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Telling Stories With Photos

The Past Informs the Present

It turns out, telling stories with photos is kind of what I do. I suppose being a wedding photographer for so many years is why I have a tendency to want tell a bigger story. My goal as a wedding photographer was to tell the story of the Bride and Groom’s whole day, from getting ready to details to portraits to the ceremony to the party. And of course, all the people there celebrating them. I didn’t think in shot lists, I thought in story lines, in album content. I think in some ways, I still do.

Discovering Photo Essays

Somewhere in the recesses of my gray matter I must have heard of, known of, photo essays. But it was only recently that I really discovered them. But…not really knowing what a photo essay is until recently, I didn’t do it right. I didn’t plan or previsualize or think in an album like I did for weddings. It was more spontaneous, with random results, natch. Still, in retrospect, when I set out to photograph with a specific purpose, I can see that the photos I took were an attempt to tell a story.

I have since learned there’s a process to creating photo essays. There’s a lot of information on the interwebs, and for the most part, they agree on what constitutes a photo essay:

  • A photo essay has a specific topic or theme.
  • It can address a topic or issue or tell a story, usually in chronological sequence.
  • A photo essay includes a variety of images; 1-2 lead photos, different types of photos (angles, perspectives, details, etc.), and a final image or two to leave a lasting impression or offer a conclusion to your narrative.
  • It requires brutal editing. You will probably start with a hundred or so images that must be edited down to 10 or so.
  • A photo essay has a title and add a concise written statement.

My First Attempts

I recently participated in a year-end photography project; create a Photo Essay. I needed 8-12 images that told a story, without captions or extra text. I created two photo essays; the first one is from scratch using techniques I found on-line to help me plan the photo essay, and the second one is from my archives.

California Plein Air Artist, Faith Rumm

America’s Main Street, Route 66

I originally prepared these photo essays as a slideshow set to music to share as my end-of-the-year project. You can see the first one here and see the second one here. At the time, I used Adobe Spark, but it is now called Adobe Creative Cloud Express.

If you’re interested in making your own photo essays, here are some links I found useful:

How to Create a Photo Essay: Step-by-Step Guide With Examples – 2021 – MasterClass

Pictures That Tell Stories: Photo Essay Examples (

How to Make a Photo Essay: 5 Tips for Impactful Results (

Now that I know more about photo essays, I want to make more! I have lots of stories to tell in my archives, but as I said, my archive images are spontaneous and a tad bit random. So, I also want to work on creating more photo essays with a plan, a clear goal, and to work on making them more impactful.

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4 thoughts on “Telling Stories With Photos”

  1. Wonderful! Beautiful insight into your thought process. I loved the black and white shots along Route 66. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Denise, your organization & description of the essence of doing photo essays & slide shows is very well done. I. Thank you so much for sharing

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