Writer’s Tools: PhotographY

Not photographS–that’s for another day. Today, I’m talking about the act of, the habit of (not to say “the obsession with”) taking snappies.

With digital cameras, you aren’t edged into caution by the costs of film and developing; you can snap anything that takes your fancy. And that’s where photography–the gerund “taking pictures”–becomes an important tool for a writer or a writer-in-training.

You find you start noticing things that would have melted into the background. I took this picture the other evening. If I hadn’t formed the habit of carrying my camera and snapping pictures of things, my eye would have slid over it. As it is, I saw it–I saw it. I considered it. I weighed it in my mind. I saw a certain niftiness in it and I preserved it.

When I got home, I put it on my computer and considered it again. This is not the picture I snapped; this is a cropped version. Once I saw it on the screen, I had the chance to decide how to crop it so it was clear what I thought was nifty in that shot. I could eliminate the stuff that I thought detracted from what interested me and leave in what I felt made a nice frame or contrast to it. You may disagree with my choices, but they’re my choices.

It’s a writer’s attitude: The world is your material. Grab pieces of it like a pack-rat. Bring the pieces home and explore them and contemplate them. Use them. Enjoy them.


writing prompt: Even if you don’t have a camera, walk through the world as if you could snap shots of it. What would you snap? That motorcycle? How would you describe it in a story? Would you ever need to describe a motorcycle so that the description mattered?


I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Writer’s Tools: PhotographY

  1. Mary Montague Sikes

    July 13, 2010 at 3:13pm

    I agree with always having your digital camera with you. For years, I carried a 35mm camera with me on vacation. What a nuisance, having to pull it out as well as the extra rolls of film to be hand-checked at airports. You thought carefully before taking a picture. It’s wonderful now to take as many shots as you want, then delete what does not work. Ten years ago, who would have believed the changes that have come about? You can bring home bits of the world to study in your studio or in your office. Thank you for the prompt and the insight!


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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      July 13, 2010 at 5:14pm

      This digital camera is wonderful! I love being able to snap anything without counting the cost. As you say, once you get the pictures home, you can study the pictures, zoom in on one part or another, and see what jumps out at you. They make great poetry prompts, too!

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  2. Fotografia reklamowa

    March 21, 2012 at 6:27am

    I find this website looking for new ideas. I always carry a telephone so i have a 5 mpix camera it isn’t as fast as camera but wroks great:)
    Best regards
    Bartek from fotografia reklamowa

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      March 21, 2012 at 10:06am

      I keep thinking about getting a phone camera, so I don’t have to carry my camera AND a phone, but I just haven’t done it yet. I love the pictures my camera takes, and I don’t like the phone pictures most people take, so I keep on the way I am.


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