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Photos in Your Memoir Layout

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While it may seem obvious, it bears repeating that where you place photos in your memoir book layout will influence how readers appreciate your story. The only way I can see that makes sense is chronologically.

Where you place photos in your memoir layout is important.

While it may seem obvious, it bears repeating that where you place photos in your memoir layout is important.

It will influence how readers appreciate your story. The only way I can grasp that makes sense is to place photos chronologically within the text. Why?

A bit of book-writing talk

There is in reading and writing a phenomenon called “suspension of disbelief.” If I as the reader am constantly saying “This is only a book. This isn’t really happening as I read,” then it is impossible for that reader to get “lost in the story.”

On the other hand, if the reader agrees not to challenge the story—to make as if the story is actually happening as s/he is reading—then there is a good chance the reader will enter the story and experience it as if it were unfolding before his/her eyes.

Now the reader is only one partner of the agreement. The other partner is the writer.  The writer MUST NOT do anything that forces the reader to suspend disbelief.

A famous gaffe

In a famous scene (among teachers of writing at least!) that is often cited to illustrate this phenomenon, the movie The Greatest Story Ever Told (a 1960s movie) showed a centurion at the foot of the cross on which Christ is hanging. The centurion is dressed in Roman clothes but he is wearing a wrist watch.

The gaffe was not caught in the editing. It was not noticed until the movie was released and out into the movie houses. Obviously, not everyone saw the wrist watch, but for those who did it was a major break in the fiction, a major suspension of disbelief.

In your published book, the photos help the reader to enter into the “fiction” that your character (you, or another subject) is there on the page, living his/her early life, then his/her adolescent life, etc.

When the photos are placed in proper time sequence and, as much as possible, in careful consonance with the text, the reader can more easily envision the story unfolding on the page. (Imagine a chapter about a soldier at war that features photos of the man’s toddlers who were not born until 15 years later.)

This jamming of photos in your memoir into chapters can happen when a writer has many photos of one period and none of another. The self-publishing author who wants to include all his/her photos then begins to fill the book willy-nilly. It would better not to have a photo on a page than to have one that is included just to fill a spot.

In conclusion: photos in your memoir layout

There is no problem with including every single photo you want to include, but you ought to do it with some respect with the flow of the story. Usually the extra photos can be added to the end of  chapter. There is no problem with several pages of photos placed in a chronologically appropriate spot. But…

It is important where you place photos in your memoir layout!

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4 Responses to Photos in Your Memoir Layout

  1. David Lyman March 20, 2018 at 8:57 PM #

    There are so many considerations in using photographs in a book it might be best to have a skilled graphic designer involved.
    Quality of each image, color or B&W? or converting Color to B&W! on which page, left or right? Are captions needed?
    Do the images enhance the story, tell something the words do not? Or do the images repeat what’s already been written. A graphic designer or a good editor will know.

  2. Denis Ledoux March 21, 2018 at 12:34 PM #

    Yes, the graphic design element of a book is worth investing in after all the hard work that has gone into the writing and editing. I am always devastated when I receive copies of memoirs which are full of dark or gray, washed out photos.

    We have been offering in-house book design for years.

  3. Chris Noyes May 12, 2020 at 7:24 PM #

    Is it best to let the reader commit to the story for a couple of chapters before including pictures, even if the pictures are appropriate to the early text? Or would it help engage the reader to have photos in the early pages?

  4. Denis Ledoux May 18, 2020 at 9:49 AM #

    I believe that photos can help to engage a reader. I’d include them early on if I had them

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