We all know what an essay is, but you may not be crystal clear on what a photo essay is. Much like an essay you write in school, a photo essay tells the progression of emotions, events and concepts through the use of images. With photo essays becoming more and more popular as a means to telling a story today, I will let you in on a few tips I believe help create the perfect photo essay.
The first step:
Find an interesting topic! Photo essays are most dynamic when there is a definite connection between your subject and yourself. Whether you choose to shoot the life of a tattoo artist, your son or brothers first hockey game, or even your cousin’s birthday party, you want your topic to be something that will keep your interest over an extended period of time, and is interesting. Your level of interest will show in your photographs.
The second step:
Do some research! If you’re interested in something edgy like tattoo artists, make sure you spend as much time with them as possible and find out when their busiest hours are. If your family is obsessed with sports, attend as many games as possible by getting the schedule ahead of time, so you can plan around other events. Even if you’re just shooting a 5-year-olds birthday party, find the theme of the party and use the decorations to your advantage. Remember, details are just as important as your subject!
The third step:
Find the deeper story! After you’ve done some research, it’s time to think about what angle you want to take in your essay. Does the tattoo artist travel worldwide? Maybe your brother is trying to get a college scholarship to play hockey. Is this your cousins first birthday out of the hospital? These are all deeper meanings within your story that will give it that defining edge. You can never ask enough questions.
The fourth step:
Look for emotions! Excitement. Pain. Fear. Joy. Disbelief. These are all ways you can connect your essay to your audience. A photograph with emotion in it is very eye catching and people are drawn to them. Make sure you’re always paying attention though, because most of these emotions are expressed when you least expect them.
The fifth step:
Plan your shots! Sit down and think about the place you’ll be shooting at. Think about the type of shots that you feel will work best to tell your story and how you’re going to capture them. Make sure each shot is taken at a different angle and shows something different. Most photo essays are around 10-12 photos, so this shouldn’t be too difficult. If you need help editing, ask a friend!
Remember that all these steps take practice! Put a lot of time, some creativity and heart into your project and you’ll be amazed in the difference your photos take.