Monday, November 2, 2015

Write Like a Photographer

From Kate’s Writing Crate...

          In celebration of my father’s birthday, I arranged for a professional photo shoot in the yard to use the bright fall foliage as the backdrop while family members, including the dogs, posed for portraits. As everyone relaxed, candid shots were also taken.

          It’s funny how differently people—and dogs—act when cameras are around. My father’s German shepherd is usually within a few feet of him most of the time. However, when the cameras were turned her way, she knew she was the star of the show. She scampered off with the squeaky ball meant only to make her ears perk up and look at the camera. She sat when asked, but soon was doing her own thing: rolling around in the yellow maple leaves; flopping down with her tongue hanging out; and looking pensively off into the distance instead of at the cameras then racing off to play with the other dogs.

          With digital cameras, photographers can catch all this action by taking thousands of pictures per photo shoot with lots of variations. Subjects in different poses, grouped together and separately. Using close up and wide angle shots. And taking multiples of the same shot to make sure it’s in focus and properly framed.

When we see the proofs, not every photo is going to be perfect. Someone’s eyes will be closed or mouth open. The dogs will be blurry in action. The angle will cut off the top of a head. The wind will have ruffled hair. But some shots taken between these flawed photos will be the gems where the light and shadows are perfect and the subjects are all looking in the right direction with attractive expressions on their faces.

These are the photos worth taking, but they can’t be singled out, only captured among thousands of others.

          Writers have pictures in our heads. We commit them to paper. No pixels, only words. And not just any words, but the right words. It’s an extraordinary endeavor.

This is why we write rough drafts then rewrite pieces repeatedly. Every thoughtful rewrite focuses our writing, develops our style, and sharpens our skills so readers can clearly see our vision.

These are the words worth writing, but they are also only captured among thousands of others.

No one tells photographers every shot has to be perfect. So why does anyone think first drafts have to be perfect?

Write like a photographer. Choose interesting subjects and settings. Group various subjects together and see how they react then rearrange them. Use different perspectives. Try the same perspective, but zoom in for details then out for the overview. Use light and shadow—what needs to be revealed and what can remain a secret? What can be cropped? What’s in focus? Have we framed the piece properly?

Great writing, like great photography, depends on the choices we make.    



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