Richard Lane Church, Author

Use Your Writing Talent to Make Money

Copywriting * Content Writing * Fiction

Photography? Yes, this is a blog for writers. But I know for certain that my writing is better because I am also a photographer. How? Because I take pictures that help me remember scenes used in my fiction. When writing The Night the Cats Left Socorro, I visited Socorro, New Mexico, for three days. I walked around the small town, ate at restaurants, and visited its historic plaza and the shops surrounding it.

I also visited locations that I knew or guessed would be in my novel, including the Gila Wilderness, various mines (from the roadside), the Very Large Array radio telescope (AKA the VLA), ancient San Miguel’s Catholic church, the Bosque Wildlife Preserve, as well as the neighborhoods and school associated with the main characters. It was also important to visit New Mexico Tech (formerly the New Mexico School of Mines), where I spent a good deal of time at the mineral museum and the huge athletic field. I even walked into the two fictitious Main Characters’ workplaces!

In all, I took over 300 pictures! How else would Ibe able to remember what I had seen? Suppose you are a very visual person like me. In that case, you understand how reviewing an image can bring you back to the feelings you felt when inserting your characters into the photographed scene and how you can hear the characters’ dialog (and their inner dialogs) again.

I learned this method when making websites for local businesses. I’d meet with them and make notes of how they described their firm, staff, products, and customers. Then I’d take pictures of the business, knowing they would aid me once I started writing and provide some color and visual interest to the website.

No fancy equipment needed

During my career as a photographer, I’ve owned at least four 35mm cameras, a Hasselblod medium format camera, and a large format 4×5-inch view camera with a bellows construction. Not to mention darkroom and lighting equipment. The good news is that it is no longer necessary for most people.

I kept two Nikons, one film and one digital, mainly for “old times’ sake.” But nearly all of the shots I take now are with my Samsung Galaxy phone. And why not? It’s always in my pocket, there is very little setup (I don’t even need to log in to use the camera function), and the photos are easy to p[ut into my computer or send to friends!

Stock Pictures

What about pictures from the internet? For inspiration, you can use anything! If you are going to publish them as part of your work, you need to be careful. I have found portraits of movie stars that served well as models for the way certain of my characters appeared. (Scrivener even allows you to make character bio files and save pictures in them.) It’s great to look at a portrait and describe what you see in words without mentioning a name. Your description is more solid. You can make changes in eye color, add a scar or broken nose, or anything else to make the image completely like your character.

Internet images allow you to visit places where actual travel would be prohibitive. Perhaps it is a city or country that is too far away, too dangerous, or too expensive. The same guidelines apply. For inspiration, everything is fair game. But you must secure permission from the image’s copyright holder for publication.

If you want to use an actual photograph of a real person, place, or object, find what you are looking for on a website that sells, licenses, or offers free photos to writers like us. Just search for stock photo faces and see what comes up. If you are on a budget, you may want to add the phrase free images or something like that. If you use a photo that you are not licensed to use, you may be sued, and some settlements have been extremely costly.

When you get a stock picture, it will usually be very reasonable if it is not too large or popular (think a Mike Tyson knockout in the first round). Just be aware that others use the same picture. The beauty or hunk on your paperback cover may appear on the book next to yours. Unlikely, but it could happen.

Reading excellent books helps authors write better themselves. Viewing and analyzing great photos will enhance your natural talent for photography. And become a resource when you begin the months of sitting at your computer and creating your next piece of writing.

A picture is worth a thousand words

I have a poster on my studio door portraying 36 different breeds of house cats. While writing my novel, I was constantly inspired by it and often used it as a resource to know the breed name of a cat I was imagining. Even cats I’ve known in my lifetime that I based a character on, I would not have known the breed. So pictures can help you put images into words and define them.

Another use is to show others what you see in your mind’s eye, like a cover image. I know the image my Fiverr graphic artist first offered me missed the mark completely. If you are not a graphic artist but have a visual idea about your book cover (or interior illustrations), you can send digital copies to your designer of the various elements.

Review and suggestions

Use photos and videos to help remember scenes and persons that you want in your manuscript. Use them to develop characters, not only by their appearance and personality traits. Use photos (maps and floor plans, too) to make your plots more compelling. Examples: a rooftop garden, a secret passage, a place where a crime may have been committed, or an escape route fraught with peril. Take pictures of anything intriguing to you. Use the images of others to inspire your imagination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *