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Silver Spring, MD
United States


Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Photos and Illustrations in Your Memoir or Family History

Nan Barnes

The conventional wisdom says that a picture is worth a thousand words. It seems more accurate to say that a picture is better with a thousand words. As you create your memoir or family history book you can use photos, or scanned images of documents or family memorabilia, to dramatize and enhance the stories you are telling or even to picture stories you haven’t included in your text. Photos can bring your stories into sharp relief if you use them to:

  • Identify people – Uncle Harry, or your best friend Susie

  • Show relationships –you during childhood with your grandmother, or your grandfather with his poker pals

  • Show locations – the house you grew up in, or your trip to the south of France

  • Illustrate a moment in time – you in 1963, or you at retirement

  • Emphasize a thematic tone – illustrate the topic family with a series of family group photos, or the topic accomplishments with a photo of your mother receiving the employee of the month award

  • Document an event – your wedding, or the impact of a tornado on the family farm

One important decision you must make is whether you want to use images to illustrate words or use words to describe images.

If you decide that you want the images to be the primary organizing principle you will produce a photo book. This type of presentation was pioneered by the photo journalism in magazines like Life and Look where stories were told with dramatic pictures accompanied by relatively limited text. You might call it a Visual Memoir. In creating this type of book authors often select the images first and eliminate stories not directly tied to the images.

If you decide that your stories come first and images second you’ll use the photos to complement the stories. Images will be used:

  • To emphasize points in the written story

  • To clarify points in the written story

  • To create emotional impact which expands that conveyed by the written story

Used in this way the photographs and other images allow a purely visual and non-verbal experience to break up the text.