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Describe the Picture

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The picture depicts a man who jumped off a plane. The man is slightly off center and is framed by the scene below him. It shows the man’s backside, his arms are spread open, his back is straight and his legs are straight and are close together. The man has contraptions strapped to his body, presumably devices that are attached to his parachute. It also shows the landscape below, a curved street with what looks like side walks or walking paths closely following the wider curved road.

The roads frame what looks like fields where a big white truck raises enough attention as well. Beside the big white truck are two striped tents and further beyond that are other structures, as well as people who are barely seen because of the distance from which the picture are taken. The people seem to be having a gathering in the wider parcel of field below probably awaiting the skydiver’s landing. Perhaps his skydiving act may be a highlight of the said gathering or event; that we can only assume.


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There are also other tracts of land framed by the road which appear clear and empty, devoid of the busyness of the tract of land where the gathering is taking place. Also, on the upper right hand of the picture, one can notice what may be a part of the parachute that the man is using. Two small rivets on one side of the device are seen in the picture but the strings that attach this to the person is not apparent.

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It was developed in black and white, which instead of making it dull and lifeless added more elegance and drama to the entire composition of the picture.

Read Also: Descriptive Essay Topics for College Students

It is believed that having the picture in color would be a bit “heavy” on the eyes of the people looking at the picture. This may be particularly true because color may take away the focus on the man who jumped off the place, which is the focal point of the picture, but may focus on the other elements in the same picture. The black and white tone of the photograph also lends hushed tones of grays aside from black and white.

Black is marked by the shadows and some figures on the landscape, as well as the clothes of the man on the picture. The trees and some shrubs are dark grays, while other elements are of a lighter shade of gray. White, on the other hand, is seen in the imposing white truck, the part of the parachute on the upper right part of the picture, as well as other elements such as some of the elements below such as the big structure on the field where the gathering is taking place.

The hazy smoke is also in an almost translucent white. Black and white is dramatically contrasted in the tents also found below. Based on the shadows that are cast as captured in the picture, one can say that the picture was taken when the sun is high on the horizon. This can be assumed because of the tall shadows cast by the trees and other forms set on the landscape below. The sun’s rays are also upon the skydiver, casting it on his head and body.

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Describe the Picture

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Basic guidelines on how to write an essay describing a picture.

So, you need to write an essay describing a picture. Are you struggling to know how to go about such a thing? Are you feeling like you’re at a loss and don’t know where to turn? Well, don’t worry. Here are the basic guidelines you need to know when you really want to hire someone to do my online class for me :

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Choosing words carefully

Perhaps you think that describing a picture is actually quite a simple process. Well, think again! You should describe the picture in question with so much colorful flair that your reader can’t ignore it. So think wisely about the vocabulary you use. Your choice of words will make all the difference in this type of essay. Think long and hard about which adjectives you use to make the description come to life.

Describe the picture with all five senses in mind

You should describe the chosen picture so that it touches upon all five senses. Describing a picture isn’t just about the visual aspect. If you are, say, describing a picture of a market place, you should describe the sounds, smells and tastes as much as the sights, and make the reader feel as though they could put out their hand and touch the descriptive scene.

Show, don’t tell

‘Show don’t tell’ is an important rule to learn when it comes to describing something. So instead of writing: ‘There were lots of people in the market place buying and selling’, you could instead write: ‘The market was so busy that people were bumping into one another, amongst the vibrant colors and rich smells of the luscious fruit and vegetables.’

The picture in contextual terms

If the picture in question is a work of art, your paper should also describe the picture contextually. You may want to write about the historical time of its creation, what life was like at that time and how the artist conveyed this, how the picture compares to others by the same artist etc. Don’t just think about describing the picture itself – also think about it from a wider point of view.

The form of the essay

Like any other essay, this paper will consist of an introduction, body text and conclusion.

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3 Tips for Writing Long Descriptions of Pictures

Describe what you see/what is visually evident. Long text alternatives for pictures verbally describe the appearance for the benefit of people who are unable to see them. They should simply answer the question, "What does the image look like?"

1. Describe From General to Specific

Be logical. In order to be easily understood, image descriptions of pictures should describe according to some logical sequence. Begin with a general overview of what the picture is or portrays, focusing first on an overview before providing details. Following the overview, various portions of the picture can be detailed, in some type of orderly fashion. One tactic is to explain the foreground, mid-ground, and background. In general, provide directions from the perspective of the viewer looking at the picture. For example, refer to the left or right side of a picture as if one was standing in front of it in a gallery. However, when describing people within a photo, it is better to use their perspective. This applies when mentioning a subject's "left hand" or "right shoulder."

2. Describe Objectively and Accurately. Don't Describe Motivations or Intentions.

Be objective. Descriptions of pictures should be straightforward and factual. They should avoid interpretations or emotional responses.

3. Be Descriptive. Try to Use Vivid, Imaginative Language.

Image descriptions should utilize vivid terminology to describe various features of the picture. For instance:

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How To Write A Descriptive Essay About A Picture: A Great Strategy

When writing a descriptive essay about a picture you have to repaint the picture with your words. More specifically this type of essay is about details and exploring the subject using the explanatory language that you are more likely to expect in fiction. Whether you are looking at a photograph or a painting, the person who composed that picture put meaning into his or her image. In writing about it, you must first be able to understand that message. But how do you go about analyzing the composition of a portrait?

These are all details that need to be included in your writing to prove you have an understanding of how the image works.

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How to Describe a Picture in English

essay on picture description

How to describe a picture in English?

You may also need to talk about a picture as part of a presentation or in conversation.

It’s a useful skill to have in English. It helps you to describe things you can see very clearly to others.

So, let’s take a look at how to do it.

Table of Contents

Introducing The Main Picture

You do not need to go into detail immediately. Just introduce what the picture is of — or who it is of — and say one or two sentences about it.

essay on picture description

So, if you were talking about the picture above, you might say:

This is a picture of a man. He is jumping in the air and it looks like he is on a beach somewhere.

You could also say:

This picture shows a man in a pair of shorts. He is on the beach and he is jumping up very high.

If you are introducing a photograph that you took yourself, then you can say this:

I took this picture when I was on vacation with my friend in Greece. He was feeling very happy that day, laughing and jumping around on the beach. So I took a picture of him just as he jumped in the air.

You don’t need to think of details or make it too complex.

Just give a brief introduction of what the picture is, who the person is, what they are doing and where they are.

That is all you need to say at this stage.

The Main Subject

Now you can talk about the main subject of the picture in detail.

The main subject of the picture could be a person or an object. It could be an animal too.

Usually, a picture has a subject. That is the next thing you talk about.

If the Subject is a Person or People

If the subject is a person or people, you need to describe them.

If you know the person in the picture — or you took the photograph — you need to add more information.

So, if we use the first picture as an example we could say the following:

He is a young black man. He is jumping up high. He looks very happy because he is smiling and has a cheerful expression on his face. He is just wearing a pair of shorts and it looks like he is on a beach somewhere.

Now if you took the picture, you could say this:

This is a picture of my friend Alex. We were on holiday in Greece last summer and we went to the beach. We were walking on the beach and Alex started jumping around on the sand. As he jumped into the air, I took a picture of him.

But It Could Be A Picture Of An Object

If it’s an object you need to think about the following things:

Take a look at the picture above of the house below.

essay on picture description

How to talk about this?

We could say:

This is a picture of a red house. It looks like it is in the middle of a field, probably the countryside. The house is red and the windows are painted white. The house looks kind of small and it also looks empty. I don’t think anyone lives in this house.

In this description, I mention the red house — so we know what it is and what colour it is.

I mention the surroundings — a field and maybe the countryside.

Then I give more description of the house — the colour, the windows and the size.

I also say that I think the house is empty. It doesn’t matter if the house is empty or not — this is just my opinion.

I could say:

In short, add a little story to the description.

It could sound something like this:

I was walking near my parents’ house. They live in a small town and as I walked across these fields, I saw this house in the middle of nowhere. It was in the summer, and I just looked at this strange house and had a strong desire to take a picture of it.

But What If The Picture Is Of An Animal?

Now take a look at the picture of the dog below.

essay on picture description

This is a picture of a dog. I don’t know what kind of dog it is, but it has very short hair and has a light brown colour. It looks like someone has caught the attention of the dog and it’s raising its paw at the person. Its ears are raised too, like the dog is excited or listening to something.

In this description, I say what the animal is — a dog.

Then a give a brief description of the dog — its hair and colour.

Then I talk about what the dog is doing and why. I also mention the dog’s ears.

If you took the picture yourself, you need to add some elements of story.

It might look something like this:

This is my dog, Bingo. Me and my brother were playing with him in my backyard a few weeks ago and I took this picture just as he raised his paw. My brother was about to throw a ball for Bingo.

Now we have more of a story attached to the picture of the dog.

Plus, we have some more detail of where it happened and who was there.

Talking About The Background

Once you have described the main subject — the person, the object or the animal — then you have to describe the background.

You can give a general description of the background — just as you do with the main subject of the picture — then you can go into detail.

So if we look at the man jumping on the beach again, what can we see in the background?

essay on picture description

You can describe the background generally like this:

In the background, there is a beach and a large part of the picture is the blue sky. There are some clouds in the sky. And if we look at the beach, we can see some people in the far distance.

That is all you need to say. You mention the main things you can see in the background:

No need to talk about anything else at this stage.

essay on picture description

Now this picture is a little different. Because we need to talk about the background and the foreground.

The foreground is the part of the picture that is at the front.

essay on picture description

In this picture of the house, we need to talk about that too.

So we could say:

In the background, it is mostly sky. The sky looks overcast and grey. And the house is standing on a field. We can see green fields all around the house and in the foreground too. And at the very front of the picture — out of focus — there are some flowers.

essay on picture description

In the background, it looks like a wooden fence and a gate behind the dog. And the dog is sitting on a section of concrete. Maybe it is a backyard of someone’s house. There are some cracks in parts of the concrete.

That is all we need to say for each of the three pictures. When you first start to describe the background, just give a brief introduction to what you can see. It is enough.

The next thing we can do is talk about it in detail.

How To Talk About The Details

Once you give your introduction to the background, you can talk about it in more detail.

Let’s look at the man on the beach again.

To talk about the sky might be a little difficult. But we can say what we think or feel about it.

So we could say this:

The sky is very blue, and there are very few clouds. I think this picture must have been taken in the summer. It just looks hot to me. And there are quite a few people in the background. I can see one man lying down on the sand — maybe he is sunbathing. The other people are wearing beach clothes — shorts and t-shirts. And in the far distance, I can see the sea. And on the sea, there are two or three boats, it is not very clear. One boat looks like it has a very high sail.

If you cannot see something very clearly in the picture, don’t worry. It doesn’t matter if you say two or three boats, for example. No one is going to correct you on this.

Just say what you can see.

What about the picture of the red house?

Again, just try to describe what you can see.

You might say something like this:

The house looks like it is built on a ridge on one of the fields. The ground rises up slightly in front of the house. And in the background, it looks like the land is rising down again in the opposite direction. There is nothing on the grass. Only grass. No flowers or anything else there. But there are flowers in the foreground. They are white. I don’t know what kind of flowers they are, as they are out of focus. And between the grass and the flowers, it looks like a path. The ground is grey, and it goes from one side of the picture to the other.

It is perfectly acceptable to say what is not in the background, but you cannot just say there is nothing here, nothing there, nothing over there.

The way I say there is nothing is that I focus on one subject of the picture — the grass — and then say what I cannot see on it. Because often we do see things on grass — flowers, birds and the occasional cow.

So that covers how to talk about the main subject and the background. But all three of these pictures are quite simple — just one main object and a plain and simple background with not much going on.

What if the picture was more complex?

How To Describe A Picture with More Complex Details

Take a look at the picture below.

essay on picture description

Notice all the different things in it?

Think about these questions before you begin to talk about the picture.

Let’s try to answer all of these questions now.

What Is This A Picture Of?

This is a picture of a woman in a kitchen. The kitchen is white and very modern and has a lot of space. The woman is making something on the stove.

So that’s a basic description of what we can see in the picture. This is an ideal introduction, and it tells us everything we need to know for the beginning.

What Is The Main Subject Of The Picture?

There is a woman in the centre of the picture. She is standing behind a stove and she is stirring something in a pot on top of the stove. She seems happy as she is smiling. And she is wearing a thick grey cardigan.

What Is In The Background?

essay on picture description

Now this is where it gets a little complicated…

Unlike the previous pictures which have a very simple background, this picture has more things in it — plus they are in different parts of the picture.

This is where we use phrases like:

Let’s look at an example of how to describe the background.

In the background of the picture, we can see the kitchen. Directly behind the woman is a counter — and on the counter is a sink. There are also some books on the counter. To the far left of the picture, we can see a few books stacked together. There is a small orange-coloured object holding the books in place. And at the other end of the counter, there are a few more books leaning against a cabinet. Above the counter are some cupboards. They all have white doors. It looks like there are five of them in total. There are some more cupboards below the counter. The sink looks like it is made of stainless steel. We can see the tap above the sink. In the background, to the right, there is a cabinet. In the cabinet is an oven and what looks like a microwave oven, too. They both look like very modern designs and they are both silver.

That gives a very clear description of what we can see in the background of the picture.

Notice that the description is all in order of location. It doesn’t jump from one part of the background to another.

So it talks in order of:

This is the best way to describe details in a picture. Do not jump from one part of the picture to another as it sounds confusing to the listener.

What Is In The Foreground?

essay on picture description

And then you describe the foreground. It doesn’t matter if you describe the background or the foreground first. But make sure you stick to one part and describe all of that before moving to the next part.

Let’s take a look at an example:

In the foreground, there is a shelf. It is white and l think it is made of marble. There are a few objects on the shelf. To the far left, there is a bowl of lemons. The bowl is white and there are many lemons in it — maybe more than ten. Behind the bowl of lemons, and to the left, is an orange-coloured pepper mill. And then to the far right of the shelf, there are some green vegetables. The vegetables look very leafy. Just to the left of the vegetables, and closer to the middle of the shelf, are three ceramic pots. They are all white and have light-brown lids.

Now there may be some vocabulary that you don’t know in the above description — words such as:

But you should get a clear idea of how to use phrases such as:

These are the kind of words and phrases that can help you explain where things are in the picture.

And if you follow the steps like that, you should be able to describe any picture at all!

But what if you don’t know the name of the objects you are describing?

How To Describe Things You Don’t Know The Name Of

If you see something in the picture and you know what it is in your own language, but you don’t know how to say it in English — don’t worry!

You can talk around it.

This gives you the opportunity to talk more and use more English. This is perfect if you are doing the IELTS speaking test!

Let’s take the picture of the kitchen and apply this technique.

In the last part, we talked about the foreground. Let’s try again — but this time we will talk around the objects we don’t know the name of.

In the foreground, there is a shelf. It is white. I don’t know the name of the material the shelf is made from, but it is a kind of stone. People often use it in their home as it looks beautiful. To the far left of the picture, there is a bowl. Inside the bowl is a lot of fruit. I can’t remember the name of this fruit, but it is yellow and has a very bitter taste. People often use it for cooking and you can make tea with it as well. Inside the bowl are ten of these fruits. And behind the bowl is another thing I don’t know the name of. You can often find this in a kitchen. People use it to make pepper into very small pieces. You turn the top and the pepper comes out the bottom in tiny little pieces.

Do you get the idea?

By describing things this way, you will find that you can actually talk for much longer.

And the examiner may give you extra marks for doing this too!

Talk About Your Impressions And Thoughts Of The Picture

A good thing to do when describing any picture is to give your thoughts on the picture.

There is no right or wrong answer when doing this, as you are just expressing your personal opinions. But it is a valuable thing to do, especially if you are in the IELTS speaking test.

Let’s go through all the pictures and look at some examples.

The Beach Picture

I really like this picture. I like the way the man is jumping in the air and I like the big smile on his face. It just looks like a really happy and positive photograph. And it looks like really nice weather in the picture too. It looks like it must be a hot day and the sun shining brightly. No wonder the man is smiling!

The Red House Picture

This place looks very bleak to me. Even on a nice summer day, it seems like it would be desolate and not an inviting place. And the red house is empty, which makes the place seem even more bleak. In the daytime, this place may be okay, but I don’t think I would like to be there at night. I imagine the house would be pretty scary at night.

The Dog Picture

The dog in the picture looks so nice. His fur looks really silky. I bet he’s a really friendly dog, I just have a good feeling about him.

The Kitchen Picture

This picture doesn’t look like a real photograph at all. It looks like advertising. No one has a kitchen like that in real life. And the woman is wearing a thick cardigan in the kitchen. Do people wear clothes like that if they are cooking? It doesn’t seem right. And the rest of the kitchen is so neat and tidy. My kitchen is not like that. I don’t know any kitchen that looks like that!

Remember — you don’t have to say what you think the examiner wants to hear. You can just be honest and say what comes into your mind.

Notice in the dog picture description, the speaker is saying things about the dog — how they imagine the dog to be in real life.

But it doesn’t matter. You can just give your opinion of what you think the dog is like in your imagination.

Describe The Picture By Telling A Story

If you are showing someone a picture or making a presentation using a photograph that you took yourself, then you can tell a story about it.

People love to hear stories, and by showing a picture that you took yourself, this is the perfect opportunity to tell the story.

We looked at some short story introductions earlier, but let’s look in more detail.

I took this picture of my friend Alex when we went on holiday last year. We went to this great beach, and the weather was just fantastic. Alex was in a really good mood that day and was jumping around on the sand. As he jumped in the air, I grabbed my camera and took a picture of him. It just shows him at the right angle as he is smiling and leaping in the air.
I was with my friend and my dog, Bingo. It was a few weeks ago, and Bingo wanted to play with us. My friend had a ball and threw it at Bingo for him to catch it. He was just about to throw the ball, and I took a picture of Bingo.
I was out in a field near where my friend lives. He lives in the countryside and this house sat in the middle of a field. I asked him if anyone lived there and he said no. He said the house has been empty for as long as he can remember. It didn’t look very inviting. There was no glass in the windows and inside was completely empty.

Please read my article on How To Tell A Story for more advice about using story and storytelling.

Describing a picture or photograph should be easy. As long as you describe the picture in order, you should be fine.

Just remember the order:

If you follow these steps, you should be able to describe or talk about any picture in English.

And remember — let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Share this:

4 thoughts on “How to Describe a Picture in English”

essay on picture description

Hey! I really like these steps. Thank u so much. I’m having a Duolingo test on Wednesday, so I reckon this will help

essay on picture description

Hi Denis! Glad it was helpful – thanks for reading! Best of luck with your test!

essay on picture description

Thank you so much that was incredibly helpful✨

Many thanks, Manar! Thanks for reading!

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essay on picture description

How to Write an Image Analysis Essay in 6 Easy Steps

essay on picture description

To write an effective visual analysis, all you need to do is break the image into parts and discuss the relationship between them. That’s it in a nutshell.

Together, we’ll analyze a simple image and write a short analysis essay based on it. You can analyze any image, such as a photo or a painting, by following these steps. 

Here is a simple image we’ll analyze.

essay on picture description

And we’re ready for the…

6 Steps to Writing a Visual Analysis Essay

Step 1: Identify the Elements

When you look at this image, what do you see?

So, let’s put on our Sherlock Holmes hat, grab a magnifying glass, and make a list of all the major and some minor elements of this picture.

What do we observe?

Great. These are all human elements. In fact, it would be useful for us to have two categories of elements: human and non-human. 

When we group elements into categories, it will help us later when we’ll be writing the essay. Categories make it easier to think about the elements. 

What other elements do we see?

Again, wearing our Sherlock Holmes hat, our job is to gather information that may not be immediately obvious or noticeable. 

Let’s take another look, using our detective tentacles:

It looks like we’ve covered all the elements. We’re ready to move on to the next step. 

Step 2. Detect Symbols and Connections

We will now look for symbols and any connections or relationships among the elements.

Identifying Symbols 

Great. Now, let’s see if we can make some connections and identify some relationships among the elements and symbols. 

We will use our imagination to put together some kind of a meaning. 

In analyzing an image, we want to understand what the creator or the artist is trying to convey. 

Do artists and photographers always want to convey something or is it sometimes just a picture? 

It doesn’t matter because we never know what the artist really thought when creating the work . We’re not mind readers. 

But we can always gather meaning using our own logic and imagination. We can derive meaning from any image. And that’s all we need to do to write an analysis essay.

Finding Connections and Relationships

Let’s allow our imagination to roam free and write down a few thoughts. Some ideas will be more obvious than others. 

We did a great job here and now have plenty of material to work with and write about. It’s time for the next step.

Step 3. Formulate Your Thesis

In this step, your task is to put together an argument that you will support in your essay. What can this argument be?

The goal of writing a visual analysis is to arrive at the meaning of the image and to reveal it to the reader.

We just finished the analysis by breaking the image down into parts. As a result, we have a pretty good idea of the meaning of the image. 

Writing the Thesis

This whole picture may mean something like the following:

This sounds good. Let’s write another version:

This sounds good, as well. What is the difference between the two statements?

The first one places the responsibility for the future of the planet on children. 

The second one places this responsibility on the entire humanity. 

Therefore, the second statement just makes more sense. Based on it, let’s write our thesis. 

We now have our thesis, which means we know exactly what argument we will be supporting in the essay. 

Step 4: Write the Complete Thesis Statement

While a thesis is our main point, a thesis statement is a complete paragraph that includes the supporting points.

To write it, we’ll use the Power of Three. This means that we are going to come up with three supporting points for our main point. 

This is where our categories from Step 1 will come in handy. These categories are human and non-human elements. They will make up the first two supporting points for the thesis.

The third supporting point can be the relationships among the elements. 

essay on picture description

For example, we have our elements, symbols, and connections. And we can structure the complete argument this way:

essay on picture description

All we really need is one way to organize our thoughts in the essay. Let’s go with the first version and formulate the supporting points.

Here’s our main point again:

Here are our supporting points:

Thesis Statement

Step 5: write the body of your essay.

At this point, we have everything we need to write the rest of the essay. We know that it will have three main sections because the thesis statement is also our outline. 

essay on picture description

Body of the Essay (3 paragraphs)

“The author of this photograph chose children and, more specifically, children’s hands in order to convey his point. In many, if not all human cultures, children evoke the feelings of hope, new beginnings, and the future. This is why people often say, ‘Children are our future.’ Furthermore, the children in the photo are of different ethnic backgrounds. This is evident from their skin colors, which vary from lighter to darker. This detail shows that the author probably meant children all over the world.

The non-human elements of the picture are the plants and the soil. The plants are very young – they are just sprouts, and that signifies the fragility of life. The soil in which they grow evokes the image of our planet Earth. Soil also symbolizes fertility. The clothes the children wear are summer clothes, and summer signifies freedom because this is the time of a long vacation for school children. Perhaps the author implies that the environment affects people’s freedom. 

Step 6. Add an Introduction and a Conclusion

Before we continue, I have an entire detailed article on how to write an essay step-by-step for beginners . In it, I walk you through writing every part of an essay, from the thesis to the conclusion. 


Let’s revisit our thesis statement, and then write the introduction. 

essay on picture description

And now let’s write an introductory sentence that would make the opening paragraph complete:

Your conclusion should be just a simple restatement. You can conclude your essay in many ways, but this is the basic and time-proven one.

Let’s do it:

We simply restated our thesis here. Your conclusion can be one or more sentences. In a short essay, a sentence will suffice. 

Guess what – we just wrote a visual analysis essay together, and now you have a pretty good idea of how to write one. 

Hope this was helpful!

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How to expand an essay – 4 tips to increase the word count, 10 solid essay writing tips to help you improve quickly, essay writing for beginners: 6-step guide with examples, 6 simple ways to improve sentence structure in your essays.

Tutor Phil is an e-learning professional who helps adult learners finish their degrees by teaching them academic writing skills.

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17 Awesome Photo Essay Examples You Should Try Yourself


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If you’re looking for a photo essay example (or 17!), you’ve come to the right place. But what is the purpose of a photo essay? A photo essay is intended to tell a story or evoke emotion from the viewers through a series of photographs. They allow you to be creative and fully explore an idea.

But how do you make one yourself? Here’s a list of photo essay examples. Choose one that you can easily do based on your photographic level and equipment.

Woman making a photo book on a laptop

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Top 17 Photo Essay Examples

Here are some fantastic ideas to get you inspired to create your own photo essays!

17. Photograph a Protest

Protests tend to be lively events. You will find people standing, moving, and holding banners and signs. This is a great way to practice on a moving crowd.

Try to capture the essence and atmosphere of the protest itself. There are many ways to do so and you will need to utilise all your skills.

Think about framing , composition , and perspective . Run to the front and capture the head of the group moving forward. Then run towards the back to capture the families walking along.

Street photography of a group of people protesting.

16. Transformation Photo Essays

Transformation is one of the most used photo essay topics. It is a great way to show change. The change can be slow, such as a woman going through pregnancy , or watching a baby turn into a toddler and beyond.

As a photo essay project, this doesn’t even need to be about people. A building being torn down and rebuilt can make for a great time-lapse or photo series.

This is a great way to practice how to show change through images. You will need to be creative and meticulous in your approach. You will need to take the same image over and over again, but changing them enough to be interesting.

A photo essay example shot of a couple, the man kissing the pregnant womans stomach

15. Photograph the Same Place

Have you seen the movie Smoke  with Harvey Keitel? His character goes out every morning at the same time and takes a photograph. The photo is from the front of his shop. He then prints the image and stores them in huge photo albums. Another character flips through these images to see all the different scenarios.

These are easy photo essays to do as you use a simple set up. It might be a challenge to find somewhere accessible to you at the same time every day. The great thing about this photo essay project is that you can create it about anything.

A photo essay example photography grid of 9 photographs.

14. Create a Photowalk

As a photographer based in Budapest, I give guided photography tours. The idea is that you join me for three hours, and in that time I show you the streets and how to photograph them.

You will learn about your camera, composition, and what to look for. There is nothing stopping you from doing the same in your hometown. This can make for really interesting photo essays.

Have a clear idea of what you want to achieve and create it as if you were teaching someone else. Look at reflections  in buildings. Or change your perspective to photograph people in different settings.

Street photography photo essay shot of a photographer in the middle of the street

13. Follow the Change

This photo essay is like the transformation essay but on a short-term basis. Think about men growing their mustaches for Movember. Or someone who wants to shave their head for charity.

You start by taking a before image, and the end result of an after image, with many photographs in between.

Portrait photography of a man shaving in the mirror. Photo essay examples.

12. Photograph a Local Event

No matter where you live, there will be countless local events throughout the year. They might be fundraisers, farmers’ markets, dances and festivals, or food and music. Their organizers will need a photographer. Even if it’s just for social media images .

They may even offer you money, and if not, they will share the images for you with your name attached. Here, you will capture candid images of people going about their day.

Documentary photography essay of a group of people at an event by a lake.

11. Photograph an Abandoned Building

Urban exploration or Urbex is a thing. It is where you enter an abandoned building for the sake of (interest and) photography. It is a great social commentary on the state of our world.

Abandoned buildings also show us how life used to be. It’s time-travel without a time machine. They make for great photo essays because there are so many details.

Get permission before entering. And be careful as these buildings can be dangerous. Photograph the rooms and the details. This means you’ll have to work with different lenses .

Atmospheric and dark photo of the interior of an abandoned building as part of a photo-essay

10. Behind the Scenes of a Photo Shoot

I used to assist  fashion photography studio shoots. This means I had the great opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes.

For me, behind the camera is way more interesting than what is happening in front of it. The models pose, and hundreds of images are taken, so it can be slow and drab.

Photograph of models and photographers behind the scenes at a photo shoot. Photo essay ideas.

9. Capture Street Fashion

If you have ever read FRUiTS magazine, you will know what street fashion can be like. I have even heard of a street in Milan where people walk up and down, showing off their best styles.

You can easily photograph these styles in a sort of street photography way. You will also capture portraits while having to be mindful of your environment and surroundings.

And you can even stop people in the street for a quick pose . Photographers have stopped in one location while photographing those who walk past. Here, the background stays the same, and only the people change.

Street photography portrait of a girl outdoors at night.

8. Landmark Photo Essay

One photo essay idea that I have always wanted to try is to photograph one landmark from many different vantage points. Think about it. Look at the Eiffel Tower and how many collections of images have been taken of it.

All are from many different angles ranging from many different distances away. This is a great way to practice your positioning and composition through different perspectives .

You can incorporate details and a down-up viewpoint. Or you can photograph it from above with a drone. And there are thousands of ways to capture it through streets and using reflections .

The landmark is your study and it will help you look at the light during different times of the day.

9 photo grid of the Eiffel tour. Photo essays examples.

7. Fathers & Children

We live in a very different time than we did 50 years ago. Or even 20 years ago, as more and more fathers stay at home and look after the kids. A great photo essay example would be to capture these small families to show this as social commentary for the times we live in.

These portraits and group photographs are a great way to practice and start building up a network of people. The first images are always going to be the most difficult to take. But once you pick up speed, you will have images to show and persuade the next group.

An essay photo of the silhouettes of a man and child standing in a dark doorway.

6. A Day In the Life

There are going to be many jobs and careers that people do that you have no idea about. A great way to understand what people get up to in their day-to-day is to follow them and photograph as you go.

For example, a photo essay entitled A Day In the Life of a Fireman will get you access to inside the station, documenting what they get up to on their downtime. You may not be able to go put out a fire with them, but you never know.

This is great practice for documentary images , capturing portraits and still life of all the equipment they use. Again, let them use the images for social media.

 Photo essay examples of a bright red and orange building under blue sky.

5. Education Photo Essay

One great way to support your community, and possibly even get some of your photographs published is to photograph inside a school. You may find it difficult at first, but lay down your intentions to those in charge.

Offer to let them use and share the image as they see fit. You now have a team of people sharing and liking your images. They are giving you promotion all over Facebook and other social media channels .

Get into the classrooms, photograph the students and the teachers during their daily grind. Be as invisible as you can, but involve and integrate those interested when and where you can.

Documentary photoessay example shot of a group of students in a classroom watching their teacher

4. Fictitious Meals

One great photo essay example is putting all those great works of literature to good use. Think about all of the meals that characters in books have eaten.

Some will be as fictitious as the names of the characters eating them. Think of the gruel in Oliver Twist. Make the meals as realistic as possible, with table settings and appropriate mise en scène .

 Photo essay detail of someone placing a sugar cube into a cup of tea.

3. Photograph Coffee Shops Using Cafenol

Cafenol is a film photography chemical that sits in place of the developer. The developer is what strips the film down to a negative after it has been exposed. The cafenol is made partly from instant coffee granules, hence the name.

A great photo essay idea would be to photograph a coffee shop, the staff, the patrons, and the equipment. Then use the coffee that they serve as a film developer.

A photo of a coffee shop interior created with cafenol.

2. Photograph the Photographers

How many times have you seen tourists photograph the same landmark ? These landmarks or points of interest are magnets for foreigners, all hosting cameras and taking the same shot. Sometimes, even pretending to hold up or grab the landmark themselves.

As the area in question has already been captured, why not go 180 degrees in the opposite direction for your photo essay. You will be photographing the photographers, who are the rarely seen artists.

Street photography of a group of media photographers.

1. Capture the Neighbors

One great photo essay would be to localize your efforts. No matter where you live, you will have neighbors. Unless you live out in the sticks, then you will have to find someone else’s neighbors. This would be a great way to get into portrait photography .

What a perfect scenario would look like is capturing the people in their own space. And everyone’s space is completely different.

You will come across stay-at-home fathers, night-shift workers, grandmas with heirlooms, musicians, and families. There is no telling what is behind these doors. It is a great way to work on your feet, and also meet those who make up your community.

Street photography of 2 pink front doors of brick houses.

Photo essays tell stories. And there are plenty of amazingly interesting stories to tell! Photographing photo essays is a great way to practice your photography skills while having fun. You might even learn something!

These photo essay examples are here to provide you with the inspiration to go out and tell your own stories through photos!

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Photo Essays

A photo essay is simply an essay that uses images to tell a story or make a point. In a photo essay, images are placed in a specific order in order to send a particular message to an audience. Some photo essays will have text to support the photos or provide details, but some photo essays will have no text at all.

Photo essays present well on the web. You can use free web space of your own to present your photo essays. Or, if you’re creating a photo essay as a part of a class, your professor may have a specific place for you to post your essay, such as on a class website.

Sample Photo Essays

If you aren’t sure what a photo essay is or even if you just want to feel inspired before you begin your own project, it can be helpful to take a look at sample photo essays. The samples below should get you started, but you can find more photo essays simply by searching for “photo essays” on the web.

A picture of a photo essay from Mother Jones website. Click the picture to view the photo essay.

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What is a Photo Essay? 9 Photo Essay Examples You Can Recreate

A photo essay is a series of photographs that tell a story. Unlike a written essay, a photo essay focuses on visuals instead of words. With a photo essay, you can stretch your creative limits and explore new ways to connect with your audience. Whatever your photography skill level, you can recreate your own fun and creative photo essay.

9 Photo Essay Examples You Can Recreate

Stories are important to all of us. While some people gravitate to written stories, others are much more attuned to visual imagery. With a photo essay, you can tell a story without writing a word. Your use of composition, contrast, color, and perspective in photography will convey ideas and evoke emotions.

To explore narrative photography, you can use basic photographic equipment. You can buy a camera or even use your smartphone to get started. While lighting, lenses, and post-processing software can enhance your photos, they aren’t necessary to achieve good results.

Whether you need to complete a photo essay assignment or want to pursue one for fun or professional purposes, you can use these photo essay ideas for your photography inspiration . Once you know the answer to “what is a photo essay?” and find out how fun it is to create one, you’ll likely be motivated to continue your forays into photographic storytelling.

1 . Photowalk Photo Essay

One popular photo essay example is a photowalk. Simply put, a photowalk is time you set aside to walk around a city, town, or a natural site and take photos. Some cities even have photowalk tours led by professional photographers. On these tours, you can learn the basics about how to operate your camera, practice photography composition techniques, and understand how to look for unique shots that help tell your story.

Set aside at least two to three hours for your photowalk. Even if you’re photographing a familiar place—like your own home town—try to look at it through new eyes. Imagine yourself as a first-time visitor or pretend you’re trying to educate a tourist about the area.

Walk around slowly and look for different ways to capture the mood and energy of your location. If you’re in a city, capture wide shots of streets, close-ups of interesting features on buildings, street signs, and candid shots of people. Look for small details that give the city character and life. And try some new concepts—like reflection picture ideas—by looking for opportunities to photographs reflections in mirrored buildings, puddles, fountains, or bodies of water.

2 . Transformation Photo Essay

With a transformation photography essay, you can tell the story about change over time. One of the most popular photostory examples, a transformation essay can document a mom-to-be’s pregnancy or a child’s growth from infancy into the toddler years. But people don’t need to be the focus of a transformation essay. You can take photos of a house that is being built or an urban area undergoing revitalization.

You can also create a photo narrative to document a short-term change. Maybe you want to capture images of your growing garden or your move from one home to another. These examples of photo essays are powerful ways of telling the story of life’s changes—both large and small.

3 . Day in the Life Photo Essay

Want a unique way to tell a person’s story? Or, perhaps you want to introduce people to a career or activity. You may want to consider a day in the life essay.

With this photostory example, your narrative focuses on a specific subject for an entire day. For example, if you are photographing a farmer, you’ll want to arrive early in the morning and shadow the farmer as he or she performs daily tasks. Capture a mix of candid shots of the farmer at work and add landscapes and still life of equipment for added context. And if you are at a farm, don’t forget to get a few shots of the animals for added character, charm, or even a dose of humor. These types of photography essay examples are great practice if you are considering pursuing photojournalism. They also help you learn and improve your candid portrait skills.

4 . Event Photo Essay

Events are happening in your local area all the time, and they can make great photo essays. With a little research, you can quickly find many events that you could photograph. There may be bake sales, fundraisers, concerts, art shows, farm markets, block parties, and other non profit event ideas . You could also focus on a personal event, such as a birthday or graduation.

At most events, your primary emphasis will be on capturing candid photos of people in action. You can also capture backgrounds or objects to set the scene. For example, at a birthday party, you’ll want to take photos of the cake and presents.

For a local or community event, you can share your photos with the event organizer. Or, you may be able to post them on social media and tag the event sponsor. This is a great way to gain recognition and build your reputation as a talented photographer.

5. Building Photo Essay

Many buildings can be a compelling subject for a photographic essay. Always make sure that you have permission to enter and photograph the building. Once you do, look for interesting shots and angles that convey the personality, purpose, and history of the building. You may also be able to photograph the comings and goings of people that visit or work in the building during the day.

Some photographers love to explore and photograph abandoned buildings. With these types of photos, you can provide a window into the past. Definitely make sure you gain permission before entering an abandoned building and take caution since some can have unsafe elements and structures.

6. Historic Site or Landmark Photo Essay

Taking a series of photos of a historic site or landmark can be a great experience. You can learn to capture the same site from different angles to help portray its character and tell its story. And you can also photograph how people visit and engage with the site or landmark. Take photos at different times of day and in varied lighting to capture all its nuances and moods.

You can also use your photographic essay to help your audience understand the history of your chosen location. For example, if you want to provide perspective on the Civil War, a visit to a battleground can be meaningful. You can also visit a site when reenactors are present to share insight on how life used to be in days gone by.

7 . Behind the Scenes Photo Essay

Another fun essay idea is taking photos “behind the scenes” at an event. Maybe you can chronicle all the work that goes into a holiday festival from the early morning set-up to the late-night teardown. Think of the lead event planner as the main character of your story and build the story about him or her.

Or, you can go backstage at a drama production. Capture photos of actors and actresses as they transform their looks with costuming and makeup. Show the lead nervously pacing in the wings before taking center stage. Focus the work of stagehands, lighting designers, and makeup artists who never see the spotlight but bring a vital role in bringing the play to life.

8. Family Photo Essay

If you enjoy photographing people, why not explore photo story ideas about families and relationships? You can focus on interactions between two family members—such as a father and a daughter—or convey a message about a family as a whole.

Sometimes these type of photo essays can be all about the fun and joy of living in a close-knit family. But sometimes they can be powerful portraits of challenging social topics. Images of a family from another country can be a meaningful photo essay on immigration. You could also create a photo essay on depression by capturing families who are coping with one member’s illness.

For these projects on difficult topics, you may want to compose a photo essay with captions. These captions can feature quotes from family members or document your own observations. Although approaching hard topics isn’t easy, these types of photos can have lasting impact and value.

9. Education Photo Essay

Opportunities for education photo essays are everywhere—from small preschools to community colleges and universities. You can seek permission to take photos at public or private schools or even focus on alternative educational paths, like homeschooling.

Your education photo essay can take many forms. For example, you can design a photo essay of an experienced teacher at a high school. Take photos of him or her in action in the classroom, show quiet moments grading papers, and capture a shared laugh between colleagues in the teacher’s lounge.

Alternatively, you can focus on a specific subject—such as science and technology. Or aim to portray a specific grade level, document activities club or sport, or portray the social environment. A photo essay on food choices in the cafeteria can be thought-provoking or even funny. There are many potential directions to pursue and many great essay examples.

While education is an excellent topic for a photo essay for students, education can be a great source of inspiration for any photographer.

Why Should You Create a Photo Essay?

Ultimately, photographers are storytellers. Think of what a photographer does during a typical photo shoot. He or she will take a series of photos that helps convey the essence of the subject—whether that is a person, location, or inanimate object. For example, a family portrait session tells the story of a family—who they are, their personalities, and the closeness of their relationship.

Learning how to make a photo essay can help you become a better storyteller—and a better photographer. You’ll cultivate key photography skills that you can carry with you no matter where your photography journey leads.

If you simply want to document life’s moments on social media, you may find that a single picture doesn’t always tell the full story. Reviewing photo essay examples and experimenting with your own essay ideas can help you choose meaningful collections of photos to share with friends and family online.

Learning how to create photo essays can also help you work towards professional photography ambitions. You’ll often find that bloggers tell photographic stories. For example, think of cooking blogs that show you each step in making a recipe. Photo essays are also a mainstay of journalism. You’ll often find photo essays examples in many media outlets—everywhere from national magazines to local community newspapers. And the best travel photographers on Instagram tell great stories with their photos, too.

With a photo essay, you can explore many moods and emotions. Some of the best photo essays tell serious stories, but some are humorous, and others aim to evoke action.

You can raise awareness with a photo essay on racism or a photo essay on poverty. A photo essay on bullying can help change the social climate for students at a school. Or, you can document a fun day at the beach or an amusement park. You have control of the themes, photographic elements, and the story you want to tell.

5 Steps to Create a Photo Essay

Every photo essay will be different, but you can use a standard process. Following these five steps will guide you through every phase of your photo essay project—from brainstorming creative essay topics to creating a photo essay to share with others.

Step 1: Choose Your Photo Essay Topics

Just about any topic you can imagine can form the foundation for a photo essay. You may choose to focus on a specific event, such as a wedding, performance, or festival. Or you may want to cover a topic over a set span of time, such as documenting a child’s first year. You could also focus on a city or natural area across the seasons to tell a story of changing activities or landscapes.

Since the best photo essays convey meaning and emotion, choose a topic of interest. Your passion for the subject matter will shine through each photograph and touch your viewer’s hearts and minds.

Step 2: Conduct Upfront Research

Much of the work in a good-quality photo essay begins before you take your first photo. It’s always a good idea to do some research on your planned topic.

Imagine you’re going to take photos of a downtown area throughout the year. You should spend some time learning the history of the area. Talk with local residents and business owners and find out about planned events. With these insights, you’ll be able to plan ahead and be prepared to take photos that reflect the area’s unique personality and lifestyles.

For any topic you choose, gather information first. This may involve internet searches, library research, interviews, or spending time observing your subject.

Step 3: Storyboard Your Ideas

After you have done some research and have a good sense of the story you want to tell, you can create a storyboard. With a storyboard, you can write or sketch out the ideal pictures you want to capture to convey your message.

You can turn your storyboard into a “shot list” that you can bring with you on site. A shot list can be especially helpful when you are at a one-time event and want to capture specific shots for your photo essay. If you’ve never created a photo essay before, start with ten shot ideas. Think of each shot as a sentence in your story. And aim to make each shot evoke specific ideas or emotions.

Step 4: Capture Images

Your storyboard and shot list will be important guides to help you make the most of each shoot. Be sure to set aside enough time to capture all the shots you need—especially if you are photographing a one-time event. And allow yourself to explore your ideas using different photography composition, perspective, and color contrast techniques.

You may need to take a hundred images or more to get ten perfect ones for your photographic essay. Or, you may find that you want to add more photos to your story and expand your picture essay concept.

Also, remember to look for special unplanned, moments that help tell your story. Sometimes, spontaneous photos that aren’t on your shot list can be full of meaning. A mix of planning and flexibility almost always yields the best results.

Step 5: Edit and Organize Photos to Tell Your Story

After capturing your images, you can work on compiling your photo story. To create your photo essay, you will need to make decisions about which images portray your themes and messages. At times, this can mean setting aside beautiful images that aren’t a perfect fit. You can use your shot list and storyboard as a guide but be open to including photos that weren’t in your original plans.

You may want to use photo editing software—such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop— to enhance and change photographs. With these tools, you can adjust lighting and white balance, perform color corrections, crop, or perform other edits. If you have a signature photo editing style, you may want to use Photoshop Actions or Lightroom Presets to give all your photos a consistent look and feel.

You order a photo book from one of the best photo printing websites to publish your photo story. You can add them to an album on a photo sharing site, such as Flickr or Google Photos. Also, you could focus on building a website dedicated to documenting your concepts through visual photo essays. If so, you may want to use SEO for photographers to improve your website’s ranking in search engine results. You could even publish your photo essay on social media. Another thing to consider is whether you want to include text captures or simply tell your story through photographs.

Choose the medium that feels like the best space to share your photo essay ideas and vision with your audiences. You should think of your photo essay as your own personal form of art and expression when deciding where and how to publish it.

Photo Essays Can Help You Become a Better Photographer

Whatever your photography ambitions may be, learning to take a photo essay can help you grow. Even simple essay topics can help you gain skills and stretch your photographic limits. With a photo essay, you start to think about how a series of photographs work together to tell a complete story. You’ll consider how different shots work together, explore options for perspective and composition, and change the way you look at the world.

Before you start taking photos, you should review photo essay examples. You can find interesting pictures to analyze and photo story examples online, in books, or in classic publications, like Life Magazine . Don’t forget to look at news websites for photojournalism examples to broaden your perspective. This review process will help you in brainstorming simple essay topics for your first photo story and give you ideas for the future as well.

Ideas and inspiration for photo essay topics are everywhere. You can visit a park or go out into your own backyard to pursue a photo essay on nature. Or, you can focus on the day in the life of someone you admire with a photo essay of a teacher, fireman, or community leader. Buildings, events, families, and landmarks are all great subjects for concept essay topics. If you are feeling stuck coming up with ideas for essays, just set aside a few hours to walk around your city or town and take photos. This type of photowalk can be a great source of material.

You’ll soon find that advanced planning is critical to your success. Brainstorming topics, conducting research, creating a storyboard, and outlining a shot list can help ensure you capture the photos you need to tell your story. After you’ve finished shooting, you’ll need to decide where to house your photo essay. You may need to come up with photo album title ideas, write captions, and choose the best medium and layout.

Without question, creating a photo essay can be a valuable experience for any photographer. That’s true whether you’re an amateur completing a high school assignment or a pro looking to hone new skills. You can start small with an essay on a subject you know well and then move into conquering difficult ideas. Maybe you’ll want to create a photo essay on mental illness or a photo essay on climate change. Or maybe there’s another cause that is close to your heart.

Whatever your passion, you can bring it to life with a photo essay.

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    A photo essay is a series of photographs that tell a story. Unlike a written essay, a photo essay focuses on visuals instead of words.

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