Photography for writers: A HippoCamp breakout session

March 25, 2022

Amusement park swings in Ocean City, New Jersey

Writing and photography really aren’t all that different.

Both are visual mediums (although great writing is also audible).

Both, when done creatively and expertly, can elicit emotional responses from audiences.

And I know this is a simple way to put it, but it’s nonetheless true – both are means to telling a story.

What might serve you well as a writer could very well lift up your image making skills – characters, tension, setting, what to leave it, what to take out – it’s all there in photography, too.

That, this coming August, is something we’re going to explore together.

I’m thrilled to share with you that I will be presenting Photography for Writers: A crash course on visual storytelling for enthusiasts of the written word at the annual HippoCamp conference for creative nonfiction writers.

A Lone paddle boarder makes his way across Currituck Sound, N.C.


The conference takes place every year at the Lancaster County Convention Center in Pennsylvania (this year it’s Aug. 12-14). It brings together notable, award-winning authors with aspiring creative nonfiction writers in what I think is simply the best writing conference no matter the genre.

I was the conference photographer in 2016 and 2017. Then I became a presenter in 2018 (a talk on writers and media relations) and 2019 (how to investigate family mysteries like a journalist).

This time around, we get to talk image making.

We’re going to cover ways you can improve both your photography and video making skills since, let’s be honest, we all have to act as writers and image creators these days thanks to social media platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram.

We’ll talk about lighting, how to bring soul to your images through incorporating shadow, how to compose a shot like a pro, how to get this kind of shot or that kind of shot.

You can totally make this photo. Yes you, who’s reading this post.


We’ll also discuss the mindset of a successful photographer and the principles anyone can learn to become a better image maker.

In the end, hopefully this will improve the way you begin to see with your camera, whether it’s a DSLR, one of the new mirrorless cameras or your cellphone.

And turn your social feeds into straight up image galleries you can be proud of.

Here’s one thing I want you to know right away – it doesn’t take a fine arts degree or a sophisticated education in photography to learn this.

I have a bachelors degree in English.

I know, many of you may have read my blog and wondered how I ever earned that.

Macy Zohn | Softball | Penn Manor

Macy Zohn, Penn Manor softball player.


But I do have one. It came with a concentration in professional writing.

Yet, today, I run a photography business. People actually pay me to make images (no one has paid me to write anything in a long time).

I don’t have an MFA in photography. I don’t have any true formal training. I once attended a weeklong photography workshop in Cape May that lit a fuse in my lighting skills, but other than that, I’m self-taught.

You can master this photography skillset too. I’m going to help show you how at HippoCamp.

If there’s a particular technique or skill or anything you’re interested in hearing about during the presentation, add it to the comments below.

Dave Pidgeon is a writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. He’s worked in wedding, family, and high school senior portraiture and today owns Creative Sports Photography, which provides portrait services for youth athletes. He also helps writers on his blog and social channels improve their photography skills. You can reach him by email at dave@pidgeonseyeview.com.

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