As I said last time, I want to go a bit deeper into creating photo essays today. My last year at uni pretty much consisted of writing my dissertation and working on my final major project - a complete and in-depth photo essay.
I documented Zippos Circus, and got access to both behind the scenes and the main show (for more info on the upcoming exhibition scroll down).
Now, I don’t want you to feel like photo essays have to be huge and are something that only ‘professional’ photographers can work on. It’s simply about telling a story and can relate to any kind of photography. It doesn’t have to be focused on social or environmental issues either. Photo essays can be fun and short and sweet if you want it that way. Sure, you’ll feel great when you produce a long-term project that you put a lot of effort into, but the basics of a photo essay can be applied to any kind of photographic work - and I believe that keeping the structure of a photo essay in mind when producing a series of photos can really add value and strength to your work.
So, how do you go about creating a photo essay?
First, ask yourself what you want to document, what story you want to tell. Try to be specific, and really focus on a particular point you want to make. And don’t worry, it’s not set in stone, you’re still flexible and can change your chosen story later if you find that it doesn’t work.
Next, do some research or at least brainstorm some ideas of what kind of photos you’d like to get. This will help you to get the idea clear in your head, and make it easier for you when you actually start shooting. Also, you’ll be able to explain what you want to do to the person you are working with/you’re taking photos of.
Then start shooting. Brainstorming and planning and all that can be fun, but you’ve got to do the work. You have to get started to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Look critically at your photos, and get some outside feedback. Think about your chosen story again and the point you want to make, and evaluate how well your photos communicate that story. What photos do you still need? What is missing? What doesn’t work?
Then go shooting again. And again. And again. Keep repeating that process until you’ve got a complete set of photos which tell your story in a simple and clear way.
Finally, organise your pictures. What order do they go in, which structure tells the story best? Again, make sure you get some feedback and other people’s thoughts, going through the editing process on your own can be frustrating, and you most likely won’t be able to get the most out of your photos and create the best photo essay possible.
And to finish, please tell me what story you want to work on, no matter how big or small - I’d really love to hear! :)
By the way - if you want to get the chance to look at a lot of different versions of photo essays and see how different stories are being told through photos, come visit our final year exhibition at the London College of Communication between 2-7 June at Elephant & Castle. The show is open from 10am - 5pm every day (except for 7th June 10am - 4pm, and late night opening on 3rd June).
Would be great to see you there!