How photography can improve your writing

Sea and cloudsI like taking pictures. Have done for a long time and of course, in this digital age it’s even easier. Since I’ve been writing, photography has become more than just a way of making something pretty (or interesting) to look at. I’ve become a voyeur. Yes, that’s a good word. I look at details; consider how to describe things, note how light plays on the object of my interest, perhaps what it sounds like. I try to find the words that go with the image. How would I express myself if I was describing this scene in a book?

Take this one. The molten metal sea reflects the clouds, a whitish glimmer on scarcely moving water. Follow the curved blue line of the sky from the deep azure of the zenith towards the paler blue of the horizon, where a boat bobs, while nearby the shadow of our vessel lends a deeper green to the languid swirl of the waves. Further away a heavier cloud mass, mottled and angry, betrays a change – but perhaps not just yet.

So it’s more than just an image. You break down the elements of the image and then assign importance to those elements as you search for the words to use so that if the photo isn’t there, the reader still has enough information to paint their own picture in their heads.

Since it’s a book about a shipwreck, seascapes are an important feature of ‘Die a Dry Death’. I’ve done my best to convey those scenes through my words. Many people have told me the book is very visual – so my writing worked.

Try it for yourself. Take pictures of scenes – any scenes that might work in your writing – and then describe them in words. You’ll find it isn’t easy but it’s certainly worthwhile.


About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 25 August 2010, in On writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I find it works the other way around for me. When I flounder for words, I let my photographs speak instead.

  2. Ah, yes. A picture is worth a thousand words. But you can’t use a picture in a novel. You have to paint with words, directly to the reader’s mind.

  3. You make me think I must take my camera with me more often. I already find myself thinking how I’d describe things I see in a novel; writing does seep into everything else.

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