How to write a great photo essay: ideas and examples

If you are looking for answers that may help you understand how to write a photo essay, you are in the right place.

What is a photo essay?

Photo essays are gaining popularity. Many bloggers and magazine writers are telling their stories using photo essays. However, great photo essays require a great deal of creativity and innovation to present an influential story.

Photo essays are a completely different storytelling methodology. In a photo-essay, we tell stories by still images. Every image should show a particular action. When all the pictures are put together, they begin telling the story.

What makes a photo essay special?

A photo essay is unforgettable. It is so because it captures the imagination and gives it a perspective. A photo essay can present an opportunity, a tale, and a belief all at the same time. The photo essay story can be thought-provoking, confusing, emotional, and hilarious simultaneously. This nature of the photo essay makes it memorable.

How to write a story in a photo essay?

The man is standing in a garage beside a table. We see him from his right side; he uses a hand electric saw to sever the wood. Then soon places his tissue on his head to clean the sweet. He stands with confidence with both of his arms open.

Surprisingly, we only need four pictures to tell the above story. It clearly reveals that the story is about a self-made carpenter who loves his work.

How to write a great photo essay?

A great photo essay requires a range of images, a clear story idea, and their arrangement in a story form. In photo essays, a picture is like a sentence; the objects inside it are the words, and their order makes it a story.

Your creativity can make your idea a great photo story.

Ideas to write a great photo essay:

Are you looking for a great photo essay idea that is novel but lasting? Here are some great ideas for your new photo essay.

  • The life of a subject essay:

This kind of photo essay focuses on how a person lives his daily life. We can use this method for showcasing the lifestyle of an artist. We can also tell the story of the regular chores of a maid. Or explain how a woman may be suffering from harassment in society. Moreover, the story told by this form of photo essay can be very touching and emotional. The storyteller can inspire people to act with such stories.

  • Landmark storytelling photo essay

This kind of photo essay opens up the idea of landmark and monumental recognition. In a landmark storytelling photo essay, the storyteller can reinforce the ideas of nation-building. Additionally, this form of photo essay can be intimidating, raising the feeling for the nation.

  • Natural site photo essay

The natural site photo essay can be a fabulous way of narrating a great traveling story. Drone images and still images from the timescale recording can be a great way of giving these stories life. Other than traveling blogs, this way can be a great way to express natural heritage and resources.

  • Backstage photo essay:

A backstage photo essay is a very creative way to tell what goes on behind the scenes. Such a way of storytelling can be great, if your story focuses on the complete movie production funnel. If your story reflects the efforts of a director, this is your perfect storytelling method.

  • Event-based photo essay:

An event-based photo essay can cover a lot of stories. If you are looking for a story in an event, this is a perfect photo essay method. A fundraiser event and an art festival can be covered by this method. Some exceptional pictures of people moving around can be an excellent way of covering an event.

Some ideas for a great photo essay:

Photo essays are unforgettable, but they can also be very influential. The stories covered in a photo essay may be very consequential. Following are some great ideas to write a photo essay:

  • Covering a Protest

You can cover a protest by the photo essay. If you cover a protest by a photo essay, it should present the intent of the protest. The essay should also show the intensity and ideals of the protestors.

  • Daily chores of a person

Covering daily chores can be intimidating, but it can also explain the ups and downs of life. These chores can describe life in a deep way.

  • Transformation:

This sort of story can explain the changes. Find a subject that is in the middle of the transformation. This can be a man growing his beard or an ice melting. Moreover, such transformations can tell the audience how changes take place.

  • A whole day report:

This sort of photo essay focuses on covering places that you can visit in a day. It can be an amusement park or a hiking mountain. When you target such places, capture the entrance. Then as you move, your story should develop with you. Take the most exciting rides and reach the most famous locations of these areas. They would act as a vantage point for your reportage.

  • Create meaning for street life:

Many people imagine the street as a busy area for movement. But it can also be an area where homeless people live. Hit the streets and take as many pictures as you can of life on the streets. Present your story as a life that is usually ignored by the working middle and upper class. While you are shooting images, focus on taking pictures of people that pass by these homeless people.

  • Neighborhood story:

Every neighborhood has its own story. Some neighborhoods have borderlines; others are complexly interconnected. Find out the story of your neighborhood. You can also create a walk through the neighborhood story. In that story, you can picture your house as the starting point. Then move through the neighbor, keep each house’s door in the middle of the camera and focal point directly straight, arrange the pictures in an orderly manner. You will have created a great neighborhood-story.

  • Hospitals photo essay:

COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways; many people are trapped in the lockdowns. The hospitals have seen numerous changes too. There are new isolation wards in hospitals. Everyone is required to wear masks and maintain social distance. However, the hospitals carry within them a story of care and sacrifice. Capturing these stories in photos will be a photo essay of the year.

  • Factories:

Although photo essays are a great way of telling incredible stories, they can be a cool copy for any business. Think of a story of a cool burger that starts in a clean kitchen of McDonald’s. Then the burger goes to a hungry customer who is with his family. The satisfaction the family gets. And the happy sleep their children get. Thereafter the idea of a happy meal pops up. This can be a fabulous advertisement feature for any other business.

Tips for creating a great photo essay:

Well, now you have some great ideas, but how you will approach these ideas also matters. So here are some pro tips for you to start your photo shooting and essay development. Understand them thoroughly if you want to write a great photo essay.

1. Research, Research, Research!

The story in any given scene lies underneath the blankets of the dark. To unveil it, you need to strive incessantly. The more you research, the better you will understand the topic. This understanding will give you an advantage over your competitors. It will also give you a taste of good pictures.

2. Instincts lead intention to success:

The prodigy with the instincts is that it gives you directions even before knowing the right and wrong of a problem. We don’t call this judgment; we call this natural guidance. Shoot everything that your instincts call upon. It can be resourceful. You never know what may help and what may not.

3. Be ruthless in choosing the images you use:

When you are writing a photo essay, you need to carefully choose the images that best explain your story. It can be tempting to select a good picture because of its great image. However, such an approach can only disturb your story. It will shatter your photo essay’s idea and make it forgettable.

4. Keep your mind open for opportunities:

You have captured many images, and you are successfully implementing your original ideas. That is great. But when a new idea pops up that is better than your original plan, you should not desist from implementing it. These are the traits of a great photojournalist.

How to write a great photo essay step by step:

Before you begin writing an essay, always note the problems you may face while writing your photo essay. Overcoming these hurdles is essential. It can be some territorial limits or licensing issues. Deal with that first.

Step # 1: Tell a novel story

When you start writing your photo essay, the first thing you should do is think. Think about the ideas that you have and the way you can present them creatively. Lookup for the message you want to deliver in your story and take the pictures with that purpose in mind.

Step # 2: Take a large variety of picture:

While shooting pictures, you need to make sure that you have taken many pictures. You don’t want to stop the editing part and go back again looking for more images. This will waste a lot of your time and resources.

Step # 3: Do a killer editing:

Editing is a tough job; it requires skills and strength to judge properly. Any image that does not support your story should be rejected.

The whole process should be neatly done so that all irrelevant pictures may be left out of the process.

Step # 4: Pick a limited number of images for your story:

Select 10 to 15 great images that can be part of your story. Scrap all others or keep them for your later projects. However, some experts suggest that this selection process should be spread over four days. Each day limit the number of images you like, and at the end, limit your pictures to the last 10-15.

Step # 5: Show your images to others:

Like any other piece of writing, a photo essay can be improved drastically if reviewed by others. Choose a set of people for the review, a qualitative random selection. Also, present your selections before your colleagues. Closely observe their reactions. So, listen to what they say. However, avoid any person that you think is biased due to his relationship with you.

After you have taken note of the observations and review, be realistic. Only make those changes that matter the most.

Step # 6: Reselect for the final time:

This time cut out the five that least fit in the story. By doing so, you will give a great story to all the images you have. This will be like giving life to a scene.

Step # 7: Add text to images:

At this stage, you are already done. But sometimes, you need text to describe your story better. You can add a description, captions, and alt texts for this purpose if you are publishing it online. However, if you think your work stands out on its own, you do not need to add any text and publish it right away.


A great photo essay is unforgettable. It is interesting, emotional, and thought-provoking. Writing a great photo essay is not so difficult if you follow the procedure. These simple seven steps ensure you succeed in developing a photo essay with an inspirational and lasting impression.

However, always be sure to follow the proper practices for each kind of essay idea. You must take the proper route for each idea. If you are writing a story about the hospital, you should ideally represent something relevant to most people. Like, COVID-19 and the care the hospital provides.

Moreover, there are these important tips that you can follow to correct yourself whenever you feel lost. These tips will guide you through all the obstacles you may face while writing an effective photo essay.

Finally, I have also enlisted some hot ideas for your next photo essay. Check them out again and comment on how you think you can cover these story ideas.

Some example of great photo essays:

You can find many great photo essays online as well as in magazines.

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