6 Easy steps to create an engaging photo essay

What is a photo essay?

A photo essay is a collection of images that tell a story or conveys a particular message to its viewers. It can follow a series of events, like a visual story of a weekend getaway, or different angles and perspectives of a particular place, topic or colour. No matter your subject, there should be a clear narrative. Photo essays can be used when presenting your work (or pitch) to a client, or for a personal photography project.

Here are a few tips on how to create an engaging photo essay:

  1. Choose a theme
    The theme is the central idea of your photo essay; whether it’s for work, a project or to tell a personal story through your photographs. It should have a clear concept. Use your images to tell a story and make sure that each image contributes to the narrative. You want to capture the attention of your audience.
  2. Plan your shots
    Once you’ve decided on a theme, plan out the shots you need to narrate your story. Think about the types of images you need and how they will fit together to create a cohesive narrative. If you’re not taking your own photos, start searching for imagery that’ll work for your photo essay. (If you’re using someone else’s work, make sure to reference any photographs you used. If possible, contact the artist/photographer.)
  3. Use a variety of shots
    Try include a range of shots, from wide-angle shots that establish the scene, to close-ups that show detail and give additional information about what you’re trying to convey. You can use a mix of colour and black-and-white images or play with one colour palette – it all depends on your concept.
  4. Choose a layout
    This part may seem easy but it can be quite overwhelming to arrange all of the elements in such a way to tell the story and be aesthetically pleasing. Consider how you want to present your photo essay. You may choose to display your images in a slideshow, a gallery, or a book.
  5. Add captions
    Captions can provide context for your images and help tell the story. Write captions that are concise, descriptive, and adds to the narrative. Alternatively, you can write a paragraph at the top or bottom to explain to the reader your thought process and what your piece is all about.

Photo essays can be a fun way to present your work to potential clients or exhibit your work. By following these 5 easy steps, you’re sure to captivate your audience with your stories.

Photo essay themes and examples:

Beauty and skincare photoshoot for a potential client:

“Photographer pitching concept to a local South African skincare brand looking to
update and diversify their brand to reflect current trends.”

6 Easy steps to create an engaging photo essay

Personal project: Shadows

“Professional commercial photographer looking to reach a different demographic and
increase business by marketing a personal project reflecting photographic variety.”

6 Easy steps to create an engaging photo essay

Inspiration: Film photography

“Film photography enthusiast looking to market work and inspire fellow photographers
to dust off their vintage cameras and shoot film.”

6 Easy steps to create an engaging photo essay