Alternative View Points and the Lamp of Creativity

Pictures they say are worth a thousand words, but many writers know that they are worth much more than that!

Without decent photographs or other artwork to accompany an article many features published in todays magazines and newspapers would never see the light of day, so it makes sense to try and supply illustrations along with your submissions.

Last month's article gave some tips and advice on how to improve your camera wielding technique so click here if you missed it.

This month we're going to look at how photographs can spark off ideas for features and other writing opportunities which means taking the slightly unusual step of writing the article around the picture rather than finding photographs to illustrate the article.

So let's begin with the hanged man. Who on earth is that and what does he have to do with writing or photography? Not much really, but he makes a nice analogy. The hanged man from the Tarot card deck for those not familiar with this form of divination, is the only card in the major arcana which is the right way up when it shows the hanged man upside down!

Although he is bound and beset by problems and troubles he has taken the bold step of considering the world and his options from an alternative view point which is what exchanging our computers and pens for a camera can do for us.

A good method of doing this is to set yourself a couple of themes. What these themes are depend on you and your interests, but let's suppose you chose "chimneys" and "dogs".

Both of these are common enough to ensure plenty of subject matter and you should be able to find enough examples whether you are a town or country dweller. Don't forget to take plenty of film with you, (or spare batteries and flash cards for digital cameras), and most importantly! A pen and notebook!

A couple of hours wandering the streets gazing skywards at smoke blackened chimney stacks or staring fixedly at the local canine Romeo plighting his troth to Lady Muck's prize Saluki might earn you a few odd looks from the neighbours, but with a bit of luck and determination on your part could also add a few pennies to the coffers as well.

The trick is to take plenty of snaps, a doddle if you've got a digital camera as you'll only be printing off the shots you want to keep. If not, well you can often get cheap film from your local dealer's bargain box. The developing costs you'll have to take on the chin, unless there's a special offer running.

The next stage is to examine what you've got. This is a bit like a deep sea fisherman trawling for cod. Your net is not very discriminating and you'll find a lot of sprats and mackerels amongst your "catch". You may not actually have any photographs worthy of publication, but you will almost certainly have ideas and if this means that you will have to go out again armed with your camera to shoot appropriate illustrations, then so be it!

Let's assume you do have a fair amount of reasonable photographs. What sort of article could you write around these subjects? Well of course this will depend very much on what is actually in the photographs, but let's go back to our neighbourhood Romeo. A few ideas you could pursue are the problems of stray dogs and irresponsible dog owners, owners that resemble their dogs, (or other pets), where to responsibly exercise the town dog, dogs at work, get the idea?

The chimney photographs may suggest a feature on ornate chimney pots,Victorian potters, (many were often made locally), the local chimney sweep, the history of a particular house or row and the characters associated with them, Santa and problem chimney stacks, (or lack of them!).

The photographs themselves will spark ideas, but you don't have to stop at newspaper or magazine features. Good animal, nature and landscape shots may also find a market with greeting card manufacturers and if you can write the sentiments to accompany them so much the better.

In fact, once you build up a collection of quality photographs your options increase all the time, not only in providing illustrations for your own articles, but as stand alone sales to newspapers which for the new comer, is one of the easiest markets to break into.

Our canine Romeo for instance could just make an editor's day as an alternative and humorous slant on Valentine's day. Now there's an idea! How about a feature on love in the animal kingdom? Just the thing for next year's Valentine's day!

Finally, a word of caution. Do be careful when taking photographs. Many people consider it a breach of privacy having their photographs taken without asking and may not relish being splashed across the front page of the local rag.

You need to be even more cautious when photographing children. They of course make excellent subjects but sadly your motives can easily be misconstrued. If you want to cover a local sports day, school fair or play always obtain permission from the school first.

When you arrive at the event, make a point of letting the head teacher know that you are there. Sending copies of snaps to the school and the children concerned will help to establish trust and credibility.

So, going back to the hanged man, all you need to make sales is an alternative view point. Thankfully you don't have to suspend yourself upside down from a tree, just reach for the light box and light the lamp of creativity!

Poetry for Profit contains a lot of information on the greeting card market which is an ideal place to target words and pictures while READ ALL ABOUT IT! The WriteLink to Newspaper Writing has a detailed chapter on taking photographs for the local and regional press.

About The Author

Sue Kendrick is a freelance writer and graphic designer living in the English Midlands.

She has written many special interest articles for magazines and contributed extensively to her regional newspaper.

She edits and publishes a UK writers resource website and monthly newsletter and a content providing service for Writelink and other publications.

Sue also writes fiction and has won several prizes for her short stories.

[email protected]

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