Documentary Photography

Documentary Photography

Photo: © Ernie Sarmiento

Photography is a language, and while a single photo can be incredibly powerful, what's even more powerful is a series of photos that tells a story.

Most people think of news media when they think of photo documentaries. It's true that photo documentaries are one of the cores of photojournalism, but they're relevant in a lot of other ways, too—to document your family, the place where you live or work, or the business that your company conducts.

Photographers who are interested in being photojournalists should first master a good understanding of documentary photography. The key is to think of a series of photos that work together to communicate your message.

What will be covered:

In this course, photojournalist Ernie Sarmiento outlines the fundamentals of shooting a photo documentary, from thinking about your story photographically to presenting your final photo story.

  • What is Documentary Photography?
  • Difference from street photography and photojournalism
  • Shooting different types of photo essays
  • Finding your stories and researching a subject
  • Planning and taking the shots
  • Editing and sequencing images


To take this course participant should already have basic knowledge of photography. Familiarity with street photography or photojournalism is an advantage.

Course Outline

This workshop teaches the participants the theory of documentary photography and allows them to gain experience to undertake documentary photography though assignments enabling them to investigate and report on social and personal issues of interest. There will be ample opportunity to discuss issues and sub-genres relating to documentary photography.

Throughout the workshop, constructive suggestions will be given by the participants and the instructor to strengthen the project’s quality. Work-in- progress will be critiqued considering the objective of the project, and techniques used. Vocabulary of visual perceptions in documentary photography will also be introduced. Participants will also be able to study well-known documentary photographers through research and practice techniques they used to create a presentation, which will be discussed by all participants at the end of the workshop.

Day 1

  • Introduction to Documentary Photography.
    • difference to photojournalism and street
    • samples: experiences and photo essays
    • different kinds of documentary photography
  • Finding your stories. How to look for editorial stories.
    • how to do an interview
    • how to gather sounds
    • how to approach subject
  • Proper gears & equipments
  • Practice shoot


  • Submit online the intended story for approval. Once approved, shoot.
  • Submit (8-10) photos online

Day 2

  • Work-in-progress critique
  • Lecture-demo

Day 3

Final presentation