“People To Shoot”

“Okay, now look like you’re telling each other some big news.”

(c) Kathiann M. Kowalski

(c) Kathiann M. Kowalski

“Is it okay if we really talk?”

Yesterday morning I did a short photo shoot with a couple of friends’ daughters for a science article I’m working on. An expert I’d interviewed talked about networks for spreading news among junior high school students, so I’m thinking it would be great if the final article includes an image of real junior high students sharing news. Hence, my request and gratitude to the two good sports who helped me out, as well as their moms who gave permission in advance.

The client for this particular article asks writers to identify a couple of images that would help illustrate the article, and the target audience is indeed students. After the girls left, I uploaded the images to my computer and tinkered a bit. I cleaned up one or two bits or red eye, adjusted brightness, and made sure the images were sharp. Then I selected the best, wrote captions, and finalized a memo describing how one of these and images from other sources would help illustrate different points of my article.

Even when a client doesn’t require that, thinking visually can help shape my writing. For starters, it makes me focus on the particular outlet. How might my article appear to that outlet’s target reader? Even though I write with my own voice, each piece needs to be a good fit for its outlet. And it must be accessible to those particular target readers.

Focusing on possible images makes the subject come alive for me. The more real and the more interesting I find it, the better I can understand it and convey its importance through my writing.

Thinking visually also helps me focus on what I want to say. The photo captions for my own images and those from other sources need to be short and accurate. They also need to convey how the image relates to the subject of the article. This makes me focus: Why is this photo relevant? What does it say? How does that relate to my topic? After I write the captions, I go back and review my article. Does it clearly make the points that the photo captions say? If not, I need to polish my writing more.

Taking some of my own images for articles has also created some fun memories. Back when my kids were younger, they and their friends would pose for different photo shoots. We did one for a meteor-watching party and another for a piece on how to do a time release image of star tracks. Afterward, we all celebrated with a dessert.

Yet another project illustrated points for a book on teens’ legal rights. My younger daughter volunteered to help line up friends for different shots. She even obligingly came up with a list, titled “People To Shoot.” For a few boys, she even included a note to avoid days they caddied: “Wednesdays are not good for them.”

This raises a whole other question about how words can have multiple meanings and how to avoid having something said in one context misconstrued in another. But that’s a whole other article. And I’m thinking a close-up of a camera would be just the shot to illustrate it.


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