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Journaling for Creativity.

Journaling Media Options: What to use to Capture Images

This post forms part of a serialisation eventually building into a complete reference on Creative Journaling and the writer's notebook. One that will demonstrate how to journal in order to improve creativity and effectiveness of artists, writers or anyone needing to be creative.

Introduction Contents What Media Options are There What to Use to Capture Images


The Market Within the introduction I mentioned that artists have been doing their own version of creative journaling for centuries. Of course, with them being artists and visual souls, they didn’t call it creative journaling, and because art is what they do they named it art journaling. Yet an art journal is incomplete without notes capturing the artist’s thoughts. Writers, being close to their activity of writing similarly called theirs a “writer’s journal” or “writer’s notebook”. However, as with the art journal, it equally would be incomplete without some images that had captured the writer’s imagination.

A collection of lines, a few squiggles, patches of light and dark, splodges of colour or interesting relief cannot be simply read by the mind. They have to be interpreted and weighed against our subjective feelings, emotions, judgments, values etc. Only after interpretation do they carry your associations with them. To do this, your creative-mind assesses each image before passing the information over the bridge to your logical-mind.

This ability of graphics to directly engage your creative-mind means that employing photos, video, art, sketches, doodles and cartoons in your daily journaling encourages greater involvement from your creative-mind. It will also bring forward creative insights and suggestions that make your logical-mind more involved with what your creative-mind wishes to do, and this is not a bad thing.

The immortal phrase "a picture paints a thousand words" actually underestimates the power of photos, pictures, images or illustrations. As discussed above, these have to be subjectively assessed by your creative-mind and the subjective comparison is against all of your stored memories. This evokes many emotions, thoughts and memories, giving the image far greater meaning than a thousand words or of being a few strokes and splashes of colour.


Using photos in a creative journal is not to be confused with photo journaling. With photo journaling, the focus is on making repeated journal entries around one or more photographs, whilst in creative journaling we use photographs to support a holistic entry.

However, a single photograph will seldom be enough. Often, many will be taken and these will usually be combined with notes written in our notebook about date and location, and the thoughts, questions and sensory experiences that occurred whilst taking the photograph.

We also need to remember that apart from any supporting text in our notebook, there may be other supporting media for a photo, such as keepsakes and video or audio files and you need to have a simple system to locate any supporting entry.

Neat tip: When photographing any event, always write some quick notes on the top half of a blank page in your journal. These should always include; the date, the location and why you are taking the picture(s), plus any other notes that you think are important, for example, names, time, which journal was used etc. Then either the first or last picture of a sequence should be a picture of that note in your journal, just like the clapper-boards that movies use. That way, in any set of photos there will be one pointing you to the written journal entry. Later, print out the most iconic of the photos and stick it in the lower half of the page. You now have a far more attractive and importantly memorable cross-reference.

Neat tip: Digital journalers can do something similar to the above. Take one extra photograph at the beginning of a sequence. Then when you have finished taking photographs add a text annotation to the first photograph by using the edit options in the phone or other device.

At present there are three devices available to us for taking photographs. The ones being discussed are all digital since the cost and delays of film photography are not suited to creative journaling.
These are;

· Cameras

· Smartphones

· Tablets

Each of these has slightly different issues when used for creative journaling.


This is usually the immediate choice when considering taking photographs, but if you are taking them regularly it means carrying around another item. Cameras also have limited capability when it comes to naming and organising files in the camera, so this has to be resolved at a later time. More of an awareness point, rather than an issue, is that modern cameras will produce huge 14 mega pixel images. These gobble up storage space, and your time, during transfer and organising, so you do need to find where the controls are to manage the file size. For creative journaling needs a 2 mega pixel file works fine.

Some cameras now have the ability to ‘geo tag’ the picture, recording exactly when and where a picture was taken, even if at the time you didn’t know where you were. Even some small inexpensive compacts like the Pentax optio WG-1 now come with this feature. This can be a real bonus when you take a picture of an unknown something because you can use the geo tag to look it up later.

However, cameras do have more automatic settings and so are capable of coping with far more difficult photographic tasks. One such feature is the macro function and if you are taking close-up shots of nature or printing you will need a camera.


Most Smartphones have built-in cameras with lower resolutions than dedicated cameras, so file sizes aren’t normally an issue, and as you are likely to always have it with you there is nothing extra to carry around. There are also the options to rename the photos and do limited editing directly on the phone.

Many Smartphones can also geo tag photos, so they have the same possibilities that the geo tag enabled cameras have. If your phone has wireless or Bluetooth capability, your photos can be automatically uploaded to a bulk storage device without having to connect wires, which is wonderful after a busy day.

The areas that these phones come up short are the limited camera functions, combined with a lack of flash light. Subjects with fine detail or that are too small, or those that are in poor or difficult lighting can make taking a good photograph problematic.


Tablets have the combined problems of both cameras and Smartphones; they are bulky, they are an additional device to carry, the built-in camera cannot take close focus shots, they have limited camera functions and no built-in flash.

However, they do allow you to skip the intermediate steps of a camera or Smartphone when organising, editing, renaming or adding text entries to your photos. So they may be a preferred option for the creative digital journaler who uses a tablet in preference to a notebook.

Storing and displaying photos

Photographs can be used a little differently to creative journals. Unlike a journal where we dip in and out as we need to, creative benefits can also be gained from displaying our photographs.

The more common options for storage and display are;

· Computers

· Scrapbooks

· Photograph albums

· Digital photo frames

· Televisions

· Pin-boards and magnetic boards

· Fridge (ice-box) magnets

Let us look at each of these in more detail.

The computer

The obvious choice for storing and organising your photos, modern computers have massive storage capacity and their memory can be easily and economically augmented by a removable USB drive (although this is not the case with those tablets and netbooks not fitted with a USB port). Computers will easily hold years of journaling activity, but herein lies a problem.

If the storage device, the hard drive, in the computer dies then all your years of journaling die with it, all the entries, photos, notes, projects and your other personal information suddenly vanish. To be fair, if your house catches fire then you would probably be in the same situation with paper notebooks, but during our lives we will experience more non-functioning electronic devices than house fires. So be warned.

Neat tip: An easy way to safeguard against this is to use automatic file synchronisation software and a removable USB drive. There are many free programs that do this. I use ‘Allway Sync’, ( which automatically synchronises my files every time the computer starts, but there are many more options available. Carry out an internet search for “free file synchronisation” to find them.

You can also display the photos as a slide show or collage on the screen. I personally like to display a collage of current project photos in the background as I work, I find this helps with my creative focus and minimises distractions.

Computers are capable of wirelessly ‘streaming’ files to other displays around the house, for example, a television. Just set it to broadcast files from your current project to constantly feed your creative-mind whilst doing other things. Depending on your computer, it may already have the facility to do this or you may need to attach a USB dongle.


Scrapbooks are an inexpensive way to store printed photographs. The low cost means that you can be far more creative in forming collages with the photographs. You are free to add notes and other materials (for example, fabric, cuttings, samples), making for a very memorable creative experience and a joy to later sit down and review.

Neat tip: Always dedicate at least one scrapbook for each project. They are ideal for when the story hides from you; just relax in a chair with a nice drink and browse through your project scrapbook to bring your story back to you.

Photograph albums

Photograph albums tend to be more expensive so concerns over cost may hamper the free use of pages. They do look nice when closed, especially when compared to a scrapbook, but once opened, a crafted scrapbook entry will speak louder to the creative-mind. If you are drawn to fancy albums, ask yourself if you are doing elegant photo journaling or are you creative journaling in order to write your novel.

Digital photo frames

These are display only options. Normally the photographs are copied from a computer into a removable chip. It is an easy task to load the chip with the most relevant images for your project and then place the digital photo frame in an obvious location, allowing the images to continually feed your creative-mind and keep the project higher in your thoughts. They can also be loaded with other images and screen shots of text, so don’t just think of photographs when loading them.

Neat tip: You are unlikely to require a large capacity chip for your project or for the chapter you are working on. So use and swap between a few smaller capacity inexpensive memory chips to keep the display focused on one area. You will also find that friends often have redundant small chips due to them purchasing larger ones; these can often be had for the asking or the cost of a drink.


Many modern televisions have a USB slot and can be used in the same way as a digital photo frame. They, and modern PVRs, can also accept or be connected to video streams from computers or multimedia entertainment devices, allowing them to display not just images, but also video and sound files.

Pin-boards and magnetic boards

Pin-boards maybe ‘old tech’, but for the instant display and rearrangement of printed images and notes they are unbeaten.

Neat tip: Attach some open sturdy envelopes or clear plastic wallets along the bottom of the pin-board. I assure you, you will find these very useful for holding the odd item or few.

Neat tip: The back of most pin-boards work just the same as the intended front. If you often work on two projects, hang the pin-board so that it can be turned around easily and use the back for the second project.

Fridge (ice-box) magnets

These are easy to dismiss or overlook, but you open the fridge many times every day. A few select images or photographs held on the door with magnets will feed your creative-mind at every visit, even when you are not consciously looking at the images.



If you would like to make a suggestion about using photographs in a creative journal please add them in the comments area below.

In the next post we will be looking at a few issues around naming the files of digital images, and how to ensure image, sound, text and video files from a journaling session always remain grouped together and do not spread themselves across the directory.


Photo credit: Collage – The Market, by Flavio.
"Journaling media options: What to use to capture images" by Andy Shackcloth is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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