Photo Essay How-to: Tips, Topics, Outline, Samples (2023)

HomePhoto Essay Examples, Tips, Hits, Outline, and 25 Topics

Photo Essay How-to: Tips, Topics, Outline, Samples (1)

Author: Margaret Vizenor

Published: 7/16/2019

Photo Essay How-to: Tips, Topics, Outline, Samples (2)15598

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So, you received a photo essay assignment and aren´t sure where to begin? No worries! We are here with examples and even some topics that are sure to be a big hit. In most cases, photo essays are not word-heavy but more concept-heavy.

(Video) Photo Essay Presentation

You must choose your words wisely as you let the pics do the talking. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and with a visual assignment, you get to prove that! Due to their ability to increase emotions and deliver a strong, lasting image to its viewers, the image-related homework has grown in popularity not only among journalists but around college campuses as well.

What is a Photo Essay?

So, you´re probably thinking, what is a photo essay? We´re glad you asked! The photo essay definition is not one that is easy to come by due to the variations in style. Its most basic definition is that of a set or series of photographs linked together to evoke the intended emotions in the viewers. These images are often very impactful and produce feelings at the first glance.

The variation not only comes from the type of pictures and the order in which you choose to place them but also in the use of words accompanying the visual data. It is possible to let only the images tell the story or choose wisely structured statements that will only add to the impact of your pictures. Check out some of our top tips to rock your essay and some further advice on making it a hit.

Top Tips.

  • Choose impactful images that truly convey the message you are going for. Remember the pics are the star here, and they need to be the center of all the attention.
  • When you do use words, make sure that they are congruent with the images and keep them simple. As stated earlier, it´s not what you say, but it´s how you word it that matters.
  • Organize your shots in a way where they tell the story before adding any words. In this way, you keep the focus on the images and only use the words to make an additional emphasis.

Make a Hit.

  • Choose a universally important topic. In this way, you´ll find ideally suiting images and will make a substantial impact on your readers.
  • Choose pics that make you feel something. You are the creator of this masterpiece and the first one to feel the kind of impact the shots have.
  • After you find a suitable image, take a second and write down everything coming to mind when you see it. In this way, you can narrow down the tone of your assignment and be sure to make your point clear and accurate.

Photo Essays Outline Example

Unfortunately, assignments based on images are quite a rare type of written assignment for students of non-art faculties, which is a shame. It seems a lot more fun than just pumping out words and turning in some boring essay! But is it wise to think of a photo paper as only a series of images? Not exactly, as this paper is also an academic assignment that has to meet certain academic standards. There is a specific outline to follow to make your home task make a point. Here is an outline example.

  • The lead image. Perhaps the most essential part of your essay. The lead pic not only introduces your topic but also engages your readers. Your goal here is to set the theme and context of your paper and to ignite an emotional connection through the image.
  • Informative image. After creating the initial impact, you need to give the reader a bit more information. Think of this as your introduction, where you inform the readers of the overall structure of your essay.
  • In-depth shots. Here you get more specific. Make sure that these pics are genuinely focused on the topic you are speaking about. The idea here is to inform the readers further and give them all the intended information. Think of this part as the body of your essay.
  • The clincher. This image is the last thing that your reader is going to see; therefore, it is essential to make it the most powerful, leaving the strongest impression on the reader, and matching the message you are trying to convey. So, make it a good one!

Great Photo Essay Ideas for Topics

Like we said before, try to choose photo essay themes that are universally impactful or interesting. In this way, people will not want to look away from your work of art. You asked, and we delivered – here is a short list of 25 topics that will get you that standing ovation. You´re welcome!

  1. Transforming power of makeup.
  2. Post-war cities.
  3. Abandoned towns.
  4. Impacts of global warming.
  5. Street art.
  6. People of the town.
  7. Natural disasters before and after.
  8. The epidemic of plastic.
  9. The fight for food.
  10. Cultures throughout the world.
  11. Religion.
  12. Architecture.
  13. Renewable energy.
  14. Trends.
  15. Advertising.
  16. Neighbors.
  17. A true look into hospitals.
  18. Campuses after mass shootings.
  19. Biography: you or someone important to you.
  20. Stages of pregnancy.
  21. Fashion.
  22. Relationships.
  23. Christmas throughout the world.
  24. Tattoos.
  25. College life.

Take a moment and choose some of your favorite. Then think about the types of images you could find over that topic. It can get the wheels in your brain, turning over how to structure your photo essay. These topics are a bit general and host a wide range of possibilities that are sure to get your message across.

Do’s and Don’ts of Writing a Photo Essay

Now that you know what a photo essay is and have a fantastic list of topics for inspiration let’s consider some do´s and don´ts when it comes to the actual writing process. After reading this, you’ll surely excel in the skill of such assignment’s creation, making your peers envy and ask you how to make a photo essay.


  • Choose a topic and stick to that topic. Make sure that all of your images genuinely tell a story and convey the meaning and message you are going for.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Use words and statements that add to the emotion or overall tone of your topic.
  • Make sure that your pics follow some outline or flow. If it helps, try and practice your presentation with only images and see if it makes sense on its own. Then you can add words to increase the effect.


  • Don’t choose too many impactful pics as you want your “clincher” to have the strongest, lasting effect.
  • Never explain the image in detail. Understandably, you may want to use words that add to the overall message you are trying to convey, but let the photo speak for itself. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words!
  • Don’t slop pics together. Remember this is not a show and tell of your vacation where the order doesn´t matter. Make these images follow some logical order. The clearer your message is without words, the more emotions you´ll evoke within your viewers.

In case you find yourself in a writer’s block and need some boost of inspiration, here are some tips to use:

  1. Take a walk: got a favorite part of town or a favorite park? Go for a walk and see if inspiration strikes.
  2. Get with the times: It may sound old school but pick up a newspaper or magazine for some inspiration. They do a fantastic job of using images that correspond with the story and message they are trying to convey. Most of the time, the image is more powerful than the words.
  3. Pump up the volume: Music has a way of bringing out thoughts and emotions. We know you have a favorite group or artist. So put your headphones in and turn it up, you´ll feel free, inspired, and relieved after!

Need Help with Photo Essays?

There are some fantastic resources when it comes to photo essay examples for students like you. Don´t be afraid to take advantage of free useful resources available on the Internet. Here you can find beautiful examples on every topic that will get your mind running with inspiration. But be cautious about copyright laws when it comes to using photos. If possible, try to use your shots for an added emotional effect. If you´re having trouble, also don´t hesitate to ask your professors or peers for advice.

It’s also OK to utilize some external help for the completion of a lovely image composition, which you may find here, in our company. We know that just like with traditional essays, the dreadful writer’s block is real for photo work as well. When inspiration isn´t striking, follow some of the tips we enumerated above or hire our professionals for assistance.

Our expert writers have many years of hands-on experience in dealing with assignments of all kinds, so they are always ready to help you create a photo assignment that will leave your professors and peers speechless. We hope that some of the tips and tricks have left you in the mood to brainstorm and given you some insight into the popular new form of writing, the photo essay. But even if they haven’t – we are here to provide you with a helping hand.

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How do you choose a topic for a photo essay? ›

If you're looking for photo essay ideas, consider: Focusing on a single subject for a day (known as a day in the life photo essay). Document local events, such as art shows, protests, or community gatherings — this is an endless source of photo essay topics. Capture social issues from your local area.

What are the examples of photo essay? ›

There are two main types of photo essays: narrative and thematic. A narrative photo essay focuses on a particular story that you're telling the audience while a thematic essay focuses on a particular subject. For example, a collection of people who visit a museum is a type of thematic photo essay.

What are the elements of a photo essay? ›

Possibilities, discovery, and stories: these are some of the most effective elements of a photo essay. Collections of images can help produce a narrative, evoke emotion, and guide the viewer through one or more perspectives.

How do I choose my topic? ›

Here are some tips:
  1. Choose a topic that you are interested in! ...
  2. Narrow your topic to something manageable. ...
  3. Review the guidelines on topic selection outlined in your assignment. ...
  4. Refer to lecture notes and required texts to refresh your knowledge of the course and assignment.
  5. Talk about research ideas with a friend.
30 Jul 2021

How do you select your topic? ›

Guidelines for Choosing a Topic
  1. Choose a topic that's appropriate to the length of your paper. ...
  2. Avoid a topic that will tempt you to summarize rather than to discuss or analyze. ...
  3. Choose a topic that interests you. ...
  4. If your assignment requires research, choose a topic on which you can find material.

What is the 7 tips for good photographs? ›

7 Tips For Taking Better Photos
  • How To Compose Great Photos. Great photos start with great composition: how you frame the shot and where you position different elements within the scene. ...
  • Keep It Simple. ...
  • Change Your Perspective. ...
  • Add Depth To Your Images. ...
  • Use The Sun To Create A Silhouette. ...
  • Look For Reflections. ...
  • Find Symmetry.

What 3 things make a good photo? ›

The three variables that matter the most in photography are simple: light, subject, and composition.

What are the 10 ways to make good photographs? ›

Top 10 Tips for Great Pictures
  1. Look your subject in the eye.
  2. Use a plain background.
  3. Use flash outdoors.
  4. Move in close.
  5. Move it from the middle.
  6. Lock the focus.
  7. Know your flash's range.
  8. Watch the light.

What is photo example? ›

The definition of a photo is an image that is taken by camera. An example of a photo is a picture from a baby's baptism.

How many photos should a photo essay have? ›

Four or five pictures might be enough for a photo essay gallery. For audio slideshows or video, however, you'll want multiple options for each of these photo types.

How do you describe a photo example? ›

Start with a summary, giving a general description of what's in the picture and what you can see. It's useful to imagine that the person you're talking to can't see the picture. Think: what does the other person need to know? What do you need to say so that other people can understand what's in the picture?

What is the best feature of a photo essay? ›

With a photo essay, you can tell a story without writing a word. Your use of composition, contrast, color, and perspective in photography will convey ideas and evoke emotions. To explore narrative photography, you can use basic photographic equipment.

What is the objective of a photo essay? ›

A photo essay is intended to tell a story or evoke emotion from the viewers through a series of photographs. They allow you to be creative and fully explore an idea.

What are the 3 steps in choosing topic? ›

Choosing a topic can seem like a daunting task, because without a clear topic, it can feel impossible to start your assignment.
We've compiled the following steps to guide you through choosing a topic.
  • STEP 1: QUESTION. ...
  • Step 3: Choosing a Topic.
24 Aug 2022

What is the first step in choosing a topic? ›

When deciding on a topic, there are a few things that you will need to do:
  1. Brainstorm for ideas.
  2. Choose a topic that will enable you to read and understand the articles and books you find.
  3. Ensure that the topic is manageable and that material is available.
  4. Make a list of key words.
  5. Be flexible.
2 Sept 2022

What are the three methods for choosing a topic? ›

Appeal, Appropriateness, and Ability. These are three main factors to consider when choosing a topic. All three factors are related to one another, but by systematically focusing on each one you will help address the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen topic.

How do you briefly explain a topic? ›

Describe your topic and identify the main concept

State your topic. It is often helpful to state your topic as a question. Identify your keywords (the main ideas of your topic). Think of different ways to describe your keywords.

What are the 5 most important things you will need to research about your topic? ›

5 Steps for How to Research
  • Step 1: Pick a Topic.
  • Step 2: Are There Enough Sources?
  • Step 3: Validation: Find the Best Sources.
  • Step 4: Make Notes.
  • Step 5: Organize Your Information.
19 Jun 2020

What are 5 elements of a good photograph? ›

Basically, there are five common elements that great images typically have; Good use of light, color, a captivating moment, correct composition for the given situation, and the photographer's choice of distance to their subject.

What are the 4 elements of a good photograph? ›

The scope of this article is to give an introduction to the basics of the four elements of photography: light, color, composition, and subject.

What is a photo essay? ›

A photographic essay or photo-essay for short is a form of visual storytelling, a way to present a narrative through a series of images. A photo essay delivers a story using a series of photographs and brings the viewer along your narrative journey. Examples of photo essays include: A web page or portion of a web site.

What makes a photo interesting? ›

Elements like lighting, the rule of thirds, lines, shapes, texture, patterns, and color all work well together to add interest and a great deal of composition in photographs.

How can I make a picture interesting? ›

  1. Create Visual Consistency by Focusing on One Colour.
  2. Shoot from Different Angles to Photograph Your Subject from a Refreshing Point of View.
  3. Use In-Camera Tricks to Make Simple Photos Look Unique.
  4. Focus Away From Your Subject to Emphasise Overlooked Details.
  5. Turn Everyday Items Into Exciting Photoshoot Props.

What makes a good photograph list? ›

What Makes a Photo Great | 5 Key Ingredients
  • Composition – Every image must have a solid composition and be organized. ...
  • Tells a Story – The best photographers tell a story through each image. ...
  • Lighting – Lighting plays a huge role in making a great photo. ...
  • Creativity - What's a great photo without the creativity?
10 Jan 2017

What is the importance of taking pictures? ›

Essentially, the purpose of photography is to communicate and document moments in time. When you take a photograph and share it with others, you're showing a moment that was frozen through a picture. This moment can tell someone many things, from the environment to what people are doing.

How do you write an essay on a picture? ›

Basic Guidelines On How To Write An Essay Describing A Picture
  1. Choosing words carefully. Perhaps you think that describing a picture is actually quite a simple process. ...
  2. Describe the picture with all five senses in mind. ...
  3. Show, don't tell. ...
  4. The picture in contextual terms. ...
  5. The form of the essay.

Does a photo essay have words? ›

A photo essay is simply an essay that uses images to tell a story or make a point. In a photo essay, images are placed in a specific order in order to send a particular message to an audience. Some photo essays will have text to support the photos or provide details, but some photo essays will have no text at all.

How do you conclude a photo essay? ›

Write a conclusion paragraph of 5-8 sentences to end your essay. A conclusion paragraph should offer the reader some hope for the problem. Offer solutions, and challenge the reader to change his or her behavior or thoughts. You do not need a photograph for this paragraph; it is optional.

What is photo in simple words? ›

Definitions of photo. a representation of a person or scene in the form of a print or transparent slide; recorded by a camera on light-sensitive material. synonyms: exposure, photograph, pic, picture.

How do you describe a good picture in one word? ›

Picture-perfect Synonyms - WordHippo Thesaurus.
What is another word for picture-perfect?
77 more rows

Why is picking an easy topic important in photo essay? ›

Find a topic you care about

Every good photo essay should start with an idea. Otherwise, you'll be shooting without a purpose – and while such an approach may eventually lead to an interesting series of photos, it's far, far easier to begin with a topic and only then take out your camera.

How do you write the title of a photo in an essay? ›

The classic convention for titling an image is to identify the subject (name the person, place or thing) and add the date of creation: if it's a photograph use the date of exposure; if it's a painting use the date of completion; if it's a composite photograph default to the latter; if it's an image of a historic event ...

How do you identify a topic in an essay? ›

Your strategy for topic identification is simply to ask yourself the question, "What is this about?" Keep asking yourself that question as you read a paragraph, until the answer to your question becomes clear. Sometimes you can spot the topic by looking for a word or two that repeat.

What is the most challenging part of creating a photo essay? ›

Pick a Topic

This is perhaps the hardest part of creating a photographic essay. The wisest way to approach this is to select a topic that won't be so hard to access — not just because it might be easy.

What is the importance of photo essay? ›

The photo essay is an engaging tool for teaching students important elements of narrative writing, media literacy, argumentation, and presentation. The strategic use of visual media to communicate, persuade, and inform is an important skill set that will prepare students for a variety of professional pathways.

Does photo essay have words? ›

A photo essay is a series of photographs that tell a story. Unlike a written essay, a photo essay focuses on visuals instead of words.

Does photo essay have caption? ›

A photo essay is a set of photographs selected to tell a story or make the viewer feel a certain emotion. Photo essays may contain no text. In this case, the photographs must speak for themselves. On the other hand, the photographs may have captions or brief notes to explain their meaning.

How do you make a good photo title? ›

To Start with your titles should always compliment the picture, narrating the nature of the image, loosening the complications if it had, & making the viewer understand it even better. It should give a hint to those surprises or the illogical nature of the image.

What is a topic example? ›

Topic Sentence: Cooking requires a number of different skills. The topic is "cooking" and the controlling idea is "many different skills." Topic Sentence: It is important to be ready before buying a house. The topic is "buying a house" and the controlling idea is “it is important to be ready."

What is the first step in writing an outline? ›

How do I write an outline?
  1. Identify your topic or thesis statement.
  2. Decide what points you would like to discuss during your paper.
  3. Put your points in logical, numerical order so that each point connects back to your main point.
  4. Write possible transitions between paragraphs.

What is topic and main idea example? ›

So, let's look at the topic. We know that the topic is autumn, because it is repeated, and everything is referring to it. “Autumn, or fall marks the transition from summer to winter.” is the main idea. This sentence includes the topic, and it also makes a main point about the topic.


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