Super Easy Ways Your Camera Can Make You a Better Writer

Continuing the theme of writing away from our desks, I wanted to bring up a tool you might not associate with writing: your camera. I don’t mean some super-expensive, high-tech device, like the Lytro ILLUM lightfield camera  (drool…); I mean the camera already built into your smart phone–the one that’s probably within arm’s reach at this very moment.

Writing someplace new- (1)


Using your camera is a no-brainer if you write nonfiction, especially if you want to break into a market like Highlights for Children, which prefers authors to provide photos. But even if you don’t plan to sell any of your images–even if you’re writing fiction–your camera is an awesome tool. You can use photos to help

  • Create detailed, believable settings for fiction writing
  • Document information for a nonfiction project
  • Collect visual inspiration for art and poetry
  • Inspire characters by capturing details about real people–expressions, fashions, hair styles, tattoos, body language
  • Spark ideas about place, weather, terrain, or architecture

Photos can help you recall the inspiration
sparked by writing in a new location.


Read on to learn how your camera can help you up your writing game!

Capture the Details

You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? You can put it to work by making your camera part of your research process. If you’re writing in a new location, you may not have time to capture all the details of the setting in words–but you can supplement written notes with a few photos to gain a wealth of visual information you can mine later.


Key Tip: Since photos can record visual details, you can focus note-taking on non-visual information such as sounds, smells, thoughts, and feelings.

Ensure Accuracy

If you’re writing nonfiction, or if you’re using a specific setting in your fiction, accuracy is essential. Trust me: readers will let you know if you make a mistake! Use photos to capture information you’ll want to reference later–such as a street’s layout, or exactly what you can see from a tower’s height.

Sometimes I spot something in the field that I can’t identify–a plant species (like the Zion Shooting Star flower shown above), dog breed, car model, etc. I’ve found that it’s difficult to record enough information in words to let me identify that unknown object when I’m back at my desk. A photo makes the identification process much easier–and lets me trust my results.

Key Tip: Use photos to record the information that you may want to reference later to help ensure you get key specifics right.

Capture Information More Quickly

Writing away from your desk may provide you with oodles of inspiration, but it often comes with a time limit. If you want to record information more quickly and efficiently, pull out your camera. A camera can help you capture a moment before it passes, so you don’t have to rely on your memory while you try to make notes.

Some locations provide informational signs and placards. Photographing these signs gives you a quick way to reference this information–which is often highly targeted and helpful–when you’re back at your desk.


Key Tip: Keeping notes about what you photograph and where will help you make sense of your “photo notes” later.

If you’re setting traveling this summer–or simply trying to find a few more creative moments in a jam-packed summer schedule–then this month’s subscriber download is for you. I’m assembling a cheat sheet of my best tips and tools for writing productively no matter where you find yourself this summer. It will be available next week, but only for newsletter subscribers. Sign up now to get on the list!

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