Write It Sideways

5 Ways to Use Flickr Photos for Writing Inspiration

Sometimes visual inspiration is the best kind of inspiration. There’s just something about an interesting photograph that gets those neurons firing and makes us itch to write.

If you’re not already familiar with Flickr, it’s a website where thousands of people share photographs.

Some photographers retain all rights to their work, so you can only view their pictures. Some allow use of their photos under certain conditions (such as not changing the photo in any way, or only using their photos for non-commercial purposes). Some   photographers allow full access to their photos for use elsewhere on the internet, or in commercial copy or books. Many have a mixture of photos available—some with all rights reserved, and some that are available under the creative commons licence.

A lot of the pictures you see on Write It Sideways are creative commons licensed photos.

The great thing about Flickr, is not only the sheer quantity of photos available, but the quality of photos. It gives you free access to some of the most amazing photographs taken from around the world, and even though you might not be able to reuse all of them on your blog, you can still use them to help you get inspired.

Here are five ways to do just that:

1. Search for something specific.

Sometimes when I’m in the mood to get inspired by some photos, I’ll type something specific into the Flickr search box. For example, if I feel like writing about my hometown, I’ll type in its name. That brings up several pages of photos taken there, and I can browse through the results.

2. ‘Explore’ Flickr.

Go to Flickr’s homepage and look at the top of the screen. You’ll see a category that says Explore.

Within that category, you can browse all kinds of neat things like interesting photos from the last seven days, a world map or calendar of photos, and most recent uploads.

3. Subscribe to a photostream.

If there are photographers whose work you really admire, you can subscribe to their photostreams, so whenever they post new content, it gets sent to you automatically. This is an easy way to get inspiration with little effort on your part.

You never know—maybe the next picture to turn up in your inbox will be the one to spark an idea for your next novel.

4. Choose a blog photo before writing your post.

Here’s one thing I’ve often done when I’m not quite sure what I want to blog about: I choose a blog photo before writing the post. Once I’ve found an interesting photo, I’ll think of how I can tie it into a writing-related theme. Dozens of my articles have been written this way, and it rarely fails.

If you’re looking for a creative commons photo, you can conduct an advanced search here.

5. Create a picture folder.

Whenever you discover an especially inspiring picture, save it to a digital folder on your computer so you can return to it whenever you like. You can even create subfolders to categorize pictures by subject or theme.

Do you use Flickr for writing or blogging inspiration? What other ways can you think of to use photographs for inspiration?