If you are working on your photo essay and would wish to know how to create a successful one, we have some tips, tricks, and techniques outlined in this article. With the sophistication of digital publishing, you need to be on your A-game when creating digital photos that tell a story.

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As a custom essay writing service, our ultimate goal in this article is to guide you on creating a photo essay without straining. We like it when writing, and creativity is fun altogether. Therefore, we have outlined examples, classifications, and a framework that you can use when creating your photo essay.

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This article also bears the definition of what a photo essay is. And although you could use this as a professional or a student, you can pay someone to do your essay on our website. When you do so, a polished essay writer will work with you in creating a good photo essay,

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We have creatives with expertise, a knack for experimentation, critical thinking and creativity, and an insatiable urge to produce top content. If it sounds like you could use our help, let us know the best way we can assist you in creating a perfect photography essay.

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If, however, all you need is insights to point you in the right direction, here is how to create a good photo essay without straining. Let’s explore!

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What is a Photo Essay?

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Visual storytelling appeals to everyone who has a sense of sight.

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Unlike your typical essay in college, a photo essay is a project where you present a series of photographs or images to tell a story, share a narrative, or push a theme/agenda. Thus, a photo essay facilitates picture-led storytelling, which is a creative innovation in photojournalism.

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It is also known as a photographic or picture essay. A great photo essay powerfully evokes emotions and appeals to the understanding of its intended audience without using words or with minimal words alongside the series of images.

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A perfectly-created photo essay narrates a story using many photographs that take the viewer along your narrative journey. Indeed, it proves that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, since there are many pictures/images, you could say a photo essay is rich in words, flavor, and content, yet it does not have words.

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Talking of photo essays, Ansel Adams is one of the revered and famous photo essayists. Other photo essayists include James Nachtwey, Eugene Smith, and Nancy Borowick.

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How to Create a Photo Essay in a step-by-step format

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Here is a step-by-step approach to follow to successfully create a compelling and engaging photo essay:

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Step 1 – Do your Research

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If you are to create an attractive and relevant photo essay, begin by researching the best framework to adopt. Look at what people are doing out there and find out how creatively you can do it better. There are inexhaustible ideas and concepts that you can explore when writing a photo essay. If you’ve not chosen a topic, thorough research can help you decide on a topic and handle it well.

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Step 2 – Choose a theme for your photo essay

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With the research, you can already identify a specific theme or narrative for your picture essay. Therefore, highlight the theme or narrative, write some notes about the direction you will tackle and how you will reach and satisfy your audience.

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Step 2 – Choose a topic that aligns with the theme

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Following the findings from your research, choose a great topic. You are not that lucky photo essayist who opportunistically happens upon a story and turns it into a brilliant photo essay. Therefore, you should choose an attractive, reasonable, short, and memorable topic. You are free to select any topic that interests you and one that you find fun to work on. Your chosen theme or narrative can help define the topic for your photo essay.

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Step 3 – Pick your subjects

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With the theme/narrative and the topic, you can then choose your subjects. These are the people, things, sceneries, or places of central focus in your photography essay.  

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The subjects are the ones that give your photo essay a voice, strengthen your narrative, and engage the audience.

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Step 4 – Select your top images

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Define the appropriate number of images that you intend to use when telling the story. For example, if you intend to leave the audience under suspense, choose which images to use and their order of appearance.  Your photo essay project does not have to use all your images but the best.

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The best way to integrate your theme, narrative, and subjects is to create a storyboard that helps you decide how to tell the story. Then, when you lay your ideas out, a storyboard helps you focus on what is essential, especially when you have little control over a given subject.

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Step 5 – ask for insights and input from others

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After creating the storyboard, choosing the photos, and writing a narrative or theme statement, you can share it with someone knowledgeable for critique. You should also invite views and comments from another person. Ensure that you give the entire photo cache to the person so that they can choose, then compare with your best photos and tweak your choice accordingly.

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Step 6 – Write the captions and text

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With everything set, write the accompanying content for your photo essay. As well, make sure you caption each photo to enhance your visual narrative. Nothing is cast in stone here because you can also drop using image captions. You can experiment with lighting, tone, color, composition, angles, and location so that the narrative flows. Also, don’t forget to create introductory messages and closing messages. You need to have your signature introductory and closing images well-decided.

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Step 7 – Edit your work

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Now that you have created a photo essay, it is now time to edit everything. You can ask for help or rest and do it when you are energetic and objective. If you want a skilled essay writer to write you an excellent narrative to post alongside your photo essay, you can always trust our essay website.  We can also edit the narrative to maintain a good flow.

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Step 8 – Publish/submit your work

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If everything else is okay, convert the photo essay to the correct format and submit or publish it. Remember, photo essays can be a portion of a webpage, a webpage, a document, fashion publication, photo editorial, collage of images, or mixed media.

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Helpful Tips when compiling your Photographic Essay

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If you are on track to become a photo essayist, you need to grasp the most critical photo essaying tips, techniques, and tricks. Here is some best advice you could use to find a subject for your photo essay.

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1. Try to tell a diverse and confident story

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When you get out there to tell a story, make sure you do it most awesomely. Understand your target audience, do anything that will resonate with their needs, appeal to their emotions, logic, and thoughts, and leave them musing over your narrative. It is, therefore, vital that you consider what your key message will be and be confident when handling it in your photo essay.

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2.Storyboard before building

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Architects, surgeons, artists, engineers, you name the profession, all begin with either a sketch, blueprint or a plan to visualize the entire concept or creation before its actualization. In the real of photo essays, you have to be invested right from the beginning. Therefore, you need to create a storyboard that helps you to convert your vision, abstract thoughts, and ideas to a concrete plan that you can execute to succeed in your project. A storyboard also doubles as a shortlist for your photography project.

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When storyboarding, you will notice that you take an outsider view, which helps you evaluate how every element fits into the larger picture – your narrative/theme. When doing it, you can discard otherwise burdensome but irrelevant content, which saves you time and leaves you to focus more.

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Storyboarding is a critical, creative step when building a perfect photo essay as it ensures the flow to your viewers.

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3. Have a visual structure

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A contemporary photo essay follows a simple or basic framework that gives your theme direction and scope. Therefore, having a visual structure, marker, or framework helps you transform the photo series into a narrative. For instance, this Growing up young photo essay published in the BBC chooses to have quotes from the subjects running alongside the photos. Likewise, the picture essay done by photojournalist Stefanie Glinski titled  One Month in Kabul Under Taliban rule – a photo essay has narrative and captions to further illustrate the themes, content, and narratives.

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4. Have a variety of images

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To write an exceptional photo essay, ensure that you have as many photos or images as possible. Assemble as much as you think you will need for the project, then use your ruthless photo editing skills to pick the best photos.

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Although shedding content hurts, it’s the only best way to achieve the best piece. It is also better to be in a dilemma of which photos to use than wish that you included a specific shot. Having multiple shots ensures that everything is captured. Then compiling your photo series becomes easier.

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5. Edit your photos well

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When editing, do it ruthlessly. While you cannot be Annie Leibovitz, Stefanie Glinski, or Ansel Adams, you certainly have to up your game to be at par with them. You can either use a professional editor. Alternatively, you can edit your photos using Photoshop, Illustrator, or other image-editing software. Whatever you choose your struggle to be, ensure that you end up with high-quality photos that make sense to your theme or narrative. If you have to refine an image to remove blemish or flaws, use it as long as it ends up fine. Make sure that the focus of each photo is visible and that unwanted areas are cropped out. If you are editing on your own, edit the photos a few days after the shoot to have an objective mind when doing it.

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6. Choose the top 10 images

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You are not just going to lazily throw images and words all over a structure and have it for the best photo essay out there. Instead, you need to select quality photos that will tell your narrative. Be keen enough to ensure that any photo that makes it to the top 10 list is compelling and poignant. If you notice that you don’t have good equipment to produce or capture quality photos, don’t be afraid to pull in a professional photographer.

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7. Use outside input to perfect your choice

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When working on a photo essay project, you are not necessarily an island. The photo essayists we’ve mentioned work with teams. You equally need to get a trusted, visually active, and sophisticated individual, professional, or friend to help you.

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Have them look at the photos you took and ask them to choose the best. As well, provide them with a written description of your narrative and ask them to select their 10 best photos.

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Compare their choice with yours and if they differ, make a point of asking the reason. Listen keenly and tweak your narrative and choice as they most likely reflect what an audience would perceive from the photo essay.

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8. Select the best photos from the best

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Based on the reasons from your external source (friend, editor, or photographer), select the 10 best photographs to use in telling your story. As well, change the narration if there is a need to tweak it.

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9. Write reasonable captions

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For your final choice of 10 images, write a befitting caption that will help to enhance your visual narrative. You need to be concise, brief, and clear. If the photos have a strong or exciting background story you wish to run, have the narrative written as content alongside the photos.

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However, if you feel like the images can stand alone without captions, don’t beat yourself over it; leave them out. After all, using captions is not a must.

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Look at this example of Black Lives Matter Photo Essay (Link to external site).

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Apart from the caption, you can add text that contains data, complex metrics, or maps to support your narrative. Using maps can help drive the point home.

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10. Focus on the details

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Yes, the devil is always in the details. When you eventually display your photo essay to an audience, everybody analyzes it their way. However, when you capture the details, you will take care of each perspective, judgment, and reasoning from your audience. Ensure that you place everything in context and that everything is up to date.

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11. Make it fun

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Unlike college essays that come with challenges, creating a photo essay should be fun. Therefore, enjoy every bit of the project. Doing so helps you to step up your game, inspire creativity, and relaxes your mind. There is nothing creative and innovative you cannot do in a photo essay with a let loose sort of spirit.

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12. Set the scene

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When telling a story through photography, you are equally writing your story. Therefore, ensure that you set a scene to capture the moment that appeals to your audience.

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For the events that you have no control over, try as much as possible to take photos that match your narrative or theme.

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13. Experiment more when taking photos

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There is no single bullet to creating an outstanding photo essay. To achieve perfection, let your photo essay express your story in the best way it can. Therefore, you need to test filter effects, use fonts, adjust the visuals, check the contrast, adjust color, hue, and feel, and crop your photos well. With experimentation comes creativity and innovativeness, which birth perfection.

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Classification of Photo Essays

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In terms of classification, there are two general classes of photo essays where all the genres of photo essays fall. These classes are narrative and thematic.

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1. Narrative Photo Essays

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A narrative photo essay, as the name suggests, tells a specific story. But, mainly, these types of photo essays tend to tell a peculiar and more direct story.

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Unlike thematic photo essays, narrative photo essays give less freedom to the photo essayist. The use of text is to have some sense of completion to the story.

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For instance, the 28 Days in Afghanistan by Andrew Quilty published in the SBS is a narrative photo essay that documents the photographer’s experience in the war-torn nation using both text and unadulterated photos.

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The picture essay by photojournalist Stefanie Glinski titled  One Month in Kabul Under Taliban rule – a photo essay also falls under this category as it highlights her one-month encounter in Kabul.

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2. Thematic photo Essays

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Thematic photo essays are topic-specific. For example, they can be on politics, pollution, police brutality, global pandemic, poverty, crime, etc.

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You have the freedom of choosing the subjects, location, and you do not necessarily have to incorporate text.

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An example of a thematic photo essay is the “They call us bewitched” picture essay published in the Guardian. We also bumped into the Olympics Photos: Emotion runs high by the NBC News, which we find as an excellent thematic photo essay. Next, look at this Hurricane Katrina photo essay. It is thematic in the sense that it focuses on a natural disaster. Finally, if you want more examples, this photo essay titled “From Trayvon Martin to Colin Kaepernick” details the theme of Black Lives Matter/ police brutality.

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Typical Photo Essay Examples/Genres to inspire your creativity

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  • The daily life photo essay – A Day-in-the-life photo essay tells a story about the day-to-day life of a given subject. It could be a lawyer, president, celebrity, farmer, industrialist, pope, student, etc. most of these photographic essays evoke emotions and help the audience enter into the subject’s world.
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  • Transitioning through life photo essay – These are essays that detail photos of how people transform through life. It can be a photo of a celebrity, president, farmer, or famous person since they were young to date.
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  • Special events photo essays – As the name suggests, these are photo essays on special events, festivities, and occurrences. The events can be weddings, burials, art exhibitions, car shows, auction events, or celebrations. They have very elaborate and relatable background objects that connect to the main idea.
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  • Family photo essays – These can be photo essays on family members. You can include photos that show how the family has grown or detailing the family tree. They can also be family business photos that detail the leaders assigned roles to family businesses.
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  • Protest photo essays – These are thematic photo essays that detail how protests occurred and paint a clear picture of the theme of such protests as the Black Lives Matter protests. When creating a protest photo essay, you should have information about the particular protest. Focus on incidents and protests that occurred in history.
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  • Sports photo essays – Sports essays can be on sports events such as Olympics, Wimbledon, football leagues, or about sportsmen and women. For instance, the Skysports’ picture essay on Diego Maradona titled Diego Maradona: Images of a football Icon.
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  • Medical Photo Essays – Organizations such as WHO, Universities, or CDC have various examples of medical photo essays. These visual illustrations focus on medical research, medical practice, diseases, and medical breakthroughs.
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  • Scientific Photo Essays – Like medical essays, these photo essays detail scientific encounters, breakthroughs, inventions, etc.
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  • Celebrity photo essays – You can create a photo essay on a celebrity.
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  • Political photo essays are photo essays that capture and narrate political events, history, and news in a series of photographs and narratives. It could be about leftist and rightist politics or geopolitics as well as policy-making.
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  • War photo essays – Captures the critical and significant elements of conflict, war, and peace. There are many samples online.
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  • Timelapse photo essays – These are transformational photo essays that capture the changes of a subject through time. They might take longer to develop and can be on buildings, estates, cities, trees, or landscapes.
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  • Relationship photo essays – This photo essay genre captures the interaction between people, families, and loved ones. It is the most common assignment in journalism class. It offers an excellent chance to capture emotions like love, family, and friendship.
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  • Poverty photo essays – This genre of photo essays captures poverty from the standpoint of the subject. They can contain infrastructure, housing, amenities, food, water, etc. They are very emotional and can use narratives. They are the same as drought photo essays that capture how the drought has ravaged a geographic region of interest.
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  • City photo essays – These are photographic essays that capture a city’s feel, life, and pleasures. They are thematic in nature and allow you to focus on specific areas, moods, and feeling that such places evoke.
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  • Education photo essays – Details issues in education. For instance, it can be a photo essay showing the disparity in access, challenges in education, or infrastructure in education. An example is The Many Faces of Learning, published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Another one is Embracing Education, published by the Lutheran World Federation.
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    As long as you can think of any topic, there is always a picture or photo essay genre where it can fall under. Remember, you can be asked to create a photo essay on a Word Document or PDF for class, which is where you get the chance to display your prowess and creativity.

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    Common Photo Essay Examples

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    Here are the famous photo essays that you can draw inspiration from:

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  • Various American Natural Sites by Ansel Adams
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  • “Everyday” by Noah Kalina
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  • “Signed, X” by Kate Ryan 
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  • “The Vietnam War” by Philip Jones Griffiths
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  • “The Great Depression” by Dorothea Lange
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    Structure/Anatomy of a Photo Essay

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    Here is a blueprint or skeleton of how a basic photo essay can look like

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    Introductory text/content

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    This is where you type the text that explains or introduces the photo essay to your audience.

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    Signature Image

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    This is the strongest image that has a visual impact on the story you are running. It should be an image that invites the viewers to your story to be interested in looking further. In simple terms, this is your window, attention grabber, or icon; make it count.

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    Portrait

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    This is the picture of a key player or the main subject of your story. You must ensure that the foreground and background elements reinforce the theme or narrative.

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    Where the subject is caught in real moments, such as in environmental portraits, is reportedly more compelling. You can use a series of posed portraits as well.

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    Overall wider view

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    This is the photograph that gives the viewers a sense of the place or part of the place where the story happens. You use such images to create a scene. It can also be a series of detailed images bundled together to set the scene.

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    Detail

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    Here, you need to follow up with a photograph that explains the finer details. The photo can be abstract but eye-catching in the sense that it draws the attention of the audience. It should be an image that reveals to the audience some aspect that is otherwise missed in a wider shot. You are allowed to use series of small detail photos as a mosaic in one image.

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    Action

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    When defining an action, look for a photograph that shows the main theme in your story. For instance, if it is a Black Lives Matter protest, focus on a photo that captures banners, police, and protesters.  Specifically, focus on the most poignant or dramatic images that capture people interacting with one another. You can as well capture gestures or moments that amplify the visual narrative you want to communicate.

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    Closing Photo and text

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    This is the powerful closing photograph that lets your audience ponder more about your visual narrative. You can follow it with a text highlighting the thoughts you want the audience to reason with as they come to the end of your photo essay.