How to quickly put a photo-essay together.

Yes, a good photo-essay is usually the product of months of careful work, countless evenings religiously spend in front of the computer monitor, honing every last detail until perfection is palpably within reach.

But actually, that’s not always true, for just because a great deal of time and effort has been invested in a project, that’s no real guarantee that it’s any better or more interesting than a project quickly thrown together spontaneously just for the fun of it.

This phenomena plays itself out across all creative fields.

Just because a talented young artist labours night and day for months working on his masterpiece, that doesn’t make it any better or more creative than the canvas produced in seconds by his accident prone assistant as he kicks over another bucket of paint,

These photo-essays are for this very reason to be treated as sketches, rough drawings, they are just for practice.


For anyone having difficulties, or suffering from a mental block, I’ll describe my method:

I load all my photos for a project into macOS-Photos, I then quickly look through them all once to get an idea of the range of images I’ve taken.

I then go through them properly and with an eye on the theme, rate them until I have maybe only the best 10 left.

I export these 10 and import them into Lightroom.

I then take this final series and make any adjustments to the colour balance and maybe crop them slightly if necessary, I spend at most 2-3 minutes on each image, because in my opinion if it needs any more it’s just a sign that I didn’t take it properly.

I then put the best 4-6 in the right order and then export them and give them all consecutive titles.

I don’t like spending too much time on this process, because science has proven again and again that an initial quick choice is just as good as a painful long drawn out decision.

This is just my method, the way I work, it’s personal to me, but everyone will have their own, I’ve just put mine here as a guide for those who are maybe unsure as to how to tackle a quick photo-essay project.

Ok, it’s maybe not perfect, but perfection is impossible to reach anyway, it’s as good as is possible in the time given – it’s supposed to be fun.

And the more often it’s done, the better at it everyone will get.

In more detail

  • Choose maybe 4-5 photos that you feel best describe the project theme.
  • Put these into a folder and give them a consecutive number and title according to display order.
  • Download this file from the folder on my Google-Drive:

  • Put this file in the same folder as the other photos, and because it’s named “0_NewPhotoSeries.jpg” it should become the first file in the folder list, and therefore the first photo in the photo series.
  • Upload the photos to the Meetup event page.
  • Give every photo a suitable caption, a descriptive title.
  • Put the kettle on and reward yourself with a fresh cup of coffee, you have hopefully completed today’s photo task, well done.

Further reading:

The photo-essay

Revisiting an old project

The Devil’s mountain

Working the subject

© Andrew James Kirkwood – 2017