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What Is A Photo Essay?

written by: xanadu324•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 9/10/2009

This article explains what a photo essay is. It will give you a background on the different types of photo essays that can be created.

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    What Is A Photo Essay?

    As a photographer, you may find yourself sometimes straining for ideas. It seems as though one day you have a slew of ideas to photograph, and then, as if by magic, all the ideas are stripped away. Some photographers can go weeks, even months, wondering what to photograph next. One of the best ways I’ve found to hinder your camera from gathering dust is making a photo essay.

    What is a photo essay? A photo essay is much like a normal written essay, but done with photos rather than with words. A photo essay can tell a story, or be used to spark a certain emotion from the viewer. While words can sometimes be used, it is best to take photos that don’t require words, or use the words sparingly for support rather than for a crutch.

    The main types of photo essays are time sequence, location, idea, and event. Many people have created photo essays without even knowing they’ve done so. When you’re out taking photographs, look at the photos as one big picture rather then a lot of small ones. If the photos tell a story or convey a specific emotion, it may be a photo essay.

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    What About The Rules?

    Unlike a lot of other types of photography, most photo essays do not have a standard set of rules to follow. In most cases you can document what you personally feel is necessary. Even if fifty photographers were doing the same type of photo essay about the same location, they would not all look the same. One photographer may have done his photo essay in all black and white. Another may have chosen to only use photographs that were in portrait orientation rather than horizontal.

    As you can see from the above examples, many photographers can create photo essays, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that any one photographer has done his essay better than his colleague. Remember this when you’re out shooting. Rather than trying to follow the rules, take photos that feel right to you.

What Is A Photo Essay and How Do I Create One?

This article series explains what a photo essay is. It will explain the different types of photo essays, as well as give you ideas on how to create one yourself.
  1. What Is A Photo Essay?
  2. Time Sequence Photo Essays
  3. Location Photo Essays
  4. Idea Photo Essays
  5. Event Photo Essays
  6. One More Way to Test Your Photo Essay Skills