Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

June 4, 2010

Weekend Creative : Creating Room To Write With Photos


Last week I was browsing through Martha Stewart’s Living magazine and was looking specifically at the way their designers use full-page photos to their advantage when designing the spreads for feature articles.

I love how they use “blank” areas on photos to create homes for the text of the article. I especially loved the example above with the chicken and the cool yellow wall. The wall is a perfect home for the story to be told. This is something that’s super easy to do in scrapbooking and is the topic for this week’s weekend creative.

This weekend’s prompt is to take some photos that include specific space for telling your story. You’re invited you to share the photos you take in the weekend creative group at Flickr. I’m totally looking forward to seeing your photos.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

TAKE PHOTOS WITH INTENT : When you are looking through the lens of your camera, become aware of opportunities to take photos that will give you room to write/type your story. Walls, floors, the sky, looking down on a table, etc – these are all usually really great open spaces for text.

Walls tend to work well for this technique as they don’t usually have many additional elements that will interfere with your text (too much interference makes it tougher to read). You could simply take a photo of a bare wall and use that photo as a part of your layout to hold text. Keep in mind that walls by themselves are nice, but add in a person (or a chicken as you see above) or part of a person (like shoes or hands or half of a face like below) and your results will tell an even more meaningful story.

SURVEY THE SCENE : Keep your eyes open when you are capturing someone or something for the chance to place your subject to the far left, far right, very top, or very bottom of the frame. By simply moving the focal point away from the center of the frame you are creating room for text to be added.

Here’s an example: let’s say I am outside taking photos of Simon on his bike. In addition to the regular shots of him zooming around, I will also include a couple where he is placed near the top of the frame where you might only see the wheels and his shoes. In this case the middle and bottom of the frame would be filled with cement – a nice open space for placing the words of my story.

This same affect can also sometimes be achieved after-the-fact by cropping your photo in a photo-editing program. See below for an example.

TELL A STORY: After capturing your image, journal directly onto your photo either with a pen on a printed photo or by using the type tool (T) in Photoshop.

Here’s a recent photo of mine that had a nice space for my text. What you see below is what came out of the camera:


I actually love the proportion above but ended up cropping in tighter to make a 12×12 photo page.


I’m thinking that I will add a second page of collaged images of the three of them to create a spread.

CROPPING AFTER: Another thing you might want to do is take a look at the photos you already have and see if any can be cropped to achieve this same effect. Here’s a photo I found that’s one of those shots that comes from taking a bunch
in one sitting at our table:


It’s a funny, random of shot of Simon in the middle of repeating one of his current favorite movie scenes.

My goal with the crop below was to create a specific space for telling the story and move him drastically to the left side of the photo.


I love this.

Here it is with text added. The text is in progress so I just copied and pasted to give an idea of what the text will look like:


You could do something like this (sized to about 12 inches x 8 inches), print it out, adhere it to cardstock, and embellish with traditional products. I think that’s what I will do once I complete the journaling.

Have fun creating room to write on your photos and enjoy your weekend!

[ Past weekend creative projects can be found here. ]


I wanted to take a minute and say a really heartfelt thank you for all the comments on the One Little Word post the other day. I’ve been holding that part of my story in for awhile, waiting for the right time to release it out into the world. It’s so inspiring to me to read the comments and stories and words of support. Thank you.


  • 1.

    Nice idea…i love the concept..

  • 2.
    Esther (aka blue_eyed_pea) said…

    Great inspiration!! I love your examples. I must try that!

  • 3.
    dawn said…

    Wow Ali you amaze me everytime I see your new posts. I love how you are always thinking of a new way to document your story, you always keep it fresh, new and exciting for you and for us. I love this idea and never thought to take pictures like this. I will give it a try but am not a great photographer as you are. I love the examples you used especially of Simon doing his own thing, that’s real. I also clicked on your previous weekend creative and love love the idea with your typecase?? didn’t know that’s what they are called. I took mine down a year ago that had a few minitures on it because it was getting boring to look at. I love this idea though and am going to get it out of attic this weekend and work on it, thank you so much for the inspiration. I loved all your past ideas there too and am going to try them.
    Thanks again Ali you totally ROCK!!

  • 4.

    Love the weekend crteative prompt. I plan to edit my Memorial weekend get away pictures today. I’ll keep my eyes open for these opportunites to tell the story on the page. Loved seeing the chicken at the top of your post as we just stayed at a B&B with chickens. I fell in love with them; feeding them and gathering their eggs.
    So proud of your fitness goal. As a yoga instructor and a mom of four, i know how this goal can seem huge. But you are focused and are right on track. How fabulous. Really. I love the way you challenge yourself. Be sure to remember the, “I am enough” mantra during the process. :)

  • 5.
    Sarah said…

    I like the “white space” examples. In fact, I had just taken a few photos this past week, leaving space for journaling, much like that. Have a great weekend!

  • 6.
    Steph said…

    So inspired by you – always!

  • 7.
    Shelly k said…

    Great inspiration as always…Ali style!!
    Have a good weekend!

  • 8.
    Jean said…

    If the rain stops here in Seattle I’ll try to get out to take some photos – great inspiration as always! Cheers me up just looking at your photos!

  • 9.
    sansku said…

    martha’s people really are amazing. often i buy the magazine just because it’s so pretty.
    i’m going to do this! thanks for the fun assignment. :)

  • 10.
    hannahk said…

    wow this was timely ~ I’ve had the thought to leave room for a title on images and your post has just added a whole new clarity to the idea. Thanks so much

  • 11.
    Heather H. said…

    MSL is one of my favorite places for scrapping inspiration. I also have a collection of magazine pages from a local magazine that does a great job with their layouts.

  • 12.
    Peaceliving said…

    I LOVE this Ali! Just the inspiration I needed today. I’m going to scour my photos and do some creative cropping and really get some stories told this weekend. I love the cropping you did halfway through Simon’s face. Very graphic. Have a great weekend.

  • 13.
    Deb J said…

    This is such a great idea. Love the way you always have new ideas to share. Wish I had such great subjects to scrap about.

  • 14.
    Barbara said…

    I absolutely LOVE this idea! I am going to look for and make opportunities to use it in my pages.

  • 15.
    Rachel Smith said…

    Wonderful ideas and inspiration! Once again, you demonstrate just exactly why I adore you so much!! ;)

  • 16.
    Molly Irwin said…

    it’s part of my approach to my summer project. might be sending you a snippet this week, if time permits.

  • 17.
    Gwen said…

    What a great post! I love that it really gave me inspiration focused on a ‘physical’ aspect of scrapbooking. Lately I feel like alot is about more ‘mental’ aspects of the hobby or of life. I’m overwhelmed by life so a concrete idea to act on feels great.

  • 18.
    Bonnie said…

    Wow, excellent inspiration, thanks so much!

  • 19.
    radish said…

    I have been admiring Martha Stewart layouts for a while. I did notice though that she has a color scheme in mind before they photograph and that is somewhat is how they pull the piece together. I wonder if they do extracting to pull it together?

  • 20.
    Ali Edwards said…

    I would love that!

  • 21.
    Laura said…

    Ahhh, you know I love these pages. :)

  • 22.
    Krystal said…

    Ali, I’m confused how I upload a photo on this specific stream. I’m new to Flickr. I clicked the link but not sure what to do after… sorry!! :)

  • 23.
    Krystal said…

    Ok, I just read where it said add something new, so that’s what I did. Hope you can see it :)

  • 24.
    Ali Edwards said…

    Yes I do :) . You are awesome at this!

  • 25.
    Lisa said…

    great challenge ali! i have a super quick question regarding the U in your example above. is it a font i can find somewhere?

  • 26.
    joni said…

    What a great approach to journaling space. It’s pouring out so I don’t think I’ll go looking for walls today… then again I may run around with an umbrella for a prop and see what my camera can find!
    Thank again! You’re onderful!!

  • 27.
    sansku said…

    so, i did mine already:
    yes, i can laugh at myself. :)

  • 28.
    Ali Edwards said…

    holy cow – now that is a story

  • 29.

    after reading your post this morning-
    i immediately started searching for the
    perfect photo for this.
    i wasn’t able to get into the flickr group to share but
    did post it on my blog if you want to see what i came up with.
    thanks for the inspiration.

  • 30.
    geezee said…

    Thank you. I am loving the inspiration.

  • 31.
    kaitlin said…

    I LOVE weekend creative! Great idea! I am definitely going to do this :)

  • 32.
    {vicki} said…

    Loved what you did with the photo of Simon–I would hve never thought to do that!

  • 33.
    Mom Cheryl said…

    I love these types of ideas that you throw out to us. I never think of putting that my text over my photo but it looks great. Thanks for the inspiration! You are my hero (or heroine)!

  • 34.
    Maggie said…

    What a great idea! I have a girls trip coming up next weekend that I’m planning on making a little keepsake book out of and will definitely be taking some pictures with this in mind. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • 35.
    jenw said…

    I find this is very helpful when doing my Project Life photos because I often just write on the photo itself -it is quicker and easier – keeps me putting things into my pockets! Your examples are really great because I do get frustrated if I want to write on a photo and how I set it up is by something too dark…always words of wisdom Ali!! Keeps me thinking ahead of how I am going to use that image and tell that story! have a great weekend!

  • 36.
    Koren said…

    OHHHHHH – so love that you showed the cropping and adding text afterward part. I love how you do this but don’t regulary think to take pix that way. Now I CAN!
    thanks! :)

  • 37.
    Lisa Brown said…

    This is awesome, Ali! Never thought about taking photos with journaling in mind. Love what you have done here!

  • 38.
    katie said…

    ali, you are seriously giving your blog readers not only a lesson for scrapbooking, but for graphic design and art direction! you’re a great instructor.

  • 39.
    Jen Chesnut said…

    No Ali, THANK YOU for reminding me about my one word. I couldn’t even remember what it was but I knew it was important for me to work on. I looked it up and started back on the path. Thanks so much (and part of my word is to help me bring back my athletic/fitness self that I haven’t seen since my 3 painful shoulder surgeries). You rock!!!! Good luck with the Tri. I am north of Seattle if you want someone down there to take pictures of you! :) See you at BLISS next weekend…I can’t wait!

  • 40.
    Susan said…

    I’ve got a bunch of photos from a day at the beach which I haven’t gotten around to scrap booking. I’ll be trying your technique with those; this weekend. Thanks for the great ideas Ali.

  • 41.
    Kris M said…

    Another, “Duh, why couldn’t I think of that?”. Thanks for the idea…now to figure out how to put it in a prominent spot so I remember it!

  • 42.
    Jana said…

    I love photographing things off center – and now see there’s another use for that “white space” I’ve created! Thanks for the terrific examples – really LOVE how you cropped Simon :) . Off to upload some pics to Flickr :)

  • 43.
    Donna C said…

    Such a great idea! I have some great photos from our last weekend that have that ‘white space’. I would love to try this but get intimidated by the writing. Thanks for your examples – they look great.

  • 44.
    Michele H. said…

    I’ve missed your weekend creative prompts…so it makes me especially happy to see this one. Love this idea! I’ve been very inspired by magazine layouts as well and have one in mind for my summer photos album.
    Such a cute photo of Simon:)

  • 45.
    MichelleG said…

    I love this idea…and it’s time perfectly! I just got my first large format prints (8.5×11 and 12×12) from scrapbook pictures today. The photos (from our engagement shoot) had wonderful “blank” space that I think will be perfect for some form of journaling. Totally inspired by some of your previous pages and today’s post!

  • 46.
    Kari D said…

    In almost every Ali Edwards post there is an “ah hah” moment for me. I have been taking pictures with “space” for writing for awhile now. They are perfect when I sent online cards to friends. Using Photoshop, add some words, and voila, a wonderful way to let someone know you are thinking of them (especially when you were really late making the card.) BUT my “ah hah” moment came when I realized that some of your amazing shots came about as a result of cropping in to get just the piece of the image that you really want. I was blown away by the wonderful pictures you took for your Shutterfly rejoice book. The closeness of Simon and Anna. How their smiles just blossomed on the pages. The great shots you showed today of what I call the “Simon look” you seem to capture so well. It really helped me to know that after you took a picture you found the picture within the picture that would tell the story you were trying to share. THANKS so much for that!

  • 47.
    glee said…

    another amazing inspiration ali.
    enjoyed listening to you on paperclipping roundtable!

  • 48. said…

    Ali, thank you for this! Brilliant inspiration! I love the way you remind us to see differently and to shoot with a fresh purpose. I’m so trying this over the weekend!

  • 49.
    Veronica said…

    Thanks so much for the inspiration Ali! This is such a great idea. Usually I take the photos, and sometimes just by chance I have a bit of space on the side for journaling or a title. I’ve never thought it out before to actually take the photo with this idea in mind. Love it!!

  • 50.
    jamie said…

    so great to see weekend creative again. this is a great post. eager to play as well as see what others do too.
    thanks, ali!

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