How to write content about your photographs

Photographers (as any other creatives) genuinely care about their work. The things they create talk about who they are and what they stand for. When asked to write content about their photographs and share processes, they become vulnerable. Let’s learn how you can build on that and turn it into an advantage.

October 25, 2019
Reading time 11 – 16 minutes

No matter if we do that through photography or painting on a grain of rice, we live in a world where we need stories to complement what we’re doing.

Writing has never been more powerful than today: every day, we read, write, post, send, enjoy, dislike, share, like a steady stream of written text. Thus, learning how to present your work (also) in writing has become indispensable. 

This article walks you through a specific list of actions that you can make to write authentic content with ease about your photos. 

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My aim is to bring the best knowledge I’ve been acquiring in the past 10 years of digital communication and help you present your work in a way that resonates with your inner-why, and stands out. 

I deliver some specific tips about how you can write meaningful content around your photos. 

Before I jump into the subject, I feel the need to mention that photographers, like many other creative souls out there, have their anxieties, dilemmas, and fears of all kinds. 

Showing up and talking about their work is hard, very hard, especially when a strong emotional attachment is at play.

The next time you see a cliche from a wedding photographer or a not-so-coherent message published on the social media channels, stop judging and start thinking what makes it so hard for them.

Ready to find out how you can start writing content on your terms, without falling into derisory? 

3 tips to write content about your photographs

The Internet is brimming with recipes and how-to guides to walk you through everything you need to make it work. My goal is not to duplicate what’s already there, but to share valuable insights gathered both from my hands-on communication experience and from talking with professional photographers.

To be honest, nothing beats the added value I get when I talk to people who encounter these problems on a daily basis.

Here’s the thing: nobody can make it for you. Nobody can find shortcuts and get you to the final lap faster. Nobody can live in your shoes, not fully. Nobody can speed up your process and evolution. You need to invest whatever it takes to make sure you give yourself the best chance to shine out there.

The most important step you can take is to be as candid as possible regarding who you are as a person in the first place (then as a photographer), and what makes you, you.

Tip 1 — Write down notes while you take photos of your clients

As a photographer, you deal with quite a lot of different individuals every year. It is hard to keep track of everyone you work with since each customer has a different story, a different background – so the best way to be up to date is by taking notes during your photo sessions. Think of them as emotional snapshots of your inner self, in that specific context.

For the sake of more clarity, let’s assume you’re a wedding photographer and have around 20 contracts annually.

A simple way to develop long-term narrative memories of the couples you work with is by writing down all kinds of pop-up thoughts when spending time with them.

Just put on paper whatever words come to mind: how the weather is, what you observed, how they dressed, where they went, how they behaved, the color of their socks, the gestures they made, etc.

All these so-called random observations will be super helpful when you connect the dots to publish a text next to the photos on your website or social media accounts.

You will no longer feel stuck because you don’t know what to say, nor will you be afraid of sounding foolish or repetitive. The truth is that what you captured in that particular scenario, with those specific people places you in a unique, authentic mood and words start to flow naturally.

We rely way too much on our memory, our brain, our ability to remember, and we often get lost, and we dilute various important details. My recommendation is to write down as much as you can because it gives you plenty of ideas when you craft content around your photos, your clients, no matter where you will use them — on your blog, on Facebook, on Instagram, on e-mail.

Your clients will, most probably, feel honored that you took the time and the energy to pay much attention and that the final result truly represents who they are, in a raw, simple yet powerful way. The extra benefit is that you set aside from the rest by manifesting care and kindness.

Tip 2 — Put the storyteller hat on and ask open questions

For the sake of being consistent, I keep the example of the wedding photographer. I know for a fact that there’s much pressure to differentiate each story since most of the weddings look the same. I can relate to that, but the funny thing is that the events, per se, may look quite similar, but the people involved are surely not.

In the end, we all have something special, something that defines us, quirks that makes us different, but it’s the photographer’s job to see these aspects and showcase them elegantly, both through photos per se and content.

A simple yet powerful way to capture the uniqueness of the people you work for is to engage with them and facilitate meaningful dialogue. Don’t just snap the shutter, take stunning photos, grab the money, and move on to the next project. Create reliable liaisons through honest and vulnerable conversations. 

Learn how to ask genuine questions to help people share their narratives, and you will no longer face struggles when you write about your photographs.

Here are a few examples of questions that you can try asking:

  • How did you meet in the first place?
  • What are your favorite desserts?
  • What do you love most about each other?
  • Where did you travel together for the first time?
  • What are your biggest fears?
  • How do you make it up after a fight?
  • What kind of music do you guys love?

As long as you refer to your clients as people who are unique in their way, who have a life full of ups and downs – as we all have, you can start putting the pieces together. Automatically, you also make the most out of your photographs, your content, and your relationship.

The lovely thing is that once you succeed in narrowing the gap, you start matching your photos with their story, and that’s basically the best thing you can do.

Tip 3 — Let you clients contribute to your writing process

I often hear that photographers don’t know how to highlight the specificity of each client because, from a certain point, they are so zoomed in that they are no longer able to see the nuances.

This challenge is common for most folks who work in creative industries since we are so bound to what we are doing that we can’t see the big picture anymore. But it doesn’t mean that we can’t get out of there.

For a wedding photographer, a witty solution is to involve your clients and ask them to generate content ideas to complement the photos you take for them. Ask how do they imagine the description of their photo album on Facebook, how they would write a message about their photo session, which words are the most appropriate to define the emotions revealed during the session, and so on.

You can experiment with any of the following:

  • Are you the romantic kind of a couple of not necessarily?
  • What kind of words do you use when you write about yourself on social media?
  • When was the last time you published a personal message on Facebook?
  • Which is your favorite emoji?

This way, you have a better start, and you no longer face the empty page syndrome or any writer’s block.

Let people express who they are in their fullness, don’t try to fix or judge them and publish what you think represents your shared reality. Let them be their authentic selves and capture the full spectrum of their personalities.

Your goal as a photographer is not to repack everything to look posh and mislead people but to showcase how they are, from top to toe.

3 good practices to give your writing effort the best chances

Great photographers are artists and behave accordingly. They have their unique way of seeing and understanding the world. They know that the right photo can speak by itself, but they are increasingly more aware that the crowded digital landscape requires them to show up with content around their frames. 

Photographers need to find a way to match their work with a proper message that says something about their creative vision, while it sets them apart. 

Are you eager to find out how you can make it happen? Read further discover specific actions you can take by yourself.

1 — Write about your photos the way you talk about them

I wrote an entire eBook on the importance of writing the way you’re talking and capturing emotions through your content, but I feel the need to add some more insights here.

First of all, copycatting others is the worst thing you could do. Even though you might sound like someone else’s voice for a while and people might get attracted to that style, it does not last. It is not sustainable to fake it day after day, and there’s definitely something far better that you can do with the time investing in mime the others.

Hey! I’m Oana 👋

More than 1000 people all over the world downloaded my eBook on writing. Want to join the growing tribe of storytelling lovers?

Yes, of course

On the one hand, because people are not stupid at all, and they quickly feel that something’s off and you are not authentic. On the other hand, why would you try to sound like a different person since you can sound like yourself? As you take photos in your particular style and you align it to your vision, I encourage you to do the same when it comes to writing.

  • Do you speak in cliches when you drink coffee with your friends?
  • Do you use quotes when you hang out?
  • Do you use complicated words to show off when dealing with your clients?
  • Do you overreact with emojis when you write an e-mail at work?

Your voice is the best voice you can use to make yourself heard. It should not be likable by everyone, so let that battle sink, and focus on those clients who resonate with who you really are. Try to be a bit more aware of the kind of words you use daily and make sure you approach your customers in a similar tone-of-voice. 

In case you fake it, you soon start dealing with a bunch of people who think this is the real you, but in reality, you are on a different wavelength, so nothing great happens from this huge misalignment.

2 — Write in a way that feels personal for the reader

Nobody likes the obvious. The beauty lies in the mystery, in the process of discovery, in layers that together form a beautiful yet surprising image. Therefore, write around your photographs instead of about them.

Avoid giving people a straightforward explanation about your work and invest more energy in crafting a message where you add things that are inexpressible in the pictures. Add your personality and show readers a different angle from which they can understand your style.

For instance, if you upload a photo album on Facebook with the latest couple, you worked with, try to skip the Love lasts forever with you, Sarah and John! kind of boring mantras. Instead, tell people something that surprises them, such as how that session touched you as a photographer, what you liked about it, how the light influenced the whole atmosphere, or describe, in a genuine way, how you see and feel their relationship.

Here are a few examples of messages that you highlight the above advice:

  • Sometimes, the dialogue between two people requires no words. They know what they know and don’t; therefore, they accept each other as they are. And that’s huge.
  • Love has many expressions, each of them complicated and beautiful at the same time. Alicia and William know how to mirror each other with authenticity.
  • I was amazed to take photos of this couple, defined by kindness and care. The way they look, the way they touch, the way they stay next to each other — everything makes the time freeze. Isn’t that what great relationships are all about?

3 — Write when everything around you supports deep focus

Sign out from the digital landscape, leave your phone in another room, and start writing content about your photographs once you’ve established an environment that helps you create meaningful work.

If you want to craft engaging stories around your photo sessions while answering a message on Facebook or Instagram, checking your e-mail address, putting together the next offer, and editing a batch of pictures, well, you do a poor job.

As with any creative activity, you need to have constraints to bring forth the best you have.

Once you do that, grab the notes you made while documenting the life of the people you took photos of, and kick-off from there.

Write the first draft, and don’t stop until you put down every single word that came to mind. Don’t try to write and edit at the same time because it doesn’t work like that, especially if you don’t have strong storytelling skills.

Just throw up words. In the end, that’s why it is called the first draft. When you feel that you have nothing else to add, show what you got to someone your trust and invite them to a conversation and constructive feedback.

To guide the dialogue, you can ask questions like:

  • What do you think makes this content memorable?
  • What do you remember after reading it?
  • In which way did the story touch you?

Don’t try to provide prefab clues, or focus on getting answers that make you feel comfortable, take notes from the responses you are getting, and you will see later what and how you’ll integrate them further.

Once you start switching your approach from “I am alone and need to do everything by myself” to “I am here with these people, and we can all contribute,” things get not only more accessible but also more meaningful.

The result becomes better in so many areas that you will be quite surprised about how great stories can match your amazing photos and change the lives of some people for the better. And isn’t that what really matters in the end? Crafting memories that last forever.

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A question by Oana, the author of this article:
What has been the biggest struggle when writing about your work? Maybe we can find solutions together.

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