How to Prepare a Photography Essay

Photography essays appeal to the viewer’s emotions

If writing is not something simple for you, then today is your lucky day! You have been asked to hand in a photography essay. It is a series or set of photographs which can either be “telling a story” or evoking a certain emotion in the viewer. Photography essays can include text as well. While some are just images, others add captions of text or even a full essay which photographs illustrate.
But photo essays are not simpler than other kind of essays. In fact, they take a lot of hard work, imagination and thought from the photographer. Because, even when a picture is worth a thousand words, it is not easy appealing to a stranger’s emotions. Are you ready to try?


Ever since we are little children, every person enjoys and has a real thirst for stories. For the past century, photography and cinema, as well as television, have played a privileged role in human storytelling. Way before that, literature (both oral and written) had supplied that human need. Think of photography as something in between. Nowadays, all the available technology –including fantastic cameras that you can carry in your pocket-allows you much more freedom for experimentation in this field. So, whether you are a professional photographer, a student or just an amateur, photography essays are a great way to use your own images to tell a great story.

Different photo essays

Not all photo essays are the same. You can choose to prepare a sequential essay, in which the different pictures are supposed to be seen in a particular order, but also non-ordered photographs can be an essay too. You can arrange them someway to be viewed all at once, or you can let the viewer choose the order. But do take into account that, while every photography essay is a collection of photographs, not every collection of photographs is itself a photo essay. This is because photo essays should address a certain topic or attempt to capture the character of places and events in them.

Tips for preparing your first photo essay

As in every essay, the first thing you need is to choose an interesting topic. For your first essay it may be good getting some previous practice with the camera, after all it is, as language in other kind of essays, your main tool. Think that your essay will be most dynamic when you care about the subject. As topic, you may choose a special emotion (for example, “Lonely people in the city”), an event like a school trip or a special occasion as the birth of your dog’s puppies. Then you should do some research on the topic, since understanding the basic facts will help you choose the best angle on which to take your story. And always remember that the best way you can connect with the audience through your photo essay is by drawing out emotions and using them as a connection point between the photographs and the viewer’s feelings.

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