Using Photography in Writing

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Not everyone who writes wants to create their own photos to accompany articles and blog posts, and with the availability of free graphics online, it’s relatively easy to find suitable illustrations when we need them.

Photos are often the inspiration for my posts here. I look through my digital albums until I see one that suggests a topic or potential analogy. Occasionally I take specific shots to illustrate an existing idea, but I’m a shameless shutterbug, snapping everything that catches my attention whether it has merit or not. You just never know….

Magazine editors seem to appreciate my offer to provide a few related photos when submitting material, and not long ago even used one as cover art. But I’m not a great photographer – I discard more photos than I keep, and often wish I had the talent of people like Susan Etole, Sandra Heska King and Ann Voskamp, or my daughter Shari Green and cousin Gary McGuire, whose photos always make my breath catch.

For decades I was content with my 35mm SLR camera until, eight years ago, we were given a digital – a Pentax Optio 33L – as a retirement gift. I was ecstatic with its 3.2 megapixels and 3x optical zoom and have used it extensively, totally content with its capabilities and portability.  This weekend, however, I received an early birthday gift… a new digital camera. It isn’t highly sophisticated as cameras go, but with 16.2 megapixels and 30x zoom, my new Sony Cyber-shot has features that I’ll probably never fully learn how to use, while still being small enough to take everywhere. Besides taking the usual still shots and movies, it records in HD and 3D, and even has GPS!  I just have to figure out how it works. It has ‘auto-intelligence’ that is much smarter than I am!

I like its ‘soft skin mode’, which will be great for portraits of grandchildren… maybe not a good choice for bird shots, but hey, I’m experimenting.

So tell me, do you think articles and posts are enhanced by the addition of graphics and photos, or most times is the text sufficient on its own? If you use photos, do you take your own or borrow from another source?

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18 thoughts on “Using Photography in Writing

  1. There is something rather boring about a blog post that doesn’t include an image. There may a be a sense that words should be enough, and in other contexts they might well be. In a blog we want to see an image. Some have images that are completely unrelated to the words and sometimes that even works.
    My blog is about art and the challenge is using images that are my own or that I have permission for. I have recently discovered that when I write and ask people for images they often say ‘yes’ and they often send me more images than I asked for.

  2. gypsydoodles says:

    i agree with Andy too. i just thought when i post a blog, it’s not complete without a photo. as i observe my posts since the beginning, my favorite posts are usually those with pictures. I use my own photos or even the boyfriend’s. We both have this photoholicism. haha.

  3. I’m still new to the blog world and have much to learn, but I also feel like there needs to be a photo. I think I’ve discovered a danger (for me) of including too many photos, taking up space, and not enough on word content. And since it’s about the words (for me), I probably shouldn’t do that!! I am learning more about photography, and typically use my own or a family members. I would like to use other sources for photos, but still learning those ins and outs and how to give proper credit.

  4. I like the visuals presented with a post. For me the pleasure in reading a post is greatly enhanced by photos. I add graphics to my photos, mostly from Microsoft’s collection. Once in a while I use one from my own camera. When I post a recipe, I take photos as I prepare the food. I appreciate all the amazing photos you add to your posts, Carol. Of course, your writing can stand alone, but then, the photos are a wonderful bonus.

    What a nice gift is a digital camera! I have my smart phone. I just learned on another blog that GPS on a camera allows an online pic to tell a predator exactly where the pic was taken. I turned off GPS on my phone only, but I rarely take a photo of a child now that my grandchildren live far away. I’d never heard this before. GPS is getting a lot of media attention lately. Yet, I really need it when I’m out and about. Blessings to you, Carol…

  5. elderfox says:

    A.M. my dear friend…July 4 and we’ve have SUNSHINE…You already know how much I enjoy your pictures. For me, pics and graphics add a great deal to a blog and I love Picture books (which is probably why I have a collection of calendars ). My thinking is that pics tell a story too, possibly a different one to each viewer. Ted took a lot of pics. I think it was his 2nd hobby (he even had a dark room in our basement at the “farm” and got a lot of invites to take photos of animals, esp dogs of course. Enjoy the sunshine!
    mE

  6. elderfox says:

    Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?
    – Henry David Thoreau

  7. Judith Robl says:

    Love the hummingbird, and would really like, with your permission, to print a copy for my middle daughter who is a hummingbird fan and a real shutterbug as well. Wonderful image. My grandmother (the real author of As Grandma Says) had her own darkroom, so it must run in the genes (even though it skipped my generation entirely).

  8. karen evans says:

    Your photos are great and I think they always add a visual dimension to my memory. I use mostly my own. I’ll check out those other sites. Thanks

  9. Good morning to everyone! Wherever you are, I hope it’s sunshine and blue sky for your Fourth of July.

    Andy, thanks for stopping in to comment. I think your distinction between blogs and other writing is probably right. There’s a more personal feeling to blogs that lends itself to sharing images as well as words. And yes, when permission is asked for, as in Judith’s request below, it’s usually willingly given. I’m always flattered when anyone else wants to make use of something of mine.

    gypsydoodle (what a delightful name), hello and welcome. Many of my earliest posts weren’t accompanied by photos, but they were usually quite short, too. I think, like white space, photos and graphics help break up blocks of text and make them more visually attractive and readable.

    Brooke, I occasionally use a series of photos to help tell the story, but then I use fewer words.

    Carol Ann, I love recipes that are accompanied by photos. Then there’s no guessing about whether it’s turning out the way it was meant to. GPS on a camera might be useful when travelling, if I wanted to keep track of the photographed locations, but I have mine turned off. I don’t like the trackback potential, and it just shortens the battery life anyway.

  10. Elderfox (Earlene), that’s a wonderful quote of Thoreau’s! The world would be a better place if we would try to see things from each other’s perspective. I’ll bet Ted took some wonderful shots. Wouldn’t he have enjoyed the freedom of digital cameras and photo-editing??? It’s a whole new kind of hobby!

    Judith, you’re welcome to print the photo for your daughter. It’s not as clear as I’d like, but I’m loving the telephoto opportunities for such close shots. There are three hummers zipping about on our deck this morning, taking turns sipping from the hanging baskets and flower tubs, then returning to the feeder for longer drinks. They don’t stay still for very long.

    Karen, adding a visual element to the memory is a good point. What we see, hear and do always supplements a learning process, so a photo probably helps us remember the words we read.

  11. Margie says:

    My blog is my journal, and I like to use my own photos whenever possible. I think I have become a better photographer now that I am thinking of what I need to take photographs of if I want to put them on my blog.

    I also use the work of a cartoonist who has given me permission to use his work.

  12. I always add photos or cartoons to my blog posts. I think it adds another dimension to the writing, and makes it warmer.

  13. Margie, thanks for stopping in to comment. I still take too many photos that I’ll probably never use anywhere, but I agree that knowing I may want to use some on my blog gives more direction to my efforts.

    Your blog is always warm and friendly, Jen. It reflects you so well.

  14. joylene says:

    Well, they do say a photo is worth a thousand words. Yet, I would love to have a journal written from one of my great-great grandmothers, along with a photograph. Because while I can look at their face and imagine their voice and their personality, nothing would thrill me more than to have an old journal. I think of that when I’m writing in my journal. Some day my great-great-grandchild may read my words.

    It’s so nice to be home and back on my trusty computer. Home sweet home.

    • Welcome back, Joylene! Yes, there’s no substitute for hearing about people’s lives in their own words. I’ve written a family memoir of sorts that includes lots of memories but that’s the only personal writing I’d want future generations to read. I have a multitude of my own journals and I do print out the odd photo to glue in, but I’m writing for myself and I honestly wouldn’t want anyone else, relatives or strangers, to read them! They’re a kind of personal therapy and I’ve warned my husband that if I die before I get them burned, he is to burn them! If I thought anyone was going to read them I couldn’t write my innermost thoughts in them.

  15. Katt says:

    Carol,
    I love this post—because—I have been trying for almost two weeks to capture two Painted Buntings. One of them is a deep green and blue and the other one a brilliant yellow. They soar together and then fly down onto one of the bird feeders. I have been sitting in the screen room every morning with the camera close. But so far, the only pictures I’ve been able to take of them together ( or separate) is on a wire clear across the road. I know what they are, but I don’t think anyone else would! 😀

    • Katt, I’m still exploring the new camera’s features and not using them very well, but the telescopic option is going to be a favourite for sure. I’ll bet you’ll eventually catch those Buntings at the feeder with your camera… patience!

      Today I’m learning how to turn some of the automatic features OFF… like the flash that insisted on engaging when I was trying to get the evening shots for Wednesday’s post, and the musical beep that sounded every time the camera was turned on, and scared the birds away!

  16. S. Etole says:

    I deeply appreciate your mentioning my blog! I hope you enjoy your new camera … the zoom on my Kodak point and shoot is a joy to me.

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