Department of Creative Arts
St. Pius X High School

Ms. D. Gravelle

S4 - Photo Essay
A Day in the Life of a Pius Student





Narrative photo essays tell a story in a sequence, the same way you might read a story. There must be a flow to keep the viewers eye and emotion moving smoothly through the story. Think of your favorite book and how it kept you yearning for the next page. A good photo essay will hold you on each image but also make you want to explore the next image as the story unfolds.

While the photo essay should be able to tell a thoughtful and vivid story with out any text, captions are usually needed to clarify the message that viewers walk away with. More lengthy written pieces are optional. The ultimate goal is to hook the viewer into the theme and evoke their emotional connection to the story.

To tell the story, a range of purposeful images should be included in a well-planned format. The goal is to invite the viewer in and guide them through the story, just as they would move through an engaging book or view a dramatic play. The idea is similar, to quickly hook the viewer and set a scene and then lead them carefully as the action may rise, climax and fall back to a moment of resolution.

The number of images and the presentation order is generally at the photographer’s discretion. However, during an interview with The Candid Frame (Perello), William Albert Allard shared the following photo essay outline used while on assignment for National Geographic:

LEAD PHOTO: Hook the viewer and provoke their curiosity while encompassing the theme of the essay

SET THE SCENE: A broad description of the location. A high vantage point is helpful for this image. Look for layers in a landscape to create depth.

PORTRAITS: These images are essential for evoking the emotional, human connection between the viewer and the story.

DETAILS: By focusing on only one element the viewer can be clearly guided through the story - a pattern, a face, a building. A caption should clarify the significance of this image to inform and educate.

CLOSE-UP: An opportunity to pull the viewer closer to explore the abstract and artistic elements within the story that could be easily overlooked. Dirty hands, coffee beans, woodgrains – these images offer another opportunity to inform and educate through well written captions.

THE PHOTO: Henri- Cartier-Bresson would call this ‘the moment’. This is the image that freezes the whole story and wows the reader. If they only remember one image, this is the one!

CLOSURE: Before selecting this image, know the mood you want the viewer to leave with. Sadness, anger, hope, excitement – this closing image should pull and hold an emotion.



S4.A1.1 - Research

Read the article The Life Magazine Formula for Visual Variety in the Photo Essay

Sumarize the following:

Introductory shot
Close Up

Look at the following sites for ideas

S4.A1.2 - Planning

Your photo essay will have 7 photos. Complete the information below and have your idea approved by your teacher.

Lead Photo - How will I capture the attention of the viewer.

Set the Scene - How will I set the scene?

Portraits - Will this be an actual photo or a metaphor?

Details - How will I show details that are interesting and prpel the story forward

Close- up - How will you pull the viewer in closer?

The Photo - How will you know which one is THE one?

Closure - What emotion do I want the viewer to leave with

For each photo include the following information


S4.A1.2 - Photograph

Shoot multiple images for each photo using different composition, lighting, depth of field. Modify your photographs in Photoshop using photographic techniques/manipulation to create your finished work.

Write captions for all of your photos.

Post your photo essay

S4.A1.3 - Artistic Statement

Write your artistic statement explaining your influences, artistic process, and photographic/digital manipulation techniques that you used.

S4.A1.4 - Reflection

1. What part of your finished project did you find most successful and why?

2. What part of your finished project did you find least successful and why?

3. If you had to do this project again, what part would you change or improve on and why