How to Write a Photo Essay

To know how to write a photo essay one must understand that in this case, the picture remains the main focus while you write the words supporting the picture. A photo essay displays information which, if expertly done, can almost instantly convey information to the viewer/reader. It is no accident, therefore, that this type of image/text configuration is often used by the press where an ‘instant’ perception of events is required. The ancient Chinese proverb that: ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ is particularly relevant in this case as images can ‘speak volumes’.

To know how to write a photo essay, therefore, the writer must produce a skilful blend of image and text. Photo essays are often used where a chronological sequence of events is necessary. One example would be that of a ‘recipe’ where the photographs ‘speak for themselves’. A picture demonstrating the addition of sugar to a bowl would require only the simplest of captions: ‘carefully add sugar’. A more complex photo essay could be included in an automobile manual where the intricate disassembling of a carburettor would clearly benefit from a sequence of photographs.

Writing a photo essay

To successfully write a photo essay, it is necessary to add text which adds to the meaning of the picture rather than just repeat what the picture is communicating. In the above example of sugar being added to a bowl, the use of the word ‘carefully’ in the supporting caption explains ‘how’ the sugar should be added to the bowl and not that it merely should be added. Other examples where a picture alone may not clearly express meaning is when there is movement or heat or emotion. Likewise, a picture could easily produce an emotional response in the viewer/reader which would have been very difficult with the use of text alone.

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Text and pictures essentially combine to tell a ‘story’ and this is clearly the case in magazines and newspapers. The matching of a poignant photograph to text can effectively boost sales and increase revenue. Imagine, for example, reading a magazine feature on ‘boating’ or ‘railways’ without the combination of pictures to add meaning and interest. However, to know how to write a successful photo essay one must understand that the pictures are the star of the show with the supporting text cheering on from the sidelines. A picture must not be regarded as an afterthought but as the central and foremost consideration.

Features of traditional forms of text essay still remain in a photo essay and to know how to write a photo essay, one must consider that the piece must contain an introduction, main body and a concluding element. If a photo essay had a family holiday as its subject, then an introduction could be the picture of an aeroplane. It could even show someone in a mundane occupation, daydreaming about the forthcoming holiday. It all depends on the decided start point. Just as in a traditional essay, the concluding photo could come full circle demonstrating the inevitable return to normality.

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