WR: Photography and Art

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

How many times have we seen this one? Over and over writers see this and it can be disheartening. At least for me, it has been. How can I take words and create a solid image for my readers that's even half as impactful as a simple image? Would it be a waste of time to even try? Why can't I be an artist?! At least on the surface, this phrase can be fairly damaging when the philosophy behind it is ignored. I still sometimes catch myself in this state of thinking when scrolling through my art resources.

History of the Saying

"A picture is worth a thousand words" comes from a paraphrased and twisted saying from Henrik Ibsen which originally reads: "A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed." He was a playwrite and theater director who pushed the boundaries of his craft into the more modern art movements of the time examining the more realistic and gritty parts of life that at the time were meant to be locked away under a facade. In time the saying was picked up and altered over many nations, languages, and years to say different things and make arguments for different aspects of culture eventually being modernized for advertisement generally attributed to Fred R. Barnard as he pushed for advertisements to be placed as large images on the side of boxcar trains.

Looking at the origins and history of the phrase we can, as creative souls who work with words, reclaim the meanings behind it and hopefully shake off a bit of the self-doubt associated with the modern argument behind it. I would even propose that we take inspiration from the original quote instead.

As people who work with words to inspire and spark the imagination of others it can be tempting to try and take this saying literally and I have seen more than one prompt asking me to write 1000 words to describe a picture which is not only shallow but leaves the writer feeling inadequate if just left on its own. It can also be tempting for us writers to rely too heavily on images. I know I have been tempted to look at my writing and say "I just wish I had a picture here to show what I am talking about." That can open up the rabbit hole of writer's block, and feeling like you might not have the skill to spark imagination through your work instead of inspiring you to get better.

So below you will find many of the art resources that I personally use and work with for all kinds of creative projects but also some of my personal, and hopefully helpful, tips and tricks for approaching art and photos in the writing space.

I am not sponsored or affiliated with any of the tools below. Please take these listings simply as tools I or others find useful. Be sure to do your own research to ensure the integrity of your work.
Table of Contents
 

Artbreeder

Links: https://www.artbreeder.com/; https://www.artbreeder.com/about; https://www.artbreeder.com/pricing

Artbreeder is a photo mixing tool that takes stock, user-submitted, and generated photos and mixes them together when you select them bringing over aspects of style, color, and structure to create new images that are not owned by anyone else. It's a fun and creative tool that gives a lot of freedom for what you can create.

  • Platform:
  • Browser Based
  • Cost:
  • Limited Free- $9.00 per month for the basic package
  • Personal Overal Rating:
  • 3/5 It's a fun little tool and can create some really amazing stuff but I'm personally not a huge fan of the paid service on it. To me, it's just not worth it for what I use it for.
  • Copyright:
  • Who owns the images? "All images are public domain (CC0) and may be used for commercial purposes. It is strongly suggested that you cite the Artbreeder image URL when sharing something that strongly resembles an Artbreeder image. Private mode is available for subscribers to ensure the images are not used by others." Taken directly from their Support Page
Quick Ideas to Use this Tool
  • Create a unique Lanscape to feature in your setting
  • Create a character's image and use it as inspiration for your Hero's love interest
  • Create an abstract image and turn it into a supernatural element
My Thoughts

I've personally had the most luck with creating either character profile images that are close to what I have in my mind's eye or at least inspirational enough for me to work with. The second one is in landscapes. My landscapes don't need to be absolute most of the time and I like the art styles that keep landscapes more artistic than realistic so this tool works great when I need to pull images of a place I am writing or better yet a mood or time of day. Because the images have no copyright I can use them on WorldAnvil and other sites without worry. Discover new styles and more abstract art which can lead to some fun inspiration.

 

Pinterest

Links: https://www.pinterest.com/

"Pinterest is a visual discovery engine for finding ideas like recipes, home and style inspiration, and more. With billions of Pins on Pinterest, you'll always find ideas to spark inspiration. When you discover Pins you love, save them to boards to keep your ideas organized and easy to find." -Pinterest

  • Platform:
  • Browser Based
  • Cost:
  • Free
  • Personal Overal Rating:
  • 4/5- I love to use this tool for inspiration but not to find images to actually use directly in my work.
  • Copyright:
  • Who owns the images?

    The biggest issue that I have with Pinterest is that it can be incredibly easy to lose the original artist's or author's information on a pin because it can change hands so many times and there's no cross-checking.

Quick Ideas to Use this Tool
  • Make a board for your personal inspiration by searching for Writer's Life or Writing Memes. It's really a pick-me-up when you feel like you're lost in your own work. Like this one.
  • Look for images of real-life places and use them to inspire a place in your setting that is unlike any other spot in your setting.
  • Make a board with some technical info for quick reference and inspiration.
My Thoughts

Pinterest is a really versatile tool that can help visually inspire the work of any storyteller. Finding nearly anything and just about everything on this platform means that it's good for any genre or interest and can be a great resource. It can be impossible to find the original artist or author of something which makes giving proper credit stupidly difficult. Add onto that the possibility that helpful tips or 'facts' can be completely false. It's critically important to check the information you get and seek out the original artists and authors as much as possible. If you don't know simply don't use it or post it. For me, it's most useful when I get lost. I use Pinterest more like an Interior Designer uses a Mood Board. I make a board on a very specific topic such as a specific character or culture from my setting and fill it with quotes and images and facts from inspired parts of our real world in there so that I never lose track of what I am trying to do.

 

Google Earth

Links: https://earth.google.com/web/

"Explore the whole world from above with satellite imagery and 3D terrain of the entire globe and 3D buildings in hundreds of cities around the world. Zoom to your house or anywhere else then dive in for a 360° perspective with Street View. See the world from a new point of view with Voyager, a collection of guided tours from BBC Earth, NASA, National Geographic, and more. And now, visualize the immersive maps and stories you've created with Google Earth on web on your mobile device." -Google Earth

  • Platform:
  • Browser Based
  • Cost:
  • Free
  • Personal Overal Rating:
  • 5/5 -Combining the visual experience with the knowledge to inspire my work is priceless.
  • Copyright:
  • Who Owns the Images?

    "Google Earth or Earth Studio can be used for purposes such as research, education, film, and nonprofit use without needing permission. All content created from Google Earth or Earth Studio must always be properly attributed. Google Earth content may not be used for any commercial or promotional purposes." From their Terms of Service

Quick Ideas to Use this Tool
  • Zoom in on any coastline and use it as the basis for a whole continent in your setting. Understanding real shorelines can make yours far more realistic and natural!
  • Use the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' dice on the right-hand side of the screen and use wherever it takes you as inspiration in your setting that is NOT a location. Try an animal or plant.
  • Use the 'Voyages' Button on the left and pick a topic from the provided ideas. It ties in science and real-world phenomenon with amazing visuals that you can apply and create amazing additions to your world that are inspiring, grounded, and beautiful.
My Thoughts

Google Earth is simply a good informational tool above all else. If I am looking for something specific like a type of biome or studies on natural environments and weather patterns this is my go-to. It gives me the visuals that I crave and the knowledge to make something within my setting that can be really creative and unique. A lot of settings seem to feed off one another in rather predictable ways so this tool reminds me that there are literally countless places in our own world that can be just as awe-inspiring and beautiful as the more common aesthetics of fantasy.

 

Pexels (and Others)

Links: https://www.pexels.com/

"Pexels provides high quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Pexels license. All photos are nicely tagged, searchable and also easy to discover through our discover pages. We have hundreds of thousands free stock photos and every day new high resolution photos will be added. All photos are hand-picked from photos uploaded by our users or sourced from free image websites. We make sure all published pictures are high-quality and licensed under the Pexels license." Pexels

Alternatives

The following two sites are almost identical to Pexels in every way. I chose to focus on Pexels as it's the one that I use the most by a tiny margin. Instead of doing three different blocks for basically the same thing, I thought this would be more beneficial. Please check out the links below to find even more amazing photographers and images!

https://unsplash.com/, https://pixabay.com/

  • Platform:
  • Browser Based
  • Cost:
  • Free
  • Personal Overal Rating:
  • 5/5 -This is my preferred image gathering service mostly because the images are in great qualities, terms are clear and it's very easy to attribute the artist which is important to me.
  • Copyright:
  • What is Allowed

    All photos and videos on Pexels are free to use. Attribution is not required. Giving credit to the photographer or Pexels is not necessary but always appreciated. You can modify the photos and videos from Pexels. Be creative and edit them as you like.- From their License Page

Quick Ideas to Use this Tool
  • Find an image of a location and turn it into the place of a legendary battle. Don't be limited to the epic, sometimes the backyard of a house can be such a place!
  • Find an image of a weather pattern and write a short description focused on visceral mood and emotion surrounding it.
  • Find a picture of something, not a human (animal, plant, storm, object), and turn it into a human character in a short.
My Thoughts

Finding free photos of amazing places, people, or animals can be really hard with a simple google search. Finding if it's actually free at the same time as finding the original artist can be frustrating. These three platforms make it easy to do all these things in a quick way and I can help to support individual creators more easily by promoting their work fairly and even donating directly to them. Overall instead of doing a google search for things I tend to go to these sites for inspiration and useable photography.

 

LunaPic

Links: https://www3.lunapic.com/editor/

"LunaPic is an online image editor that screams kitsch. It allows users to upload pictures, edit them, and share them. Create .GIF animations. Add effects and do image manipulation. Use the text tool to add words. It’s all about creating free images that are funny, strange, or folksy. Then sharing them on social media, like Facebook and Tumblr. The app has a cult following. Its audience skews in two very different directions. On the one hand, towards older people who didn’t grow up with the internet. People who don’t have the same discerning millennial Tumblr tastes. For them it’s just a fun thing to tool around with. Then there’s the younger crowd. For one, because the platform’s easy to use and has an approachable look. It is, dare I say, “anti-aesthetic.” As a result, it’s approachable for kids." -Christopher Sirk

  • Platform:
  • Browser Based
  • Cost:
  • Free
  • Personal Overal Rating:
  • 4/5 -As a photo editor, this program is highly versatile and clean. The interface is fairly straight forward and you can get some really creative and interesting filters with it. There's a good number of tutorials on how to use it and in place of a paid program, I think it's a fantastic alternative.
  • Copyright:
  • "For Users of this Website: The code for Lunapic.com is copyright Lunapic.com 2016, except as listed. However, users of this website do not lose their own copyright on images edited with LunaPic. You're free to use your own images edited here for whatever purpose you desire. We don't claim copyright on images edited here. If your image that you didn't put here is on this website, please let us know. LunaPic.com is a registered service provider with the US Copyright office."- Copyright

    In other words the original photo belongs to the original artist as this is simply a photo editing service. Get permission before editing photos or artwork and credit appropriately.

Quick Ideas to Use this Tool
  • Try a crazy filter on an image and use the result as a reference for how one of your characters views the world around them.
  • Edit some of your chosen photos to appear hand-drawn and use those as references for your world-building instead of realistic photos.
  • Don't be afraid of color. Try altering the color of something that is traditionally one thing like the blue sky or green grass and see what that does to your setting.
My Thoughts

I don't have much personal interest or money to invest in a large photo editing platform like Gimp or PhotoShop. Edits to my photos are quick, focused more on filters and effects, and typically are used on images that need to stay in line with a theme or visual pattern. Lunapic is a good middle ground tool that lets me do all that without needing to invest time into learning a whole other platform that I simply don't have the time for. It's a great tool overall and I would recommend it to anyone that is like me in this respect!

 

Canva

Links: https://www.canva.com/

"Canva is a graphic design platform, used to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content. The app includes templates for users to use. The platform is free to use and offers paid subscriptions like Canva Pro and Canva for Enterprise for additional functionality." -Canva

  • Platform:
  • Browser Based
  • Cost:
  • Free with a Pro option of $10
  • Personal Overal Rating:
  • 4/5 -The main use of this tool is the quick and easy layout systems that it provides in templates and free form. It's not worth the sub to me but it's an amazing tool even with the Free Version
  • Copyright:
  • This is a photo editing service at its core. You can find additional information about their Terms of Service and Licensing on Free media HERE but ensure that all images and fonts that you use are credited properly and used with permission. Canva has a wide selection of Free Media which is offered under their License Agreement found in the link provided.

Quick Ideas to Use this Tool
  • Create a Mood Board for your current project! Keeping color themes, fonts, and shapes all in one place for reference.
  • Use it to create unique breaks in your articles, blogs, or other writing projects breaking up the text.
  • Design a business card that includes the pitch for your novel or creative work. The tiny space will force you to be creative and memorable!
My Thoughts

My primary use in Canva is for templates and measured images with many layers for website and article design. While I am sure it has capabilities to do other types of photo editing it's simply not what I use it for. It's a great tool to make nice-looking and clean images to use on digital platforms in a quick and efficient way. For me it's not worth the sub as I use it only when I need to which isn't that often.

 

Flowscape

Links: Steam; FlowScape Gallery

"In FlowScape you can create your own nature scene simply by painting. Choose from 20 landscapes and more than 300 models to create your own little paradise by painting trees, changing the sky, rotating the sun, adding sound effects and adjusting your camera for that perfect photo." -Flowscape on Steam

  • Platform:
  • Computer Download
  • Cost:
  • $15
  • Personal Overal Rating:
  • 5/5 -I absolutely love this tool. It makes amazing images for the setting as well as Battle Maps but more importantly, the Developer is active in the community and it's a super relaxing way for me to spend some spare time.
  • Copyright:
  • "Absolutely can do whatever you want with the images, panoramas and animations"- pixelforestgames The Developer of the Program

Quick Ideas to Use this Tool
  • Make a landscape in a biome that you usually don't work with. If you work with North American/European conifer forest biomes try a desert! Diversity is key.
  • Try to capture a specific mood in your landscape and then translate the storytelling tools you used visually into storytelling tools you can use in writing.
  • Create a perfectly normal landscape that has an overall feeling of magic. Don't be overt about it like floating islands or dragons. Use your skills of subtlety.
My Thoughts

I'm in love with this simple program and the Developer. The Developer is active in the community and Version 2 has been announced and I am very excited about it! It can be a little overwhelming at first as there's no tutorial in the program itself but it's fairly intuitive without it and the community has made many tutorials as a whole. The music that is paired with the program as well as the flexibility in element manipulation is just right for someone who's not worried about creating something on par with Blender. It doesn't take up a lot of time to make something unique and beautiful without stressing.



This article has no secrets.

Comments

Author's Notes

Have another Resource to recommend or give a shout-out to? Comment with a link to their information so I can add it to the list and others can find it! Let me know what was helpful in this list and if you tried something new because of it. This is all about sharing information and increasing views on great tools for Writers, Storytellers, and other creative hearts.


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26 Jun, 2021 15:55

Oof, I felt that opening paragraph. I mean, it's as simple as when someone hears "artist," I imagine 9 times out of 10 at least, they think "someone who draws things." Or possibly a "recording artist." Writers are... writers. We don't get to be part of that particular cool kids club.   I tend to run a lot of my TTRPGs as "theatre of the mind" - there just isn't enough time in a day to accurately portray everything. It works well enough for most people, but the fact is that visuals help, and for some people, it's all but impossible to play without the visual aids, be they maps or pictures of characters, monsters, etc. It's just how brains work. It's not even just games - even in my normal life, the mere act of creating a flow chart can sway a dozen minds in a room to show that a process is good or bad.   As I started to pull up the tools I use, I realized that nearly all of them are links to sites with free or inexpensive battle maps, or tools to generate them, and I'm not sure that's the point of this article. Happy to link them if so. Art-wise, I tend to basically use Google Image Search (which often leads to some of the sites you have listed; particularly Pinterest, which is a tool I can't wrap my brain around at all).

26 Jun, 2021 22:50

I'll be doing a specific article on maps and map tools because I just have so many of them. I'll be sure to toss you that one when it's ready though because there's a very good chance I simply don't know about some great gems out there.

1 Aug, 2021 05:56

Whoa... love the resources and information laid out here! I'll be sure to look into these things, so thanks for the advice!   In other words... How'd you do that table of contents?! It's so cool!


Seek out Fate in the world of Auriga!   Also, feel free to check out my Progress Report for this year's Summer Camp... AND if you want to see what I'm working on, you can check up on my Prompt Workshop space!