Life by Selena Photography
Montreal portrait & wedding photographer


The official blog of Montreal portrait and wedding photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle. Explore her signature photojournalistic style and stay up to date on her latest wedding and portrait photography projects here.

Blog 80 : Fall Photo Essay

(Life by Selena Photography) Creative Potential 7.jpg

Motivated by a desire to encourage people in my community in their journey as photographers, I've created a new digital community and photo club called the "Creative Potential Photo Club". In this photographic blog post I share the contributions from our seventh assignment.

Ahh, October. In some years the Canadian weather in October can transition from the height of summer to depths of winter within the span of these four short weeks. So this month we’re going to soak ourselves with the rhythm of the changing temperatures and capture an 8-image photo essay.

A photo essay gives photographers an opportunity to share a story through a series of images. You can also think of it as visual storytelling. Through a photo essay, you can choose to create a narrative story that shares a specific event with a beginning, middle, and end. You can also choose to create a thematic story that shares different aspects along a given theme. 

Much like a written story, a visual story should be comprised of different elements. Start with an introduction to the subject with one or two opening photos. These images should help set the broad scene of your photo essay. Next, take the time to develop your story by photographing details of your story. If you can, challenge yourself to include portraits of the humans involved in your story as well as shots of inanimate details. These shots develop the storyline of your photo essay. Finally, conclude your photo essay with one last image that will leave the viewer with a sense of your story.

For some photo essay inspiration, take the time to look at two iconic photo essays: Country Doctor’ by W. Eugene Smith and 42nd and Vanderbilt’ by Peter Funch. If you’d like to do some more readings on photo essays, you can read this article in Format or this one from the Digital Photography School

Here’s the assignment:
1. Spend the next few weeks reflecting on what the changing seasons means for you. Are you drawn to telling a narrative story of an upcoming life event or to developing a thematic story that explores a certain aspect of what fall means in your life?
2. Once you’ve chosen which type of story you want to tell, consider your subjects and the details you want to include in your images. Create a rough sketch of what elements you want to include while developing your story. Be sure to incorporate a variety of scene-setting photos, portraits, and detail shots. Restrict your final selections to 8 images.
3. Write a short text about what type of photo essay you chose to photograph (narrative or thematic). Discuss the process of planning you did prior to shooting your essay. Describe your main goal in capturing the photo essay. Explain why you chose to include different images and how each photo contributes to you story. If you can, give your photo essay a title.

Jihyun (Life by Selena Photography) Creative Potential 7_1.jpg


It was a late summer day when I first met Bronx. He was an 8-week-old Greater Swiss Mountain dog. I knew he was going to be a big pal, and when he had just turned one year, he was already so heavy that I couldn’t carry him around. He was growing as a strong-willed, but kind puppy.

Shortly after we celebrated his first birthday, he had to go through a surgery due to a hip dysplasia. It is a very common health issue in his breed. My heart was breaking, but I had to make a decision for him. It was one of the toughest decisions I had to make in my life. It was amazing to see how resilient he was. He was determined to get better, and to not give up on his life, our lives. Thankfully he recovered very well, and ever since we've been travelling all around Ontario. Driving out to find the beauty that nature can offer has become one of our go-to activities. We’ve been through a lot together, his surgery, my divorce, my move-out, and our reunion. No matter when we meet, he never forgets to be my best friend. He’s always been there for me when I’m sad, upset, disappointed, or too tired to pick myself up. Of course, sometimes we fight, he’s stubborn, and I’m too strict about his diet. But we always lean on each other and enjoy our journeys together. We sleep together, eat together, swim together, and walk together. Three years and four months have passed since my first encounter with Bronx. He is my only reason to move forward. When I'm down, he's wagging his tail as if to say, “We shall continue the journey. Don't be a downer!”

As a season fall tends to associate with words like harvest, mature, accomplishment, thanksgiving, and sharing, but personally, it's the most difficult time of a year to get through. But I wanted to tell a story of my dog, Bronx - how he’s grown, and how he’s helped me grow as a person. He shows me how to appreciate the small things that I often take for granted like being able to walk in the woods, to drink fresh water, and to live my life as I wish. Nevertheless, it’s so easy to complain and see things glass-half-empty. But my furry friend doesn’t have that sense of entitlement. He earns every single thing by pleasing me and by complying with my commands. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t hold a grudge. As we grow older, I hope I also could become the one who creates a meaningful and fulfilling life for him too. 

Name: Jihyun
Camera: iPhone

Adelle (Life by Selena Photography) Creative Potential 7_1.jpg


I photographed a narrative photo essay while I was visiting with family over this season and captured one of the special fleeting moments that we spent together. My mother, sister in law, and I took my 18 month old daughter for a walk to feed chickadees in the park and it was the perfect opportunity to capture a range of emotions. I wanted to make sure I captured everyone's anticipation at the beginning of the walk, the calmness that prevailed mid-walk, peaceful moments waiting for the birds to come (as a bonus I caught a moment when a bird landed on my Mom's hand and neither her nor Tiny seemed to notice) and Tiny's excitement and wonder when a bird landed in one of our hands. Of course the whole series was underlined with the simple joy that we felt being together.

“Cherish simple things such as family, friends and love, because great things appear simple from far away. Place your simple things in the best light; there’s enough sunshine for all of them” – Val Uchendu

Name: Adelle
Contact: Instagram
Camera: Nikon D3400

Anton (Life by Selena Photography) Creative Potential 7_1.jpg


Photo essay thoughts: I tried a few takes on this project, everything I put together was much-too-much like a timelapse video than a story through images. This just a simple, not entirely un-timelapse, essay showing the process of creating art-propaganda-solidarity-love-community. 

Most of the folks in these pictures are Chileans living abroad and dealing with watching their family & friends struggle back at home during a very vicious governmental crackdown.

Name: Anton
Camera: Nikon d850, 14mm manual lens, 50mm

Selena (Life by Selena Photography) Creative Potential 7_1.jpg


I recently had the opportunity to visit some stones. I wanted to photograph the excitement and the joy of exploration my aunt and uncle had during this visit. To open the scene I captured them waiting for the tour bus and their initial arrival at the landmark. I captured the details of them using the tour guide headset, my uncle having his lunch, and a rook sitting on the grass in front of the stones. Finally I include a classic posed photo of them in front of Stonehenge. 

Name: Selena
Camera: iPhone 5se
Contact: Instagram, Website

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I captured the process of preparing for taking my daughter out for Halloween.

Rachel C
Camera: iPhone 8

Here’s the assignment from last month’s Creative Potential Photo Club. Each month I send out new photography assignments by email. If you want to join the Creative Potential Photo Club, please send me a message through my contact page or an email at lifebyselena[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll add you to the list! After the submissions are compiled, I'll post the images online with the goal of fostering the digital community. This is a photo project of Montreal portrait photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle of Life by Selena Photography.