The Similarities Between Writing and Photography

People often ask me how I got into photography, and the truth is that until now I have never really been able to come up with a perfectly straight answer. I have found that that I love photography for the exact same reason I love writing: it is an outlet of my vision of the world. I often feel that I see the world though different eyes than most people, and love how in both writing and photography I can express how the world looks to me. Upon further examination it becomes evident that photography and writing have a whole lot in common. Even beyond the nature comparison of the arts, photography and writing really are one in the same.

Composition

Caye Caulker, Belize

A well composed shot tells a story rather than simply shows an image - Click to enlarge

A truly great photo, or an interesting article, draws attention because of the composition of the material. How uninteresting would reading be if every single piece of literature, fiction or non, was written in the same script? In the same sense how boring would it be to look at photos if all were laden with the same subject matter placed in the centre of the image? A good composition to either a photo or an article provides the framework for an interesting subject.

Angle

The angle one takes in writing an article or taking a photograph is the second key element to creating an interesting piece. In travel photography we call the typical tourist snapshot as the β€œwalk-up shot,” however this term could also be used for travel writing. Articles written in a superficial way are boring because they have been done before, just like a photo taken from eye level of a popular subject is bland. Really interesting articles are ones where the author has gone into an in depth examination to find the most exciting angle to write about. In photography a great photographer works the subject from top to bottom looking for the most interesting angle of a subject. Even the most normal subject, like an apple, has hundreds of different angles to it.

Light

Caye Caulker Soccer Field

The light of a photo gives a mood to the piece - click to enlarge

Shooting a photo in the right light makes all the difference to a photograph as it gives the viewer a mood to sense. In writing it is the same thing. If a writer puts together a piece in a neutral light the outcome of the article will be bland and uninspiring. However, if the author chooses to portray a light, via a mood in their writing, the piece will likely evoke powerful emotion in its reader. Pushing a little further to discover interesting light makes all the difference to a writer or a photographer.

Aperture and Focus

As is the case in writing, a photographer chooses where the focus of their image will be in order to draw the eye of the viewer to the subject. Maybe more importantly a photographer also chooses which part of the image to blur. Trying to encapsulate everything, either in writing or photography, simply creates a busy and messy subject to the particular piece of work. Having too many elements in play only creates a confused viewer that will be easily distracted and stray away from the message you are trying to portray through your art.

Conclusion

Butterfly in Copan

The focus tells the viewer what to look at, and what not to look at - Click to enlarge

If you’re a writer trying to get into the photography side more, or vice versa, the transition can be simple if you just translate your skills directly to the other art form. If you’re struggling to write an article on a certain subject think to how you would photograph it. As a writer, think about what makes your favourite images powerful. What scene would you place your subject in? What light would you capture it in? And, most importantly, what emotion would you try to create with your image?


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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20 Comments

  1. Hi Brendan, Love the site, and the amazing travel experience! Keep up the great work!

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  2. Time to look into writing screenplays, just add the element of dialogue!

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    • @Kymri – I’d love to write a screen play… just have no idea how to put one together πŸ˜€

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  3. These shots are great.

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    • Thanks! I’m glad you like the images πŸ˜€

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  4. I love the photos and the writing …. clearly practicing what you preach :=) I love the way you put it at the beginning: “Thinking I have found that that I love photography for the exact same reason I love writing: it is an outlet of my vision of the world. I often feel that I see the world though different eyes than most people, and love how in both writing and photography I can express how the world looks to me.about it, too, what you say is so true.” That is exactly how I feel.

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    • @Linda – Thanks for your comment I’m glad the article resonated πŸ˜€

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  5. Well written and well said!

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  6. i’m not a photographer, but i’m a writer, and i feel like a hiave a better understanding of photography having read this. nice and clever way to describe two thing you really love.

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    • Thanks Mark πŸ˜€

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  7. Interesting read. I never though of the connection like that before πŸ™‚

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    • @Charlie – I made the connection while trying to teach a photographer friend of my how to write an article the other day… πŸ˜€

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  8. Exactamundo!

    I like the point about angles – so many photos and stories are of the Mr. Milktoast variety. Shake it up and create your own slant is great advice.

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  9. Thanks for sharing this insight. I agree writing and photography do draw on many of the same skills and perspectives. You’ve put it so beautifully. Why contain your creativity and voice in one art form when you can say it differently through many?

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  10. Very well said, great comparisons, you have highlighted the right similarities between writing and photography.

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  11. Your totally right Angela, great comparisons, Writing and Photography is also a way of expressing there feelings. although they are different in appearance but it is both a way of expressing once feelings and Ideas. Thanks for sharing.

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  12. So true – both forums tell a story – on their own or as complements. The angle aspect is so true. I have loved working on my photography and enjoy playing with different angles and perspectives. Now it is time to work on my writing, and looking at a new angle is just the perspective I may need. Thanks!

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