Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to Create a Photo Essay: Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words?

“A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound.” (Ivan Turgenev).  

The adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a single still image. It also aptly characterizes one of the main goals of visualization, namely making it possible to absorb large amounts of data quickly.
We can’t be sure that every picture will tell the whole story. A single photo shows only one moment in time, without past and future. It will be easier to tell a story with a series of photographs (the photo essay).

By definition, a photo-essay (or photographic essay) is a set or series of photographs that are intended to tell a story or evoke a series of emotions in the viewer. A photo essay will often show pictures in deep emotional stages. Photo essays range from purely photographic works to photographs with captions or small notes to full text essays with a few or many accompanying photographs. Photo essays can be sequential in nature, intended to be viewed in a particular order, or they may consist of non-ordered photographs which may be viewed all at once or in an order chosen by the viewer.

A photo essay can include 3-4 images, as many as 10-20 or even more. It is a story which is told by one photographer. A picture story is a serious of photos taken by two or more photographers.
 There are narrative and thematic essays.  A narrative essay tells a story through a sequence of actions or events; often presents a story in chronological order. A thematic photo essay focuses on a particular theme (for example education, homelessness, etc.).

 All photographers (not only photojournalists) can use photo essays. Such famous photographers as Walker Evans, André Kertész and Sebastião Salgado to name a few, used photo essays.

There’s the same story telling techniques as in a written essay, transformed into visual images.
The written part of the essay will enhance the photo story with meaningful details. Text gives the opportunity to tell the rest of the story that the picture left out.

5 Photo Essay Tips.

1. Find a topic.
The first step in making a good photo essay is to find an idea.
It’s impossible to create a great photo essay when a photographer doesn’t care about the subject. Your story idea should be something that you are passionate about.
“If you are not passionately devoted to an idea, you can make very pleasant pictures but they won’t make you cry.” (Ruth Bernhard)
Decide on stories that can be told in photos. Since you won’t have many words to help you, the story needs to speak through photos.
Keep in mind the integration of your project to your future projects.

2. Find the “real story”.
The main details of each story create a unique photo essay.

3. Plan your shots.
You will want to think about the type of shots that will work best to tell your story. Creating a “shot list” for the story will help you. Each shot will work like a sentence in written essay and must emphasize a different idea or emotion that can be composed together with the other images for the final project.

4. Take your photos.
Take a large variety of photos to choose from. Take different photos: from different angles, distances and point of view; a series of different people in the same pose; the same photograph at different times of a day or a year; etc.

5. Create your essay in 3 parts:
• Introduction:
Make sure to include a lead shot that provoke the curiosity of the viewer.
• “Body”:
This part of the essay includes photos that set the whole scene, including portraits, detail photos, etc.
• Conclusions:
Use your clinching (closing) photograph wisely to evoke the emotions you intend.

If truth be told, you don’t have to be an incredible writer to create a great photo essay. All you need is a desire to share your passion and talents.

Thank you for reading!
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