that uses examples from the Where We Are series to walk students through creating their own.

Free links to the “Where We Are” Collection :

1. The Magic of Your First Car 2. At This Mexican Restaurant, Everyone is Family 3. Where the Band Kids Are 4. In This Nigerian Market, Young Women Find a Place of Their Own 5. At Camp Naru, Nobody Is ‘an Outlier’ 6. For Black Debutantes in Detroit, Cotillion Is More Than a Ball 7. At This Wrestling Academy, Indian Girls Are ‘Set Free’ 8. In Seville, Spain, These Young Rappers Come Together to Turn ‘Tears Into Rhymes’ 9. For a Queer Community in Los Angeles, This Public Park Is a Lifeline 10. In Guatemala, A Collective of Young Artists Finds Family Through Film 11. On a Caribbean Island, Young People Find Freedom in ‘Bike Life’ 12. At This Texas Campus Ministry, ‘Inclusive Love’ Is the Mission 13. For Young Arab Americans in Michigan, the Hookah Lounge Feels like Home

An activity sheet for understanding and analyzing the Where We Are series.

Lessons on interviewing and taking photographs . While these two resources were originally created for our 2022 Profile Contest , each contains scores of tips from educators and Times journalists that can help students learn to interview, and to take and select compelling photographs that tell a story.

Our contest rubric . These are the criteria we will use to judge this contest. Keep them handy to make sure your photo essay meets all of the qualifications before entering.

Below are answers to your questions about writing, judging, the rules and teaching with this contest. Please read these thoroughly and, if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, post your query in the comments or write to us at [email protected].

QUESTIONS ABOUT CREATING YOUR PHOTO ESSAY

What is a photo essay? How does it differ from just a series of photos?

A photo essay tells a story through a series of images. These images work together and build on each other to explore a theme of some kind. The photo essays in the Where We Are series, for instance, focus on the themes of community and coming-of-age, but each through a different lens, as the three images published here illustrate. Together they are beautiful examples of how visual collections can investigate ideas by illuminating both the “big picture” and the tiny, telling details.

How do I choose a good subject for this?

Our Student Opinion forum can help via its many questions that encourage you to brainstorm local, offline communities of all kinds.

Can I be a member of the community I photograph?

You can, but we encourage you not to. Part of the point of this contest is to help you investigate the interesting subcultures in your area, and expand your understanding of “community” by finding out about groups you otherwise may never have known existed.

But we also think it will be easier to do the assignment as an outsider. You will be coming to the community with “fresh eyes” and relative objectivity, and will be able to notice things that insiders may be too close to see.

If you do choose to depict a community you are a part of, we ask that you do not include yourself in the photos.

I’d like to work with others to create this. How do I do that?

You can work alone, with a partner, or with up to three other people. So, for example, in a group of four, two people might act as photographers, while the other two interview community members. When you are ready to edit your material and write up what you have discovered, the interviewers could use their notes to handle the short introduction, while the photographers could edit their shots into a meaningful visual sequence, and help collaborate on the captions.

Please remember, however, that you can only have your name on one submission.

Do I need permission to photograph the people in this community?

You do. It is good journalistic practice to tell the people you are photographing why you are taking pictures of them, and to ask their permission. They should also know that, if you are a winner, their image and name may appear online.

Though you do not have to have a signed permission sheet from every participant, if you are a winner and we publish your work, we will need to be able to reach those depicted, so please get their contact information before you take their pictures. (If you are photographing young children, this is especially important. Secure a parent or guardian’s permission first.)

An important exception to this: If you are taking photos of crowds in public places, such as at a sporting event, a community meeting or a local fair, you don’t need to worry about permissions, as it would be impossible to get them from all attendees.

I don’t know where to begin! What advice do you have?

Once you’ve chosen a community to photograph, begin by introducing yourself to ensure the participants are open to your project. Then, devote a bit of time to just observing, noticing how and where the members of this group spend time, what they do together, and how they relate to each other.

When you’re ready to start documenting what you find, our step-by-step guide will help you take it from there.

QUESTIONS ABOUT JUDGING

How will my photo essay be judged?

Your work will be read by New York Times journalists as well as by Learning Network staff members and educators from around the United States. We will use this rubric to judge entries.

What’s the prize?

Having your work published on The Learning Network and being eligible to be chosen to have your work published in the print editions of The New York Times.

When will the winners be announced?

About two months after the contest has closed.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE RULES

Who is eligible to participate in this contest?

This contest is open to students ages 13 to 19 who are in middle school or high school around the world. College students cannot submit an entry. However, high school students (including high school postgraduate students) who are taking one or more college classes can participate. Students attending their first year of a two-year CEGEP in Quebec Province can also participate. In addition, students age 19 or under who have completed high school but are taking a gap year or are otherwise not enrolled in college can participate.

The children and stepchildren of New York Times employees are not eligible to enter this contest. Nor are students who live in the same household as those employees.

Why are you asking for an Artist’s Statement about our process? What will you do with it?

All of us who work on The Learning Network are former teachers. One of the many things we miss, now that we work in a newsroom rather than a classroom, is being able to see how students are reacting to our “assignments” in real time — and to offer help, or tweaks, to make those assignments better. We’re asking you to reflect on what you did and why, and what was hard or easy about it, in large part so that we can improve our contests and the curriculum we create to support them. This is especially important for new contests, like this one.

Another reason? We have heard from many teachers that writing these statements is immensely helpful to students. Stepping back from a piece and trying to put into words what you wanted to express, and why and how you made artistic choices to do that, can help you see your piece anew and figure out how to make it stronger. For our staff, they offer important context that help us understand individual students and submissions, and learn more about the conditions under which students around the world create.

Whom can I contact if I have questions about this contest or am having issues submitting my entry?

Leave a comment on this post or write to us at [email protected].

QUESTIONS ABOUT TEACHING WITH THIS CONTEST

Do my students need a New York Times subscription to access these resources?

No. Students can get free access to the entire Where We Are series through The Learning Network . (All 13 photo essays are listed above, in our Resources section.) In addition, our related student forum , activity sheet and “how to” guide are also free, as are everything they link to.

However, if you are interested in learning more about school subscriptions, visit this page .

I’m not an art teacher. Can this work for my students too?

Yes! Though this is a new contest for us, we chose it in part because the theme of “community” is such an important one in subjects across the curriculum. In fact, we hope it might inspire teachers in different curriculum areas to collaborate.

For example, students in social studies could investigate the role of community locally, learning about the history of different influential groups. An English teacher might support students as they interview and craft their introductions and photo captions, while an art teacher could offer tips for photo composition. And, of course, a journalism teacher could guide the full project, or work with other teachers to publish the most successful results in the school paper.

How do my students prove to me that they entered this contest?

After they press “Submit” on the form below, they will see a “Thank you for your submission.” line appear. They can take a screenshot of this message. Please note: Our system does not currently send confirmation emails.

Please read the following carefully before you submit:

Students who are 13 and older in the United States or the United Kingdom, or 16 and older elsewhere in the world, can submit their own entries. Those who are 13 to 15 and live outside the United States or the United Kingdom must have an adult submit on their behalf.

All students who are under 18 must provide a parent or guardian’s permission to enter.

You will not receive email confirmation of your submission. After you submit, you will see the message “Thank you for your submission.” That means we received your entry. If you need proof of entry for your teacher, please screenshot that message.

Here is an example of how you might submit a photo with a caption and a photographer credit (Ashley Markle is the photographer):

If you have questions about your submission, please write to us at [email protected] and provide the email address you used for submission.

  • Leadership Crisis
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photo essay topics photos

In Photos: Kicking Into High Gear at Quad Bikes

Following a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Quad Bikes reopened in the basement of Cabot House in the fall of 2022. The undergraduate-run bicycle repair shop recently expanded its hours to serve Harvard students and Cambridge residents four days each week. Founded in 2003, the shop offers refurbished bicycles, affordable repair services, and bike maintenance classes. Crimson photographers took a tour of the space with Julian K. Li ’25, one of the students running Quad Bikes.

photo essay topics photos

Outside the workroom, he selects a bike to refurbish from a selection of abandoned ones that Quad Bikes has collected.

photo essay topics photos

Julian wheels the bike into the workroom, which is equipped with a variety of tools, parts, and mementos from the shop’s two-decade long history. As a Boston-area native, Julian learned how to repair bikes from YouTube tutorials and from working at a bike shop in Somerville.

photo essay topics photos

To encourage more bike usage around campus, Quad Bikes currently offers free repairs and tune-ups for students. The shop strives to reuse parts from old bikes, keeping an impressive inventory of spare parts.

photo essay topics photos

At his workstation, Julian adjusts an off-center bike wheel. He carefully re-tensions each spoke, checking the wheel’s balance along the way.

photo essay topics photos

The shop’s front desk is adorned with a variety of trinkets – they may not accept payment, but they maintain healthy pizza and beer funds.

photo essay topics photos

Quad Bikes is currently open two hours a day for four days each week, though they plan to extend their opening hours.

photo essay topics photos

For bikes that can be fixed quickly, Quad Bikes offers walk-in repairs on the spot. For those that require more care and attention, Julian checks them into the shop.

photo essay topics photos

While Quad Bikes currently operates as a team of two, they hope to expand their operations in the near future, training more repairers and taking in more bikes.

photo essay topics photos

The Hockey News

Photo Essay: Kraken Lunar New Year's Game At Climate Pledge Arena

I t's been our great good fortune to have talented pro photographers Caroline Anne and Dexter Guiang lend us their considerable talents this season.

Caroline and Dex did so again, as you'll see, for the Seattle Kraken's Lunar New Year game Monday at Climate Pledge Arena.

They combined game snaps against the Red Wings with photos of the colorful pregame and intermission activities.

By the way, here's the Smithsonian's explanation of the holiday:

"Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. It is the most important holiday in China, and it is also widely celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population. Those celebrating consider it the time of the year to reunite with immediate and extended family."

Now, the pictures. The captions are my fault.

From a Kraken press release: "On Celebration Nights, we feature specialty jerseys created by a local artist who reinterprets our iconic 'S’ logo.

"Artist Juliana Kang-Robinson drew inspiration from the dragons in Korean art from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). She loved that the dragons in Eastern culture - particularly Korea and China - were viewed as auspicious and benevolent bringers of rain and clouds, inferring prosperity, power, and protection."

The Seattle Chinese Lunar New Year Girls Drill Team.

The National Anthem was performed with great poise by 11 year old Yolanda Ji. (Stick tap to Come As You Are Hockey for background info.)

Well, that's gratitude for you. The Kraken recognize ex-teammate Daniel Sprong... then he goes out and scores a goal for his new team, the Red Wings.

One other Climate Pledge Arena shout-out was even more well-deserved...

...Guyle Fielder, here with Kraken GM Ron Francis. As we detailed in a story here , Fielder is the greatest hockey player in Seattle history.

Kraken defenseman Adam Larsson, with a swing which would make Paul Bunyan proud.

Tomas Tatar (90) and Kailer Yamamoto (56), clearly on edge.

Meanwhile, on the concourse, this snappy - and signed - Matty Beniers Lunar New Year's sweater up for auction.

A member of Seattle's Mak Fai Kung Fu Dragon & Lion Dance Association.

The Association performed during the first intermission.

I'll translate for you. The banner says, "Happy New Year." You're welcome.

From their website : "We aim to enrich and promote lion dancing in the Greater Seattle area." Mission accomplished, guys.

They've been performing since 1974, doing hundreds of shows each year.

I wish I could see what's so interesting about linesperson C.J. Murray's puck, because it sure has everyone's attention.

Jared McCann (19), who scored his 23rd and 24th goals on Monday, fights for his right to party... or establish position.

If Detroit goalie Alex Lyon were to somehow stop this Jaden Schwartz shot, we'd have to name it "The Lyon," because he's Lyon on his back. What?

No immortality for Lyon, as Schwartz's laser zings past his glove for the third Kraken goal in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Red Wings.

detsea-24-02-19-ca-2

Khloe Kardashian Posts Adorable Photo of True Thompson With Cousins Dream, Chicago & Psalm

The ‘Kardashians’ star shared a sweet cousin moment between the four ‘homies’ in a new social media post. 

Khloe Kardashian holding daughter True

Khloé Kardashian  shared the sweetest cousin moment between her daughter, True Thompson , nieces Dream Kardashian ( Rob Kardashian ’s daughter) and Chicago West and nephew Psalm West ( Kim Kardashian ’s children). The 39-year-old reality TV star snapped a selfie with the kiddos in what appeared to be a car during the group’s latest outing together.  

“Rollin’ with my homies,” Khloé captioned the Instagram post on Wednesday, February 21. In the snapshot, her three nieces smiled sweetly for the camera while Psalm, 4, playfully stuck his tongue out. His auntie also posed with the signature Kardashian puckered face for the selfie.  

Aunt KoKo always makes sure to host hangouts for her 5-year-old daughter and her cousins, whom she remains close with. Last week, the Good American boss held a “cousins sleepover” for True, Dream, 7, Chicago, 6, and Kylie Jenner ’s daughter, Stormi, 6. Khloé shared cute moments from the evening via her Snapchat Stories, which included a snapshot of tents set up for the gang to watch The Aristocats .

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Khloé Kardashian (@khloekardashian)

Khloé is known for her kind-hearted nature. Her mom, Kris Jenner , gave her a shout-out for her parenting skills during a previous episode of The Kardashians .  

“Khloé really is incredible,” Kris, 68, explained. “She’s the best mom — loving and nurturing and supportive and caring. She’s firm and she’s funny. If you have Khloé for your auntie, you’re probably the luckiest little kid in the universe.”  

Since Khloé is in the public eye, she has run into the occasional criticism from social media commenters. Last summer, the Hulu personality faced backlash for saying she was a “third parent” to her niece, Dream, since she and True spend a lot of time together. Khloé’s brother, Rob, shares Dream with his ex Blac Chyna . In response to the backlash, Khloé addressed the situation in a July 2023 Instagram Story.  

“I love ALL of my nieces and nephews more than I can express,” she insisted. “Dream and I are particularly close. My brother and I are extremely close. I am with Dream all the time because I’m with my brother all of the time. I love her beyond measure.”  

She then followed up by noting, “I consider ALL of my nieces and nephews my babies. I even consider my sisters my babies. I take pride in this love and always have,” she continued. “I wholeheartedly believe that it takes a village to raise a child. Life is full of ups and downs and I am proud that we have a family that can lean on one another. That’s what family does. We are a tribe and all of us will always be there for one another. Especially the babies.”  

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  1. 23 Photo Essay Ideas and Examples (to Get Your Creative Juices Flowing!)

    Looking for inspiration? Our 23 photo essay ideas will take your photography skills to new heights! A single, strong photograph can convey a lot of information about its subject - but sometimes we have topics that require more than one image to do the job.

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    Final Words What is a Photo Essay? A photo essay is a series of images that share an overarching theme as well as a visual and technical coherence to tell a story. Some people refer to a photo essay as a photo series or a photo story - this often happens in photography competitions. Photographic history is full of famous photo essays.

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    1. Protests View the "Resistance" photo essay by David Moore. A great idea for photo essays for students is to shoot the protest to show its power. You can capture people with signs and banners to demonstrate what they are standing for. Besides, you can learn how to capture moving subjects.

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    1. Choose a topic or theme The first step in creating a photo essay is to choose the topic or theme you want to focus on. This can be anything from a place, an event, or even a person. Once you've decided on your subject, it's time to start brainstorming ideas for your essay. 2. Do your research

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    16. Transformation Photo Essays Transformation is one of the most used photo essay topics. It is a great way to show change. The change can be slow, such as a woman going through pregnancy, or watching a baby turn into a toddler and beyond. As a photo essay project, this doesn't even need to be about people.

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    Creating a photo essay can be as easy as choosing a topic, getting your images, and organizing the essay. Things You Should Know Reflect long and hard on your topic, considering your audience, current events, and whether to go for a thematic or narrative approach.

  10. Ten examples of immersive photo essays

    In this guide, we introduce 10 stunning examples of visually arresting interactive photo essays to fuel your creative juices. Now, let's set the scene with a short introduction to immersive, interactive photo essays on the web. What do the BBC, Tripadvisor, and Penguin have in common? They craft stunning, interactive web content with Shorthand.

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    Here are some ideas of topics for your photo essay: Protests: Protests are dynamic situations that offer opportunities for multiple types of narratives. You can capture multiple protests in one location, a series of protests about a particular topic or several photos of a singular protest event.

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    One example of a great thematic essay comes from NBC News Olympics photos: Emotion runs high. This piece encapsulates the overall gloom of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics — through a series of powerful behind-the-scenes photographs of athletes in varying levels of distress — but does not focus on a particular subject.

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    Become the photographer you were born to be. Join Cole's Classroom Famous Photo Essays "The Great Depression" by Dorothea Lange - Shot and arranged in the 1930s, this famous photo essay still serves as a stark reminder of The Great Depression and Dust Bowl America.

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    A photo essay is a collection of images based around a theme, a topic, a creative approach, or an exploration of an idea. Photo essays balance visual variety with a cohesive style and concept. What's the difference between a photo essay and a photo story? The terms photo essay and photo story are often used interchangeably.

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    Exploring the Picture Essay: Tips, Best Practices, and Examples. Picture essays drop viewers right into the action, letting them see things through the camera's lens, offering insights and understanding that isn't possible through words alone. From static pages of photos, to carousels and animated articles, photo essays come in many forms.

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    Examples of Photo Essay Topics: Documenting a community event or festival. Exploring social issues or human rights topics. Capturing the daily life of a specific profession or community. Telling a personal journey or life experience. Portraying environmental changes or conservation efforts.

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    Writing a Photo Essay. Have your students list interesting people they know who have jobs or hobbies that other students would like to find out about. Students then should pick a topic. Lead students through the next two sets of tips, having them research their topics and collect photos.

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