How to start writing the stories behind your photos

Do you have countless photos tucked away in albums or boxes or numerous collections you have downloaded from your camera or phone? How often do you look at them or show them to family and friends? Probably not very often and this could be because nobody else is particularly interested. Looking at other peoples’ snaps can be quite boring and so read on to find out how to start writing the stories behind your photos and discover how you can create something that people can really engage with. 

You are the expert

If you ever do get the opportunity to show your photos to family and friends you probably tell them a bit about each one – when and where it was taken, who the people are, what the occasion was and so on. And it is these details which can add so much more interest. If you are the only person who knows or remembers these details what will future generations make of the photos if they don’t even know who the people in the picture are? So, it is up to you to write the stories behind your photos.

Organise your photos

The stories behind your photos are worth capturing but it is unlikely you could do this for all of them. However, by picking out a few which are particularly evocative or significant and starting to scribble down what you know or remember about them would be a great start. You may have to do a bit of sorting and organising first, but in the process you will probably come across photos you had completely forgotten about or photos which bring back some special memories.

Start building your story

Once you have chosen some photos to work with, use what you know to start building your story but don’t let your story be constrained by just what you see. There are stories behind every person, setting and situation in photos so do a bit of research and detective work to find out more about each photo. For example, what might have happened just before and after the photo was taken, what are the relationships of the people in the photo, what do their clothes tell you about the period, is there anybody missing from the photo, is there anything significant about the location or setting of the photo and so on? Ask family members, friends or anyone else who might be able to help you with some of the details you don’t know.

Use your imagination to help you write the stories behind your photos

If you can’t get hard facts use your imagination to fill in the gaps to help you write the stories behind your photos. The photo you have chosen may have all the necessary ingredients for a great story but equally your photo could simply be the inspiration for something more imaginative. For example, if you don’t know much about the people in your photo you could try to imagine what their lives were like, why they came together for the photo, what was happening around the time the photo was taken.

You don’t have to be an experienced writer

Because photos have the power to stimulate your imagination and inspire ideas they are a great starting point for new and inexperienced writers. Whether they are photos you have taken, photos taken by someone you know or photos you have just come by they all have the power to inspire a story. Start by simply scribbling down a few sentences about what you already know and and then gradually build up your story using the best bits you uncover on closer examination and any other ideas you have (imaginary or otherwise).

For more tips on how to start looking for and writing the stories behind your photos, why not take our course  Writing the stories behind your photos or grab a copy of my eBook How to start creating stories from your photos for just £2.50.

Also check out our infographic Writing from photos using picture prompts.

How to start writing the stories behind your photos

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