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How to Write a Pictorial Essay

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Pictorial Essay

Most essays are aimed to depict events, objects, emotions and ideas through writing. Photo essays are quite different from such papers because they consist of many images sorted by a topic. You can use images in traditional essays as well, but they will serve rather as illustrations, while the text will perform all main functions. In case of pictorial essays, these roles are reversed: text elements are used only to support and describe images, which are the backbone of this essay type. Usually, a written text just describes details that can’t be seen in pictures. At the same time, images remain the main writer’s tool.

Now let’s take a look at the writing process in more detail. First of all, you have to clearly understand your task. Check all prompts and talk to your instructor if necessary. Familiarize yourself with criteria of your work, and think how you can get good images related to your topic. For example, maybe there is an upcoming event where you can take a lot of photos? If so, don’t miss your chance and arrange your work. You have to pay special attention to the background of your photo shoot, since pictures will be the crucial part of your essay. Think about the location and setting.

After you clarified all necessary details of the photo shoot, think of your audience. Who will read your essay? Will it be your teacher or your classmates? Don’t forget that you must choose your writing methods depending on the type of audience. Make sure that the information will easily reach your target audience. For example, if your essay is oriented towards children, you have to add more things that reflect their interests; you may also include some elements of play and use bright colors.

Before you start working on your essay, you have to define its purpose. All the elements used in the essay must serve this purpose. For example, if it’s aimed towards persuading your readers to take certain actions or to support a certain idea, you have to select your images carefully, making sure that they reflect your goal. Photo essays are somewhat more difficult than other essay types because your ideas must be expressed through pictures so you are unable to provide the detailed explanation of the purpose of the paper using long sentences.

Take More Pictures

You may be sure that you need, say, 20 photos for your essay. In this case, we suggest taking more photos. The point is that you have to take as many photos as you can to have something to choose from. It’s better to use only a quarter of photos in your essay than suddenly realize that you don’t have enough material. Some photos may seem quite useful while you’re preparing and collecting the material, but as soon as the major part of your essay is done, they may turn out to be not the best choice regarding the general context. In this case, it’s good for you to have more photos so that you’ll be able to replace these images with the better ones. Thus, don’t be afraid to take too many photos before you print them. Take your time and select a couple dozen best images from among a hundred. The more images you have, the more likely your essay will be interesting, diverse and coherent.

After you collected enough photos, you have to organize them to prepare for writing and plan the structure of your paper. You have to define your story and arrange photos in a certain order. We suggest using special word-processing programs along with programs that present series of photos as a slideshow.

Start with adding photos and write necessary descriptions or notes immediately for each one of them. Remember that the text must only expand the information expressed through the photographs. If you see that some images are unlikely to reveal your background story, text descriptions will help you a lot.

Don’t start writing your essay from the text parts. You don’t have to focus on the text more than on the images. Determine the general idea of your essay, and then select photos to illustrate your idea. Make sure that all your images are directly related to the topic of your essay, serving its informational and rhetorical purposes.

The written part of the essay must support and explain images. Thus, you have to write your descriptions and notes according to the message of each particular illustration. For example, if some image is funny, you have to point out what is funny about it, in the text. At the same time, make sure that the tone of your paper doesn’t change throughout the text. Just like any other essay type, this one implies writing a coherent and logically complete paper which is tied to the main topic and focused on the general idea.

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