Photo-Essay

Part 1: What is a Photo-Essay?
Part 1: What is a Photo-Essay?

In this first of three articles, we explain the basics of creating your own photo essay.

Imagine you want to tell a story, but you have to do it without using words. Instead, all you have are pictures. It may be hard to imagine – after all, isn’t it easier to just use words to explain your story?

Of course you could, but the beautiful thing about a photo essay is that you don’t need to explain. After all, a picture of a happy, smiling child or the busy scene of a night market is easily understood. What’s more, as social media connects us with people around the world, a photo essay can communicate with people who may not speak the same language as we do.

Basically, a photo essay is a series of pictures that tell a story. Think of it as visual storytelling. Just as a story has a theme, yours must have one too. To enter the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing and Photo Contest 2015, you must create your photo essay based on the theme “ASEAN Youth in Action!”

How do i begin?

Basically, a photo essay is a series of pictures that tell a story. Think of it as visual storytelling. Just as a story has a theme, yours must have one too. To enter the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Photo Essay Contest, you must create your photo essay based on the theme “ASEAN Youth in Action!”

Or you might enjoy visiting events like Festival Belia where there are lots of activities going on. This allows you to capture many different stories – you can focus on the visitors or a specific person and what they do; or you can pick one element, such as aspecific colour, and use that as an underlying theme to emphasise your pictures.

Example 1: Visitors leave messages at a ‘message tree’.

ie01

Example 2: Organisers with various tasks at Festival Belia 2014 – a photographer, a sales booth coordinator and a deejay hard at work at his console.

ie02

* Pictures courtesy of BijiBiji Initiative (http://bijibiji.com), taken by Chris Curzon. BijiBiji Initiative is a social enterprise that champions sustainable living to leave a positive impact on society and the environment.

Photo essays are a wonderful way totell stories in a different way – they can capture the mood of the moment,inspire people, evoke feelings, bring back memories, communicate emotions, or enable viewers to see something normal in a whole new light.

Top Tips

  • To tell a story through a photo essay, your pictures must work together as a series; random pictures put together, without any common theme, do not qualify as a photo essay.
  • Look for good examples and learn from them; you can look at samples from international competitions or from sources like National Geographic which are famous for their photography; try http://blogs.adobe.com/conversations/2014/08/the-ayv-awards-photo-essay-winners-communicating-meaning-without-sound-or-motion.html or http://education.nationalgeographic.com/media/file/GAW_photo_9-12edited922.pdf.
  • Practice and be persistent – if you’ve never tried creating a photo essay, you may feel frustrated or uncertain about your work. Practice with a variety of topics, locations and styles so you can develop your own style; ask friends for their opinion on your pictures so you can improve.
  • Take as many pictures as possible – you never know what will come in handy when you review them at the end of the day. Don’t be afraid to go back the next day, or the next, until you get the pictures you want. You may even end up with something different from what you originally planned for.

Submit your photo essay to the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015! Open to all Malaysians, participants aged 13-17 years must submit 3-5 photos and participants aged 18-21 years must submit 5-7 photos based on the theme “ASEAN Youth in Action!” Each submission must include Age Category and Serial Number, ie:c1s1 for age group 1 and photo 1 in the series. Captions up to 100 words per picture are optional but encouraged. Entries are to be submitted via Instagram by tagging @plfperdana and include the hashtag #AYAcontest2015. For further enquires, contact us or e-mail directly to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Watch out for contest updates on www.facebook.com/perdanaleadershipfoundation.

 

Part 2: Finding Inspiration for Your Photo-Essay
Part 2: Finding Inspiration for Your Photo-Essay

Now that you understand what a photo essay is, we look at how you can create one that tells a unique story.

Normal, everyday things can be wonderful subjects for your photo essay; you just need to look for something that inspires you.

Our daily lives are surrounded by people and things that have a story behind them, from the makcik who sells nasilemak by the roadside to the child who walks to school every morning with his little brother or sister.

You can choose to create a photo essay that tells a story over a period of time, showing how an event progresses, from how it is set up, to the actual activity and how it ends.This progression can be applied in different ways, such as capturing a young artist’s work in different stages of completion, from a rough sketch to the finished piece.

Another form of photo essays capture a specific theme, such as children eating ice-cream or something more serious like the aftermath of a natural disaster; whichever format you choose for your photo essay, you can create an additional layer of visual interest such as a colour or a common object that appears in each picture.

To create a photo essay for the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing and Photo Contest 2015, you need to find a story that reflects the theme “ASEAN Youth in Action!”. This can include any examples of young people in the ASEAN region doing something positive.

Getting Started

Your first step is to decide what story you want to tell. Try to choose a person or a groupthat personally inspires you; this in turn will help you decide on a location. The subject and location work together to help you create your photo essay and tell your story. Choosing something that interests and inspires you will allow your passion and emotion to shine in the pictures you take.

For example, if you love your community or kampong, you can create a photo essay surrounding an event such as a wedding or a gotongroyong to clean the neighbourhood. Events in school or college are also good opportunities for you to tell a story, such as fundraising activities, debates, festivals, concerts and sporting events.

Example 1: The setting up of a market, from the bare warehouse to the bustling crowds and ending with a bare space once more.

part02 ie01

* Pictures of Mari Market, courtesy of Justlife(www.justlifeshop.com). Mari Market showcases skilled individuals makers who share a passion for quality, hand-made and sustainable products and produce. They range from organic farmers to home-grown chefs, soap makers to craftsman creating everything from hand-sewn items to furniture.

Example 2: The creation of geodesic dome using discarded plastic bottles.

* Pictures courtesy of BijiBiji Initiative (http://bijibiji.com), taken by Chris Curzon. BijiBiji Initiative is a social enterprise that champions sustainable living to leave a positive impact on society and the environment

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Use your most powerful picture as your first, or lead, picture; it should be the most impactful image, evoking strong emotions or provoking the curiosity of the viewer.
  • A good photo essay engages with the viewer; it should not be monotonous. Experiment with different angles, distance, perspectives, and lighting to keep things visually interesting.

Submit your photo essay to the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015! Open to all Malaysians, participants aged 13-17 years must submit 3-5 photos and participants aged 18-21 years must submit 5-7 photos based on the theme “ASEAN Youth in Action!” Each submission must include Age Category and Serial Number, ie:c1s1 for age group 1 and photo 1 in the series. Captions up to 100 words per picture are optional but encouraged. Entries are to be submitted via Instagram by tagging @plfperdana and include the hashtag #AYAcontest2015. For further enquires, contact us or e-mail directly to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Watch out for contest updates on www.facebook.com/perdanaleadershipfoundation.

 

Part 3: Tips to Bring Your Photo-Essay to Life
Part 3: Tips to Bring Your Photo-Essay to Life

How can you make your story stand out? Try a few of these tricks.

You’ve heard the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. This means that every person can look at something and find beauty in it…or not. Thankfully, your photo essay isn’t just about looking beautiful – it’s all about telling a story.

The best stories are those that people can relate to, stories where listeners (or viewers) find they have something in common with the story being told. It’s the same thing you need to do with a photo essay – create something that people can relate to. You can do this through emotions, using your photos to convey happiness and humour, compassion or sadness.

You can add even greater interest to your photos by using different perspectives and lighting. For example, most people take pictures while standing up, with the subject of the picture right in the middle of the frame. Most people also use whatever natural light is available or use the automatic flash on their camera, which can be too harsh or too flat.

For the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing and Photo Contest 2015, your photo essay must be inspired by the theme “ASEAN Youth in Action!” Use the tips below to make your photos more interesting:

Instead of standing up, try kneeling or crouching low to the ground; using an upward angle can make your subject look taller or a small space seem larger.

Try taking a picture from above; this makes even normal things like shoes or a plate of food look completely different.

You can also try the opposite, by taking pictures from below - try lying under a tree and pointing your lens upwards.

Lighting can help convey emotions too – bright sunshine evokes positive energy while dark shadows feel oppressive and gloomy. You can also use contrasts in lighting for dramatic effect.

Zooming in or getting really close to your subject can give an interesting perspective too. If you zoom in on one object in front, with other items in the background, this gives your picture more depth. Generally, the subject in front receives more attention and you can create a beautiful effect by focussing tightly one item and allowing the rest of the picture to be slightly blurred or out of focus.

Remember, your subject doesn’t need to be right in the centre of the frame – the person or object can be off to the side; they don’t need to be facing the camera either - you can take a picture from the left or right, or even from the back.

There’s really no limit to all the different ways you can bring to your photo essay. Just as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, your unique perspective and vision is the most important element.

Top Tip

  • Feeling stuck? Creativity and inspiration can’t be forced, so give yourself some freedom to try something different.
  • If you don’t know where to begin, try a little photo project to warm up. It’s easiest to start with something you’re familiar with, such as a favourite movie, café, or a group of good friends willing to be your models for the day.
  • Even if you had a plan for your photo essay, don’t be afraid to look at different people or places – who knows, you might find a whole new story for your photo essay!

* Public domain images from gaderinge.com, skitterphoto.com, unsplash.com and morguefile.com

Submit your photo essay to the Maybank Foundation-Perdana Leadership Foundation Writing & Photo Contest 2015! Open to all Malaysians, participants aged 13-17 years must submit 3-5 photos and participants aged 18-21 years must submit 5-7 photos based on the theme “ASEAN Youth in Action!” Each submission must include Age Category and Serial Number, ie:c1s1 for age group 1 and photo 1 in the series. Captions up to 100 words per picture are optional but encouraged. Entries are to be submitted via Instagram by tagging @plfperdana and include the hashtag #AYAcontest2015. For further enquires, contact us or e-mail directly to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Watch out for contest updates on www.facebook.com/perdanaleadershipfoundation.

 

FaLang translation system by Faboba

Organised by

 
Maybank Foundation
Perdana Leadership Foundation

Media Partners

 
New Straits Times
Berita Harian
Metro

Supported by

 
MOE
MPH