If you’re a writer, you’d better start 1) learning how to take good pictures, or, 2) learning where you can get good pictures for free — because you’re going to be needing them.
If a picture is worth 1000 words, then I’m out of a job — I’m a writer. But as luck would have it, I also like taking pictures. That’s a good thing because today the Internet (which is now where most of us writers hang out) is all about photos and videos. Consider Instagram. Pinterest. Twitter. YouTube. Consider 152 million blogs. Consider 1.11 billion Facebook users. And they all upload photos. Millions and millions of photos. Every single day. Just try Googling for “photo apps” or “photo enhancements” and it will be clear to you immediately: Photography is hot! And, of course, the more photographs there are, the more photo-related business spring up, from photo organizing to photo storage to professional speakers who give talks on photos.
I’ve loved photography since I was a little kid. Beautiful photography makes my heart swell. I’d rather go to a photo exhibit than a painting exhibit. In grade school and high school, I usually ended up being the unofficial class photographer, and on paying jobs in adulthood, I often ended up being the newsletter editor/picture taker. Ditto when I became a psychotherapist and joined a local chapter of a mental health professional association: Newsletter editor and picture-taker.
I’ve always had some kind of camera handy, from my Kodak Brownie, to a second hand double-reflex (which I wish I’d kept — it might be worth something on Ebay!), to a string of ordinary picture-snappers, to a series of progressively improved Polaroids (black & white gooey to color non-gooey), to throwaway cameras from the drugstore, to a heavy Nikon with a motor drive (when I was actually working in a photo studio), to a couple of Canon Elphs (increasingly small and light), to regular cell phones with cameras (I never used the cameras), to my current iPhone 5 (which I use as a camera every day — more than I use it to talk on the phone.)
Jeff Bezos: “A Picture a Day”
About thirteen years ago I watched a TV interview with Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos. During the interview he mentioned taking a picture a day. I had one of those Eureka moments. I loved that idea. So much so, in fact, that I decided to do the same thing. It was a way to keep track of how I was spending my life. I did this “picture a day” thing faithfully for about eight years, printing out the pictures on my little photo printer, and putting them in albums marked “2003, 2004, 2005…” until about 2010 when the style of the particular photo albums I’d been using became unavailable, and that was enough to throw me off-track. Another reason was too much repetition. My life was probably not as exciting as Jeff Bezos’ — meaning I didn’t have different things to take pictures of every day. After all, how many times could I take a picture of my manicurist, or my cat, or my computer. So I gave up on “a picture a day.” But I didn’t give up on photography. I’m into it more than ever. That’s why I attend events like the Big Photo Show.
“256 Shades of Gray”
One speaker at the Big Photo Show, Mark Camon, a longtime photography instructor, used the above phrase to make a point: ” Don’t forget about shooting in black and white.” I agree. There are some things that are just made for black and white. Ansel Adams in color? I don’t think so.
One fun thing about the iPhone is that you can switch from color to black and white just by sliding an icon. Back in the old days, I’d have to carry two cameras — color film in one, black and white in the other. How things have changed.
Hints, Tips and Apps FYI
photo apps — On your own, you can check out all those thousands of photo apps I mentioned above just by going online and Googling for them. But here are a few things I heard recommended by speakers at the Big Photo Show and by a member of the Association of Personal Photo Organizers, Nancy McFarland, an expert I heard speak two days after the Big Photo Show.
picturekeeper.com — a thumb drive that picks up the photos off your computer, as many as 4000 of them if you are using the smaller thumb drive, but it does not pick up duplicates, which is great. If you need a second thumb drive, it takes up where the first one left off. $30 on up. (I just ordered one because I’m going crazy with all the photo duplicates on my computer).
Forever.com — permanent photo storage in the “cloud.” You get your own personalized web address (ex: YourName.forever.com). $6.95 a month for 36 months or $250 for life.
DropBox.com – well-established storage and sharing site for photos and documents.
Flip-Pal.com – a hand-held scanner for scanning photo prints in place without removing them from the albums. You can also scan larger prints by doing sections at a time and the program “stitches” the photos together into one. Cost: about $150.00
shutterfly.com – one of many such photo sites. You can upload groups of photos and have them made into books, small to large. Other sites (some more expensive) include Artisanstate.com, Blurb.com and Peekaboo.com.
Animoto.com – create your own “videos” from still photos, or use real videos – free up to 30-seconds; annual fee of about $30 if you want longer videos. Comes with various design styles and public domain music.
morguefile.com – beautiful photos for free to use for blogs, book covers, websites, etc.
dreamstime.com — photos for blogs, covers, etc., but they charge a fee so you need to be careful and check out the details of each choice. Many photos are really cheap — just a few dollars.
Mextures.com – a photo app that adds textures and moods to your photos. (See below)
(c) 2014 Sylvia Cary
Author of “The Therapist Writer: Helping Mental Health Professionals Get Published.”