March 21, 2006
Liz published this at 10:44 am
You Know It’s a Winner When . . .
Sometimes when I’m using a photo site to find ideas, I’ll just randomly put words into the photo search box–much the same as I randomly Google topics–to see what comes up. One picture might cue another word in my mind, which leads to trigger another search. I might pull a photo or two from each set of search results. Those I chose go into my Photo Ideas Directory.
Occasionally I’ll land on a real winner. As with text entries, you know an idea that’s a winner when there’s a wealth of photos under the keyword you searched for. I might look through all of the photos and use them to help me form an idea from them. Then start my factual research after I’ve done that. That’s what you call reverse engineering of the thinking kind.
Ever notice how every one seems to be writing about the same thing? Doesn’t it seem like they might be looking for something new? Listen carefully to what I’m about to say, “WRONG.” For years in publishing we would offer ideas beyond what was already available and mix them together in a list with the old classic topics. Inevitably the top winners were the topics there seemed to be too much information for anyone to consume. But that was what readers wanted. Our job is to serve the readers, and what the readers want is more about the key topics that interest them.
That means to hedge my bets I want to know where the readers already are.
Using Photo Availability to Test an Idea
I use photo search to get ideas,. I also use them to test whether an idea is worth pursuing. You can also use photos to test whether your concept is one people are aware of and interested in.
Here’s an example of how I did that, I knew I was going to do this series on Thinking Outside of the Box. Still it came with it’s questions. What would I use for a logo that communicates in an image what I was trying to say? Was the phrase still in vogue or had I fallen woefully behind the times?
I found what I needed to know with a photo search at one site, using the WebPlaces.com ClipartSearcher. That search did the work of a mini-focus group on my two questions.
In a mere .22 seconds, I found 18,700 images illustrating the idea of thinking outside the box. This is only the first page. The concept was obviously still on people’s minds, if so many people are making images to portray that idea.
As you can see from the logo, I didn’t use any of the photos I found. Still I moved forward with confidence that I was on the right track. When you think outside of the box it’s crucial that you touch the ground every now and then to be sure that your readers won’t find your ideas are too high in the clouds. People don’t like to strain their necks to see and understand what we’re talking about.
I See Photos in Your Future
Photos are a great connecting factor. Even if a reader doesn’t quite get what you mean, a photo can seal the difference and carry your message home.
Your eyes can lead you to ideas in photos, art, and objects in the environment. They can inspire what you write and sometimes they can illustrate it after it has been written. Doing a photo search can help you check the validity of the idea and serve as a grounding point, to let you know that what you write is something your readers are still interested in. Choose your images to fit the broad category that folks still want more of.
Then look inside the individual photo for an unanswered question.. Let the questions lead you to a story. Photos are just waiting for you to tell the world a story. If you look past what’s literally in the photo, you’ll find a story that is all your own–a unique idea on something that folks still want more of. That’s why there is always room, no matter how many articles people have written, your question, your version isn’t there yet.
Let the photos inspire you to find what’s missing–waiting for you to write it.
–ME “Liz” Strauss