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While subjects and their interest factor are, well, subjective, when considering your subjects, you should ask yourself about your audience. Is my subject representative of the larger idea my photo essay is trying to convey?
There are two types of photo essays: the narrative and the thematic.
Narrative photo essays focus on a story you’re telling the viewer, while thematic photo essays speak to a specific subject.
For photographer Sharon Pannen, planning a photo essay is as simple as “picking out a subject you find interesting or you want to make a statement about.” The subjects of your photographs, whether human or not, will fill the space of your photos and influence the mood or idea you’re trying to depict.
The subject can determine whether or not your photos are considered interesting. I especially like to see how the light falls on their face and how a certain aesthetic might add to their persona,” says photographer Victoria Wojtan.
Collections of images can help produce a narrative, evoke emotion, and guide the viewer through one or more perspectives.
A well-executed photo essay doesn’t rely on a title or any prior knowledge of its creator; it narrates on its own, moving viewers through sensations, lessons, and reactions.
It can be difficult to objectively select your strongest images when creating a photo essay.
This is why putting together photo essays is such a useful practice for developing your curatorial skills.
Says photographer Taylor Dorrell: “After I have a group of images, I tend to think about color, composition, the order the images were taken, the subject material, and relevance to the concept.” Self-doubt can easily come into play when working with your own photography.
The adage that we are our own worst critics is often true.