Persuasive Photo Essay Ideas

There’s something they say about words and pictures, so we won’t belabor this too much. Below you’ll find some of the most eye-catching photographs we ran on the site in the last year. Set aside some time to scroll through each one: They’re an amazing window onto everything that’s happening in the world–from Detroit’s collapse and the economic rise of China and the Middle East, to environmental disasters at home and abroad.

And then, less seriously, some great photos of those ridiculous fake tree cell phone towers, hilarious examples of what happens when strangers draw your Facebook photos, and a series of the true residents of Portland, who are crazier than anything you’ve seen on Portlandia. You’ll enjoy them all. And if that’s not enough, you can see our favorites from last year here.

1: Beautifully Mashed-Up Photos Show The Glory And Wreckage Of Detroit

The “Detroit Now and Then” project artfully combines vintage photos of the city with images of what’s there now, providing a poignant reminder of what the city was, what it is now and–maybe–what it could be again.

2: “Portraitlandia”: Photos Of Portland’s Most Portland-y Residents

If Portlandia were a photo series, it would probably look something like Kirk Crippens’s “Portraitlandia,” which features iconic Rose City residents in their natural habitats.

3: Look At These Chinese Workers Carrying Mind-Blowing Amounts Of Stuff

11: These Horrifying Photos Show A Destroyed American Landscape That Agriculture Giants Don’t Want You To See

These aerial images of industrial beef farming operations look less like shots of land and more like a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

12: These Photos Of Tiny, Futuristic Japanese Apartments Show How Micro Micro-Apartments Can Be

Micro-apartments are in vogue today. But in Japan, people have been living in the Nakagin Capsule Tower’s 100-square-foot housing for decades.

Read more of our best stories of the year in these categories: Top stories, infographics, photography, maps, buildings, design, cities, food, transportation, innovative workplaces, bikes, collaborative consumption, energy, crowdfunding, robots, environment, health, education

Argument in Photo Essays

If you’re building your first photo essay, get ready for an exciting challenge. A photo essay is essentially a story—or in this case, an argument—that is made through mainly images instead of text.

When you build an argumentative photo essay, just as with any other essay, you’re going think about what your main argument is and what kind of evidence you’ll use to support your claims. In the case of a photo essay, your evidence comes through visually, in pictures.

For example, let’s say you want to create a photo essay about people who live with food insecurity in your area. You would want to take pictures of people who deal with food insecurity, perhaps take pictures of their pantries and refrigerators. These pictures could be extremely powerful and persuasive. The appeals to pathos would be strong and moving.

Of course, you should be sure to get permission before you take anyone’s pictures, but photo essays can be a wonderful opportunity to express your creativity and make your argument in a powerful manner.

Sometimes, seeing an example is the best way to get started with a new project. The video below shows a sample student photo essay on the dangers of plastic. Notice the powerful argument the student is able to make by using images and very little text.

Saavedra, S. (2010, April 18). The plastic soup photo essay. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQh898IcOgM

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