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  • Writer's pictureKaecey McCormick

Creative Writing with Photo Prompts

If you've ever struggled with what to write, whether in a journal, a poem, a story, a blog post, or even as part of a creative nonfiction assignment, photo prompts could offer an interesting solution.

What are photo prompts?

Photo prompts are simply photographs used to jump start the creative process. You spend a few minutes looking at the photo, noticing details, writing down associations.

Then start writing.

It can be helpful to set a timer and give yourself 10, 15, or 25 minutes to write without stopping before you go back and "think" too much about the story/poem/memoir/etc.

How can I learn more about photo prompts?

I'll give you the basics below, but you can also join me tonight in a FREE creative writing workshop. Each week, the Early Week Evening Creators explore a different creative theme and exercise different creative muscles. Tonight, we'll be taking on creative writing with photo prompts!

Join in at 7 PM (Pacific/US) by becoming a member of the Creativity Unlimited Facebook group or signing up for my newsletter!

Why use photo prompts?

For me, like written prompts, photo prompts are a useful tool in my creativity toolbox. Instead of having to come up with something from nothing, I get to build on what is already there. Here are my top five reasons for adding photo prompts to your creativity arsenal:

  1. Looking at a photo encourages your brain to make different, deeper connections.

  2. Photos allow you to focus on sensory details and elaborate, and the images create a sense of authenticity.

  3. Photos create visual stimulation, doing a lot of the “heavy lifting” for your creativity – you can put yourself into the scene and write.

  4. Our brains are wired for visual information. We process images 60,000 times faster than text and connect with associations. Photo prompts tap into this ability – the image can trigger deeper responses.

  5. Photos are pieces of a story. They show you a snapshot and you can imagine the interpretation becoming the decision maker in the story.

How do I find and choose photo prompts?

There isn't a right or wrong way to select a photo to use as a photo prompt. You can look through old albums, postcards, or digital photos and choose one that stands out. Or you can look at photos online by either searching for an image that matches a keyword (for example, do an image search for "haunted") or by using random images. I prefer to random images because I find they challenge me the most, but occasionally I'll use old family photos or keywords.

You can also visit virtual museums and use the photographs there to stir up your creative juices. Just be sure you don't copy any photos unless they are in the public domain or are labeled for use. And if the photo ends up playing a central role in your writing, be sure to give credit to the photographer.

Where can I find photos online?

Here are a few sites that have photos you can use to get started:

  • Pixabay

  • Unsplash

  • Pexels


  • Reshot

Join the Creativity Unlimited Tribe tonight as we explore photo prompts together! Questions about how to join? Simply email me or message me through the Facebook group!

Let me know how writing with photo prompts goes for you by dropping me a line in the comments!

With warmth and spirit,


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