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  • Writer's pictureDave Pidgeon

Why Photography for Writers

This is a pretty messed up time for writers.

So much is expected of you. More than ever.

Unfairly, if you ask me, but here we are.

You're not only expected to develop your writing voice and hone your skills as a language artist, but ... you're also required to ... wait for it ... develop your own branding and marketing.

I noticed many of you cringed. Marketing and branding? That's for retail businesses. I'm an artist!!!

Yeah. But no. You're writing is a business too, at least if you expect to sell it to an audience, which I'm pretty sure you do.

Long exposure of the ocean at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park.
An English major created this image. Which means you can too.

Like every creative endeavor these days, to be successful in building audiences and attracting the notice of agents and publishers, you need to build awareness of who you are and what you write.

It's no longer enough for you to have a great hook in Chapter One or to make a reader shed tears with a heartbreaking ending.

You gotta have pre-built audiences these days to sell books. And we all know how to get those, right?

SociaCOUGH ... SociaCOUGHCOUGH ... SociaCLEARS THROAT ... Errrrr ... Various online platforms requiring us to not only engage in meaningful ways with other people but to also provide relevant, useful content that encourages interaction.

You get where I'm going here.

Whether it's the Gram or you Tok, tweet to the world or share on Facebook, photography and video content are essential to successfully building your audience and ... yes ... your brand as a writer.

And these days, images are essential.

The good news is you can create compelling, eye-catching images using just your writing and storytelling skills.

It's true. I know. I've done it.

An English major in a photography world

I've been a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer, a behind-the-scenes TV news editor, and a public relations ninja for a major transportation company and a pair of state agencies.

It's fair to say my English degree paid off.

But writing is not my calling. Not today, anyway.

Today, I run a successful portrait business out of my home in Lancaster, Pa. It's my full-time job.

Boy soccer playing standing at the net at sundown.
Today I own Creative Sports Photography. And did I mention that a guy who studied English in college and spent 20 years in journalism and public relations created this image? Which means anyone can?

Image making dominates my waking hours (and sometimes my REM-induced dreams too). I observe light and shadow and composition every where I go and in everything I do, even if I don't have a camera.

Here's the thing, though -- my writing instincts are every bit a part of my photography work.

Never do I raise a camera to my eye and not think like a writer. The sense of storytelling and every important trick you use to draw readers, they apply to making images, too.

That means as a writer the power to start making amazing images you can be proud of, that power exists in you already.

No, seriously. That's why I'm here.

What to know as you start

Photography, like writing, is a craft, a skill that can be learned and even mastered.

It doesn't require a creative arts degree. The only pre-requisites are curiosity and a commitment to learning the craft.

Like, say, learning how to write well.

If you're a writer then you already know the elements of good story telling, and that's going to serve you when making images, whether it's with an iPhone at a coffeeshop or you have a camera walking around a city.

The key is connecting the technical and creative aspects of image making to what you already know as a storyteller.

And it matters because the stories you tell with your images on your website and social media channels are going to hook your audience.

A couple walks on a ridge above the Susquehanna River.
Everything you know about how to tell a story with words is going to help you make better images.

Hook that audience with great, consistent image making, and you're not only going to see that audience stay and want more from you, that audience is going to grow too.

So think about who you are as a writer and storyteller. Think about what you want the world to know about you and the stories you want to tell.

Write some of it down. Then ask yourself if the images you're sharing on Instagram and Pinterest or the videos on TikTok are consistent with that vision of yourself.

Together, we're going to make this happen.

Here's what I want you to know about Pidgeon's-Eye View. These posts will connect the technical aspects of great image making -- depth of field, composition, ISO settings, and so on -- with the creative mindset of a storyteller.

There are plenty of how-to videos and articles that can teach you things about aperture and shutter speed.

Here, we're going to take those and advance you to a higher level of photography in order to build your platforms as a compelling stop for your audience.

Sound good? Well, let's go!

Dave Pidgeon is a seasoned writer and photographer based in Lancaster, Pa. He's been a conference speaker, a journalist, and today owns a creative portrait photography business for athletes. He lives with his wife and their three sons.

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