As a shooting art and independent genre of photography, photo essays began to develop in journalism of European countries in the first half of the last century. Erich Solomon was one of the pioneers, a lawyer who spoke many languages. He did backstage filming of famous international political figures at a conference of the League of Nations. Photographers of newspapers and magazines have since picked up his style of shooting, without posing.

Nowadays, this style has ceased to be a property of professional reporters. If you have a light and easy-to-use digital camera in your hands, some experience and you are in the center of the event — it’s possible that you can take good pictures and publish them online. There are cases when amateur shots became a sensation.

What Is a Photo Essay

Photo Essays is an interesting story in several pictures which is distinguished by truthfulness, objectivity, narration. It gives the viewer an idea of ​​essence and development in a specific historical period of time. The use of reporting method means conducting a survey without interfering with the natural course, but implies a soft, inconspicuous accompaniment. As a result, you can get not only an information-relevant report, series of photographs that have historical and documentary significance, but also an exciting essay example that has independent artistic value.

Few Photo Essay ideas for a newbie

  1. Do not shoot against the window during the day, otherwise you will get silhouettes or overexposed photos. Turn your back or side to the window
  2. If you are shooting an event in a beautiful room, be sure to take a few frames of surroundings: sophisticated ceiling design, marble columns, wallpapers with gold leaves and printed patterns. Every viewer will definitely pay attention to these details
  3. Do not focus only on key models, take pictures of the audience
  4. Photograph both general scene and details
  5. Take care of composition and color harmony. You can always find an interesting color combination or line geometry. Be attentive!
  6. Take pictures of old people and children. They always bring a sentimental touch to any story

Expert photographers tell that there are two options for selecting the right material for a photo story. First one is actual pictures, when you frame the viewfinder and press release button, isolating significant moments of infinite reality. The second is post-shot screening. During this hard work there may be a number of shots which should be screened to give a chance to a possible masterpiece. Sometimes a harmonious combination of artistic and technical shots can create an interesting, memorable project. Such a story, due to competent selection and location of images, is able to express a complex thought, to show specific events from another angle of the author's vision, which is valuable itself.

The selection of shots is a painful process of analyzing the entire gallery. Each picture should effectively support the initial idea and intention of an author. Unique impression of one shot is transferred to the next one. Aesthetically correct selection of neighboring frames in color, light, graphics, composition, plans helps to maintain the viewer's attention, directing perception in the intended direction.

First of all, all frames are to be reviewed, mercilessly eliminating those pictures that demonstrate technical and compositional errors. Storytelling is a realistic, informationally saturated photography, striving for an objective reflection of reality. Based on this understanding, pictures are blurred, underexposed or overexposed with important details. Frames, distorting a person's appearance or meaning of what is happening, due to wrong angle or illumination, are deleted. Even after preliminary selection, material may contain more than a dozen pictures.

How many and which pics you need to create a unique photo essay?

The subsequent selection and final number of images depends on where you plan to tell your story. Newspaper pages or magazines permit 3-8 shots (sometimes more). Your personal blog or video in a slide show can include a much larger number of pictures. Some essays, during artistic photo exposition, allow thematic series of dozens of photos. Regardless of location and restrictions each author should strive for conciseness — talent to reveal a lot in a little image. Several expressive pictures will be remembered better than a long series of good shots on the same subject. Human attention tends to get tiring. We need to keep this in mind when creating a story. So that the viewer does not get bored viewing it, you must carefully select the concept.

TOP-8 Ideas to Create Photo Essay:

1. Use various plots

The main rule in selection of plots — do not allow duplicates! Find the brightest, key moment of the shooting, which you would undoubtedly include. These images will become a basis of the whole idea. Then sort out other plots, less important, but detailing information and enhancing the overall impression you want to achieve. Difficulties appear in selection of the best frame of several, similar in composition. It is especially difficult to choose when pictures are equal in merits. In these cases, trust the first impression from shooting and choose those pictures that you liked immediately. If there are still doubts, ask some friends or relatives to help you. Outside opinion is a very useful tool, if you trust them.

Even the opposite point of view of your expert will help to make the right choice, because your own opinion in the selection process is often “blurred”, losing a fresh approach of perception.

2. Get your personal feature

After you have taken care of diversity of content and selected key ideas, analyze the final set of images again, how different pictures are. Important conditions to create great photo essay examples include planning, a point of shooting, light and shade angles, composition and other visual means. The viewer will easily understand information if there is a logical uniform story in front of him — large, medium, general; vertical or horizontal; objects captured from different points. Deep, multi-layered compositions create the effect of presence, and color effects will give a necessary emotional tone. You may find that almost all of selected pictures are taken in medium plan, without large ones, and in fact they bring us closer to a person or important details. Another option: all pictures can be horizontal. Try to go back to screened frames and look for analogues made in the right plan and format. Always remember: variety of scenes and photographic forms is a necessary condition for a creative and memorable project.

3. Organize the sequence

The selection of photos is finally completed. Now we face a task of making a coherent story from selected shots — arranging pictures in a certain sequence with each other. Arrange files so that they clearly express your personal opinion and thought. In this regard, it is necessary to formulate the idea of ​​shooting in two or three phrases and give a simple topic to your story. For example, “Enjoying vacation”, “Life in Paris”, “Construction process”, etc. Such a name simply points out the theme and allows photos to reveal it. Many authors use word power more actively. Metaphor, quote, poetic line and other tools help to isolate the main idea, directing audience attention in a right direction. Expressive title will work for your story, but it's not so easy to pick the right one. Feel free to contact your friends for help. Essentially, a photo essay is a story in pictures, following the same laws and rules as literary stories. Presentation of a story involves a variety of copyright styles, manners and plot moves. This is a creative process.

According to organization of your material, the following templates can be distinguished:

  1. Based on a rigid plot structure. Events are demonstrated in chronological order.
  2. Based on a main, keyframe, uniting a mosaic of secondary shots.
  3. Based on associative connections between shots, made at different moments, different occasions and even in different places, but united by a common title.

Let us talk about inspiration for photo essay ideas. Sometimes it may seem difficult to get started. But with the help of common approaches you will be able to become a professional. Every moment in our lives is worth capturing.

4. Watch the change

Transformation is always interesting for everyone. To tell a great story you may need only a camera and various models to shoot. The time laps may vary from one month for a dog in a shelter, to a year, when a soldier is back home. Look around and watch small moments of life changing every day. Why not to memorize construction of a significant building or tree growing, changing seasons. Even growing a beard and mustaches can become an attractive way to publish photo story ideas.

5. Start your journalistic career with event footage

It does not matter if you live in a constantly moving megalopolis or a little village in the mountains. There is a great variety of events to be captured and published. This process may be also appreciated for raising awareness in regional or even international level. Go outside and make shots of visitors to a local museum or agricultural exhibition. Do not neglect possibilities to capture people communicating to each other or demonstrating facial expressions. Such details will play an important role afterwards.

6. Pay attention to educative process

Make pictures of students in local school or university, filming the educational process and their life during breaks. These moments may become of a great value for school memories and live itself. Emotions and everyday life can transform ordinary models into future well-known film stars. Computer and chemical labs will give you plenty of successful shots. Even preparation of lunch has its own secret discoveries, documenting right moments.

7. Get into portrait photography

Everyone has neighbors and people surrounding us with their habits and traditions. There is no better way to practice your photography skills, making pictures of people and families you see every day and watching their routine. Of course, their permission is needed. But the final result may surprise not only the model itself, but the author as well with its deep participation in one's life routine. Such images can be published and shared online or used for a memory book. Be free to capture a number of people with different lives and working hours. This will help you to create a small description of your community life at the exhibition you will organize.

8. Create funny tutorials

When you do not feel like communicating to someone or even going outside your home, there is still a way to practice skills. Make a tutorial filming all steps of preparation of pies and cakes. There is no need to be an expert cooking chef. Positive approach to the process is a guarantee of a cool report.

Photo essay method in practice

In practice, the main content of the story can be reflected in one key photograph, sometimes with the help of 2nd or 3rd. This is the essential part of all the gallery. Other scenes illustrate and detail the event itself. The more various plots and ideas captured (new faces and details, turns and movements, actions and reactions, experiences, states, landscape), the richer and more curious the story is going to be.

So what have we learned from this article to answer a question: “What is a photo essay?” It may be easily called a report shooting method. Some people call any series of photographs presented in the media or at an exhibition a “photostory”.

Can you name a series of travel pictures to the village or to a conference in London an essay? Sure you can, if you did not line up models of your shooting in front of the camera, did not force them to pose, but captured moments of their existence. It is a valid alternative to staged pictures, where photographer controls characters and composes the plot by himself as a director.

Are there elements of staging in a photo essay? In everyday life, you may find interesting ideas, situations and tell about them in shooting language. These are stories of individuals or a specific family, their relationships, business, leisure, hobbies.Thematic pictures give a scope to the creative power of images, if it is a real art.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, who is considered to be the king of photo essay, wrote: “For me, photography is an art to penetrate into the very essence of a phenomenon in a second and simultaneously convey it in such an artistic form that would visually accurately and vividly reproduce this essence.”

Practice your skills, learn new secrets and enjoy the process. Without perfection, knowledge of tricks and visual means, it is impossible to create a high-quality impressive picture story.