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How to Create Compelling Photo Essays: Top 5 Tips


Here at OurManyStories we spend a lot of time looking at photo stories, talking and thinking about photo stories, and creating our own. If you’re starting out on the path of visual storytelling, documentary photography or photojournalism, here are our top 5 tips for putting together a really unforgettable photo essay.

 Compelling Photo Essays - Image by Kazi Riasat Alve



1. It starts with an idea

When an idea grabs you and doesn’t let you go, there’s a good chance it will have the same effect on others. Start out with a strong idea and it will also help give your photo story meaning, purpose, structure, and a clear focus.


2. But still, it’s all about the light

The essence of great photography is light. Without light, there is no photography. Think carefully about your light source when you plan your shots and when you are shooting, as each one will give your photos a very different quality. Learn the differences between early morning, mid-day and late afternoon light, and how to make the most of them. Also consider natural lighting, street lighting, studio lighting, and flash, and what each could mean for your subject.


3. Engage, engage, engage

You want the viewer to connect with your subject, so you too should connect with your subject. Talk with people, ask questions, take the time to get to know who and what you’re shooting and to uncover the real stories or the heart of your photo story.


4. Sequence your story for a good photo essay

Include a variety of perspectives or points of view to introduce your story and tell it in sequence. These may include:

  • A strong opening, ‘establishing’ or overview shot that places the audience in the story – often a wide angle view, sometimes aerial
  • A medium-range shot that introduces us to the subject matter before getting up close and personal
  • A portrait
  • A close-up detail shots – great for transitions between images
  • Shots that show action or interaction – something happening!
  • A closing shot, or resolution of some kind so the audience isn’t left hanging


5. But don’t be afraid to experiment, and to break the rules

Just know what rules you’re breaking, and why!

Remember to keep OurManyStories in the loop about your photographic projects and photo essays because we love seeing them but also so we can share them here and on our social networks with the OurManyStories community.

Avatar of Kazi Riasat Alve
Kazi Riasat Alve, a self taught photographer based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a business student but his serious passion about photography lead him to become a photographer. His special interest in photography is people, basically he loves to portray the lifestyle of the people around him. Right now he is taking photographs a freelancer but for a few months he contributed in a Vienna based photo agency named Palavra Press. He is also an advisory member of his university's photography club named Independent Photography Club (IPC) and conducted weekly workshops arranged by the club. His photographs exhibited in Singapore, Australia, India & his home country Bangladesh and he's received international awards includig Peple & Planet award, Foto4All magazine's award. Flickr:
Avatar of Kazi Riasat Alve

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