Fresh Perspective: What Photography Can Teach You About Writing


Looking for a fresh perspective to start your week? Look no further. I’ve got one to offer.

What photography can teach you about writing

On the surface, photography and writing have little in common. If you dig a little deeper, the commonalities become plain. Photographers frame life with their camera lens and capture those images in pixels or film. Writer also frame life–be it every day reality or a slice from their fantasy world–in words. A photographer’s frame is the limit of his/her lens; A writer’s is his or her imagination. 

I happened on Jay Yeager‘s  article in Vantage and some of his words struck me as good advice not only photographers but for writers as well. In his article, Restrict Yourself And Become More Creative: How a fixed lens camera set me free, Yaeger says: 

 Through the wider prime lens I paid more attention my subject and it’s environment. I now feel that my pictures tell a better story because of this. And because I have the wider lens, I can’t easily blow the background out — or make it blurry. Paying more attention to background has led to cleaner pictures.

That got me thinking. What would using a wider “lens” do to my writing? Am I focusing too narrowly on the scene and leaving the background blurry or not there at all?  Am I zooming in too much? Are you?

What about the reverse? Are there places where we as writers are viewing the scene with too wide of an angle? Places where the fictive dream we’re weaving could be enhanced by us getting in close to our subject?

He goes on to challenge his readers to limit themselves in some way next time they go out and shoot. Yaeger says:

In the end, I feel that restricting yourself forces you to get a little creative. If you’re limiting the amount of pictures you take, or the lens options you have, creating small problems for yourself makes you think. And thinking makes you more creative.

I’m passing is challenge on to you. Next time you sit down and write, limit yourself. If you typically zoom in on your characters, trying swapping your mental lens for a wider one and see how that affects the scene. Or if you take the wide angle already, try doing a scene close up and keep the focus narrow. Pay attention to the details and see what develops.

Then let me know what happened! I love hearing/reading about writers’/artists’/musicians’, etc processes for creating what they create.