Developer, one minute; stop bath, 30 seconds; fixer, two minutes. Under the red beam of safelights a new photo comes to life, a carefully crafted compilation of dark shadows, light skies, and all the greys in between.
I’ve spent many hours exploring photography using film cameras, pinhole cameras, plastic cameras, Polaroids, digital cameras, and disposables. I scour antique stores for old cameras to experiment with and learn from. As a result of my passion for photography, I have become one of my school’s photographers, responsible for documenting school events and teaching younger students darkroom techniques. Making decisions in the darkroom about contrast filters and apertures has made me more confident in my ability to make choices quickly. I also use my photography to advance social justice causes by drawing attention to issues such as unattainable standards for women’s bodies. (139 words)
Tip #1: Value content (information) over form (poetry).
Space is limited here, so make sure the reader understands what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. Notice how, in the example above, a lot of the content probably came from the first column of the BEABIES: (i.e., “What I did”).
Tip #2: Use active verbs to give a clear sense of what you’ve done.
Check out the active verbs in the essay above: writing, delivering, editing, researching, re-writing, brainstorming, catching, polishing, leading, holding, knowing.
Tip #3: Consider telling us in one good clear sentence what the activity meant to you.
Examples: “I’m the messenger who delivers news from different continents to the doorsteps of my community” and “I write for this joyous process of creation” and “One day I’ll look back, knowing that this is where I began to develop the scrutiny, precision and rigor necessary to become a writer.”
Okay, that’s three sentences. But notice how all three are different. (And if you’re gonna include three, they better be different.)
Tip #4. You can “show” some, but not too much.
Example from the first line: “VIOLENCE IN EGYPT ESCALATES. FINANCIAL CRISIS LEAVES EUROPE IN TURMOIL.”
And later: “Leading a heated after-school brainstorming session, watching my abstract thoughts materialize onscreen, holding the freshly printed articles in my hand…”
The first one grabs our attention; the second paints a clear and dynamic picture. Keep ‘em short!
This essay uses the montage approach and does not name a specific problem. If, however, you’re using the “Elon Musk” structure from above and want to adapt it for the 150-word essay…
Tip #5: Consider starting your essay with the “problem.”
In fact, probably name the problem in the first sentence. Then, in the second sentence, say what you did about it. Why? Word count.
Tip #6: Don’t forget to include specific impact, even if it’s brief.
Read the ending again:
“I helped ease the work of the nurses and doctors, while delivering medicine and smiles to dozens of patients. I may not have directly saved any lives, but I’d like to think I helped.”
Tip #7: Write it long first, then cut it.
Both these students started with 250-300 word statements, then they trimmed ruthlessly. In my experience this tends to be easier than writing a very short version and then trying to figure out what to add.