...words and pictures can work together to
communicate more powerfully than either alone.
- William Albert Allard, Photographic Essay (American Photographer
Master Series) by William Albert Allard
What is a Photo Essay?
Creating a photo essay is a combination of
art and journalism.
As with a written essay, the elements of a
photo essay should be structured in a way
that easily conveys a story to the viewer.
Each individual photo contributes to the
overall story, theme, and emotions of the
The photos you choose must not only be
compositionally and artistically strong, but
also informative and educational.
Two Types of Photographic Essays
tells a sequential story
focuses on a central theme
Elements of a Photo Essay
The story- Your essay should be able to stand alone, without a
written article, and make logical sense to the viewer.
A range of photos: A variety of photos (wide angle, detailed,
portraits etc.) should be included.
The order of the photos: It is important that the order of your
photos effectively tell a story, in an interesting and logical
Information and emotion: Your photos should include both
informational and emotional photos.
Captions: In a photo essay, captions are your best opportunity
to describe what is happening in words and ensure that the
Types of Photos
By including a variety of types of photos in
your essay, you will ensure that it is both
interesting and informative.
Not only is it important to choose powerful
photos, but also to present them in an
The Lead Photo
Similar to the first two sentences of a
newspaper article, your lead photo should
effectively draw in your audience.
This is usually the most difficult photo to
choose and should follow the theme of your
It could be an emotional portrait or an action
shot, but ultimately it should provoke the
curiosity of the viewer.
Your second photo should set the stage and
describe the scene of your story.
An overarching photo taken with a wide
angle lens is often effective.
Your photo essay should include at least one
Capturing an emotional expression or telling
action shot can effectively humanize your
These photos often evoke strong emotions
and empathy in the viewer (whether it is a
positive and enthusiastic emotion, or a
sympathetic and concerned emotion.)
Detail photos focus in on one element, be it
a building, a face, or a relevant object.
These photos are your best opportunity to
capture specific objects.
The captions of these photos should be
informative and educational.
Similarly, close-up photos provide an
opportunity to focus in on specific objects.
These photos are tightly cropped, simple
shots that present a specific element of your
Again, this is an excellent opportunity to
present information in the caption.
The Signature Photo
The signature photo summarizes the
situation and captures the key elements of
your story in a telling moment.
The Clincher Photo
The final photo, the clincher, should evoke
the emotion you want the viewer to walk
away with, be it a feeling of hope, inspiration,
Decide on this mood before you select this
Order of Photos
While the order of some photos (e.g. the
lead photo, and the clincher) is set, the order
of most types of photos in your essay is your
Photographer Brooks Kraft captures the Chinese
president's historic meeting with Obama
Hu and Obama are saluted by an honor guard on the South Lawn.
Members of a military honor guard mark positions for flag holders.
Playing in the Band
A military honor guard marches past the jungle gym erected on the
The two presidents stand in their positions on the reviewing stand.
Obama and Hu shake hands in the crowd.
Across the street from the White House, demonstrators gathered to call
attention China's treatment of Tibet.
Across the Divide
Obama and Hu shake hands at a joint news conference.
Press and international media from both countries attended a joint
Hu looks at his notes during the press conference.
A Chinese journalist attends the press conference.
The Obamas wait in the White House portico to greet Hu before the state
What's on family dinner tables around the
globe? Photographs by Peter Menzel from the book
Japan: The Ukita family of Kodaira City
Food expenditure for one week: 37,699 Yen or $317.25
Favorite foods: sashimi, fruit, cake, potato chips
Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11
Favorite foods: fish, pasta with ragu, hot dogs, frozen fish sticks
Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
Favorite foods: soup with fresh sheep meat
Kuwait: The Al Haggan family of Kuwait City
Food expenditure for one week: 63.63 dinar or $221.45
Family recipe: Chicken biryani with basmati rice
United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week: $341.98
Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken
Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09
Favorite foods: pizza, crab, pasta, chicken
China: The Dong family of Beijing
Food expenditure for one week: 1,233.76 Yuan or $155.06
Favorite foods: fried shredded pork with sweet and sour sauce
Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27
Family recipe: Pig's knuckles with carrots, celery and parsnips
Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.53
Family recipe: Okra and mutton
Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55
Family recipe: Potato soup with cabbage