Story Writing Academy

70 Picture Prompts for Creative Writing (with Free Slides)

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Visual writing prompts help young writers generate new ideas and overcome writer’s block. We’ve put together 70 picture prompts for creative writing that you can use in your writing centers or lesson plans to get your students’ creative juices flowing.


Picture Writing Prompts for All Ages

Writers of all ages and experience levels can get stuck thinking about what to write. Writer’s block is not just a challenge for reluctant writers. Even professional writers have days when they feel less than inspired.

Visual prompts can result in a vast array of story ideas. A single image viewed by ten writers will result in ten completely different stories. Even if you use verbal cues to get students thinking about the picture, each student will still write a unique response to the image.

Visual creative writing prompts are fantastic for elementary school because younger students often relate more to a pictorial prompt than a written one, but don’t shy away from using these with high school and middle school students as well. Pictures make a fun alternative to your typical writing prompts and story starters and can help shake up your regular routine.

How to Use Picture Prompts for Creative Writing

There’s no limit to the ways you can use writing prompts. Here are some of our favorite ways to incorporate image prompts into your writing times.

No matter how you decide to use them—whether at home or in the classroom—photographic writing prompts are a great way to cultivate a daily writing habit and encourage kids to explore new topics.

70 Pictures for Writing Prompts

We’ve selected 70 of the most interesting pictures we could find for this exercise. When choosing photos for writing prompts, we look for high-quality photos with intriguing subject matter, but we try to go beyond that. We want to share images that suggest a story, that make the viewer ask questions and wonder why things are the way they are.

We want to feel propelled to explore questions like, What happened before the photo that led to this moment? What are we witnessing in this photo? What’s about to happen?

A photo doesn’t make much of a story starter if it doesn’t suggest that there might be a bigger picture lurking beneath the surface.

We hope you and your students love these picture prompts for creative writing as much as we do. If you love them, go ahead and scroll to the bottom to grab your own copy.

We’ve included a couple of questions with each picture that you could use to spark pre-writing conversations in your classroom, which can be helpful when working with younger students who might need a little more direction.

pictures to use for creative writing

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Whose cat is this? What is he looking at? Where is he?

a cat sits alone against a blue wall

What is the owl thinking about? Is he alone? What does he hope to eat for dinner?

an owl sits outside

Who are these frogs? What is their relationship with each other? Why are they taking photos?

two toy frogs stand in a field. One takes pictures of the other.

How did the dog get a phone? Why is he taking selfies? What is he doing with the pictures he takes?

a dog lays on a field and takes selfies

This cat doesn’t look too happy. What’s bugging him? Did he get too many phone calls or is he waiting on an important call that’s taking too long to come?

a black and white cat sits beside a phone

What do these chicks think of the dog? What does the dog think of the chicks? Do you think they can communicate with each other? If so, what would they say?

a dog lies beside two chicks

Where do these lemurs live? What are they looking at? What is something unusual that might happen to them?

a lemur lies on a branch while another hides in the background

What is this fox doing? Is he yawning and stretching or is he trying to scare someone away? What kind of mischief does he like to get up to?

a fox stretches and opens its mouth

Is this wolf alone? If not, who is with him? What is he planning to do? Does he have a family to feed or protect?

a lone wolf stands in a misty clearing

What is this child doing on the laptop? Can he actually read and type or is he just playing? If he can read and type, how did he learn that at such a young age? What other cool things can he do?

a toddler wearing a toque and glasses types on a laptop

Where is this woman? Is she lost? How did she get to this street? What interesting things might she discover as she explores this new city?

a woman stands in an empty street holding a map

Why is the dog wearing glasses? Can he see through them? What are he and the girl doing? How does he feel about it?

a woman holds a dog. Both wear glasses.

Who are these two little boys? What is their relationship with each other? What is the teddy bear’s story?

two boys sit in a bath holding a teddy bear

Who are these children? Why are they running? Is it a race or are they playing a game? Who’s going to win?

a group of children run across a field

Whose horse is this? Does the little boy own it or does he just visit it? Can the horse talk? How does the boy feel when he’s with the horse?

a boy sits on a fence and feeds a horse

What is this boy reading? Does the book have magical powers? Does the boy? Do the stories in the book become real or does something else special happen?

a boy reads a book that has some magical elements in it

Where is this man? How did he get there? What is he looking for?

a man dressed like a pirate looks through a telescope

Who is walking over the bridge? What’s on the other side? Is it worth the risk?

a top-down view of a person crossing a bridge

What are these people doing on the elephant? Where are they? Are they tourists or is the elephant their pet? What would life with an elephant be like?

two people ride an elephant through a field

Who made this map? It looks old. Has it been hidden away for a long time? Who discovered it and how? What does it lead to?

an old map

Whose typewriter is this? What important or secretive thing might they be working on? What could happen if the wrong person finds their work?

an old typewriter

Who are these three stuffed animals? Are they living? What is their story?

the backs of three stuffed animals

Whose ukulele is this? Why did they leave it here? Who might find it?

a green ukulele sticks out of the sand

Where is the owner of the bike? Where does this path lead? What if the bike’s not there when the owner returns?

a bike leans against a wooden railing

Whose shoes are these? Why did they leave them here? Why are they so dirty?

a pair of dirty shoes in the mud

Who was reading the newspaper? What was the most interesting thing they read? Where have they disappeared to?

a stack of newspapers, a white cup, and a pair of glasses

Who put this sign on the old truck? What do you think of it? How did the truck end up in its current condition and location?

a deserted old truck

Who set the table? Who are they expecting? What special occasion are they celebrating? What could go wrong?

a fancy table setting

Whose birthday cake is this? Are they having a party? Who is there? Who did they want to have there that didn’t show up?

a birthday cake

Who lives here? How do they access their home? What is their life like?

a home surrounded by water

Who built the igloo? Where is it? How does it feel to spend the night inside it?

an igloo

What is the history of this castle? Who lives in it now? Does it have any special or magical features?

a castle

Is this barn abandoned or do people live on the property? What kind of animals might live here? How do they keep themselves entertained?

a big red barn

What is it like living on a houseboat? What kind of community do you think forms among the neighbors? Imagine you live on one of these boats and think about how your daily life might change. What interesting things could you do if you lived here? What would you miss the most?

a row of houseboats

Where is this hut? Who lives here? What mystery might unfold if a stranger came knocking at their door?

a round hut

What is this lighthouse called? Who runs it? How often do they leave? What is the most memorable experience they’ve had as a lighthouse operator?

a lighthouse

How did this house get here? Does anyone live in it? What would life be like here?

a house on a rock surrounded by water

Where is this festive street? Are the people there celebrating something? Where is everybody?

a colorful European town

Who lives here? How did they build this house? Are they hiding from something? What does it look like inside?

a hobbit house with a yellow door

Whose notebook is this? Why did they leave it here? What’s written in it and how might it change the life of the person who finds it?

a notebook lying on a beach

What are these women doing? What are they supposed to be doing? Will they be in trouble if they get caught?

two women playing on a piece of wood

Who might be represented in this statue? Why is she being pulled by lions? What amazing things might she have done to deserve a statue in this prominent place?

a statue of a woman being pulled in a carriage by two lions

Where is this? Who is riding in the hot air balloons? Where are they going and why?

hot air balloons fly over a town

How old is this tree? Where is it? What are some of the most fascinating stories it could tell?

an old oak tree

Where is this carousel? Who is riding it? Can you think of a special or strange story about how it came to exist in this particular place?

a woman rides a carousel

What are these people thinking about? What’s at stake for them? What happens if one of them sneezes?

tightrope walkers walk on tightropes

Where are these penguins? What are they talking about? Which one of them is the leader?

4 penguins stand in a huddle

What is this place? Was it designed to be open like this or was it once part of someone’s home or a public building? How have people’s opinions of this place changed over time?

a room with statues in it

Who are these kids? Is this what they’re supposed to be doing? What happens when their teacher sees them?

kids play around in a dance studio

Who is supposed to ride in this boat? Where are they going? Will they make it there?

a small boat with a fancy seat

Is this plane special to someone? What did they have to do to get it/build it? Where will they fly to in it?

a yellow plane

Who decorated this train car? Which passengers will fill it up? What will they talk about?

an upscale train car with fancy seats

Whose skis are these? Why are they sticking out of the snow? How did their owner get down the mountain without them?

two skis and two poles stick out of a snowbank

Where does this gondola go? Who rides it? How does it feel to ride it?

a gondola

Who’s driving the monster truck? Why is it at the beach? What is it going to crush? Who is watching?

a monster truck does tricks on a beach

Where is the boat going? Who is on it? What is their mission?

a ship sails away from shore

What city is the helicopter flying over? Why? Is the driver looking for something specific or do they have a special delivery?

a helicopter flies over a city

What’s the little boy doing in the boat? Is he alone or is someone with him? Where is he trying to go?

a little boy holds an oar in a boat

Who is in the sub? What’s it like inside? What are they doing?

a submarine

Whose book is this? What’s it about? What’s happening to it?

a book that has water flowing out of it

How did that piece of land with the house on it break off from the rest of the world? Why? Where is it going? Is anyone in the house?

a fantasy graphic with a piece of land separating from the earth and floating away

Who is this girl? Where is she? Who is she shooting at?

a woman in the woods shoots a bow and arrow

Where does this scene take place? Is the lizard/dragon good or bad? What is its relationship with the girl?

a girl standing on the tip of a cliff pats the nose of a giant lizard

What do these books represent? What kind of world is this? What (or who) is inside the books?

a row of books designed to look like houses

What are these dinosaurs discussing? Where are they? What do they do for fun?

two dinosaurs

Whose cottage is this? Do they still live there? If not, where have they gone? If so, what do they do there?

a fairy tale cottage in the woods

What is the moth thinking about? Is it alone? What’s the biggest challenge it faces in this moment?

a moth on a flower

Who is the owl looking at? Has it read these books? What is its greatest talent?

an owl wearing beside a stack of books

Where are these trees? Why are they pink? Do they have any special powers or features?

trees in a wood covered with something pink

What do you think? Which kind of pictures do you like best for creative writing prompts ? Let us know in the comments.

Nayyar Abbas

Tuesday 30th of May 2023

This is very good idea and it really works, viewing these one try to think one's own way that what these pictures are telling or asking? I also recommend that this idea should also be given to the students for building their creative instinct.

Tuesday 23rd of May 2023

The weirdest thing I ever wanted whatever really weird stop doing this

Sunday 26th of March 2023


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pictures to use for creative writing


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Picture Prompts

Over 140 Picture Prompts to Inspire Student Writing

By Natalie Proulx

Sign up for our free Learning Network newsletter. Receive new writing prompts in your inbox every week.

Updated: May 31, 2019

Think The New York Times is only for readers at a high-school reading level? Think again.

Besides written articles, The Times also offers a rich collection of visuals — photos, illustrations, graphics, GIFs and short videos — that are accessible to learners of all levels. Since 2016, we’ve been featuring these images in our daily Picture Prompts : short, image-driven posts that invite a variety of kinds of student writing.

Teachers tell us they use these prompts in all kinds of ways. Some use them to encourage students to develop a daily writing habit . Others as an exercise to practice inferences , spark discussion or support reading . This year, one elementary school music teacher told us how her class used the visuals as inspiration for writing short stories accompanied by music .

For more ideas, we have a lesson plan on how to teach with Picture Prompts and other Times images, as well as a free, on-demand webinar that explores how to use our thousands of writing prompts for everyday low-stakes writing practice across the curriculum.

Below, we’ve categorized the 140+ prompts we published during the 2018-19 school year based on the type of writing they primarily ask students to do — whether it’s penning short stories and poems, sharing experiences from their own lives, telling us their opinions, or interpreting an image’s message. All are still open for comment.

You can find even more images in our Picture Prompt roundups for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.

If you use this feature with your students, or if you have other ideas for how to use photos, illustrations and graphics to encourage writing, let us know in the comments section.

What story could this image tell? Use your imagination.

Three Dots Balloon Face Oars and S’mores Conversation Spaceship at the White House Around the Campfire Special Key Computer Screen 17-Foot Python Batman on a Couch Hanging With Friends Hole in the Ceiling In a Crowd Opossum Among Shoes Your Food Obsession Tech Gadgets Carrying a Letter Reaching Through the Wall Sledding in the Mountains Trees, River, Cottage and Sheep The Ride Headphones Leap In the Stands Shade Under the Table Security Line At Their Computers Tiny Stories Tarot Cards Haunted House? Driver and Bicyclist Red Ball Kneeling and Reaching A Letter in the Mail Campfire

Share experiences from your own life.

One Last Adventure Amusement Park Dog in a Backpack Generation Z Breakfast A New App Met Gala Tidying Up Take Your Child to Work Day New Homes Photos From Space Social Media Star Signs of Spring Literary Protagonists The Story of Your Name Dream Home Momo Gym Class Nostalgic Places Price Tags Night Owl or Early Bird Lunar New Year Rescue Pets Polar Vortex Facing Rejection Dreams Superstitions Holiday Season Astrology Favorite Books Journaling Caffeine Giving and Getting Candy Around the World Journeys Saying Thank You Nutrition ‘The Simpsons’ Man, Seal, Octopus Weddings The Night Sky Remembering 9/11 World’s Largest Prairie Dog

What do you think this image, chart or cartoon is saying?

Falling Bottles Focus Here Emojis Eagle and Gender Symbols Hand and Fist Jungle Gym Stacks of Money Magnifying Glass ‘Freedom From Want’ ‘The Writer’s Block’ Watching Walking Down the Street Gun Parts Globe and Books Head Full of Stuff Tight Rope Adventure New Faces Leaping Over Binoculars Brexit Floating Coins Giant Machine Blue Water Other People’s Burdens In a Maze Chalk Outline Hands on Their Shoulders Past and Future Pieces of a Flag From a Hole to a Balloon

What’s your opinion on this issue?

Spy Cams Jack-of-all-trades Gender Expectations Game Show Winner Royal Baby Movie Theaters Tiger Woods Wins ‘The Image of the Revolution’ Final Four Referees $430 Million Deal Student Climate Strikes Women’s History Month Legos and Battlebots Cash Reward Brushing Beagle Book Covers Super Bowl Commercials Math Fast-Food Buffet The ‘Bird Box’ Challenge Hands-On Parenting 2018 in Pictures The Outspoken N.B.A. Online Video Games Standout Steer California Wildfire Election Day Public Libraries Champions A Computer in Everything Snail Mail Fashion Trends Sleep Deprivation Household Chores Gymnastics on Horseback Song of Summer Giant Ice Disk

Want more writing prompts?

You can find our full collection of writing prompts, added as they publish, here . We also have a list of over 1,000 writing prompts for narrative and persuasive writing gathered from our daily Student Opinion questions . Plus, we have a collection of “ 40 Intriguing Images to Make Students Think ,” taken from four years of our weekly “ What’s Going On in This Picture? ” feature.

Ideas, Inspiration, and Giveaways for Teachers

We Are Teachers

Try These Picture Writing Prompts To Inspire Creativity in Students

Use a picture to write a thousand words!

Jill Staake

Creative writing is a challenge for many students, often because they can’t come up with anything to write about. That’s why we love picture writing prompts. Each one sparks the imagination and helps young writers jump right into crafting a story to match. We’ve rounded up a whole collection of intriguing images for use with kids in grades K-12.

Tip: Start by showing students the picture (or let them choose from among several) without making any comment about what they’re seeing. For kids who still struggle to get started, suggest a potential title or opening sentence, like the examples included here.

Elementary Picture Writing Prompts

Middle school picture writing prompts, high school picture writing prompts.


When kids first see these picture writing prompts, they may or may not immediately feel inspired. If they need some help, ask them questions like “What led up to this moment?” or “What’s going to happen next?”

Finally Seeing Eye to Eye

Cartoon illustration of a large bear with a tiny mouse standing on its nose, looking into its eyes (Picture Writing Prompts)

“So, we meet at last, face to face,” Lord Squeakerton said to his enemy, the Count of Catnip.

Monkey face with mouth and eyes open in surprise

It takes a lot to surprise a monkey, but you don’t see something like this every day.

Not Coming Out

Child hiding behind a heap of pillows on a beige couch (Picture Writing Prompts)

The day started out normally enough, but by the end, Chris knew he was in over his head.

Life on Other Planets

A space scene showing a robot and robot dog standing on the surface of an alien planet, with a domed habitat behind them

“Hurry up,” Grnklor told his robopup. “We have to get back inside before nightfall.”

Reindeer Games

Boy leading a reindeer along a snowy path into the setting sun (Picture Writing Prompts)

The wind had died down, but the setting sun seemed to take all the warmth of the day with it.

Something to Celebrate

A young boy raises his arms in triumph as a young girl points at a computer screen, smiling (Picture Writing Prompts)

Their classmates could hear their shouts of joy from all the way down the hall.

Home Sweet Mushroom

Illustration of a mushroom turned into a house, with a fence and lighted windows, under a full moon

When the fairies that lived in the garden invited her to stay with them for awhile, Maria wasn’t sure what to expect.

Loch Ness Mystery

Model of the Loch Ness Monster rising from a lake

“There it is! I told you, Nessie is real!” Angus whispered to Lee.

Lonely Bear

Worn teddy bear sitting on a stone bridge

It was hard to say who was lonelier that night, Amil or his lost stuffed bear, Jasper.

Sometimes You Lose

Boy sitting on the ground with his face in his hands

When his team lost the championship, Miguel was crushed, but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.   

Middle school writing prompts can be a little more complex, with pictures that have a lot of potential interpretations. Encourage students to delve deeper into the story by describing how the characters feel and why they behave the way they do.

Octopus’s Garden

Diver encountering a large octopus with fish in the background (Middle School Picture Writing Prompts)

Wouldn’t you like to be under the sea, in an octopus’s garden in the shade?

Around the Corner

Girl peering around a corner at a boy walking a dog

After finally pressing “send,” she couldn’t resist peeking around the corner to watch him read the text.

Beam Me Up!

Small child sitting in a field watching a flying saucer beam up its tricycle (Middle School Picture Writing Prompts)

Milo’s earliest memory was of watching his beloved tricycle float into the sky above him, caught in a beam of light.

Giraffe Council

Three giraffes shown from the neck up against a cloudy blue sky

“It is now 3 p.m., and I call this meeting of the Mighty Council of Giraffes to order,” announced Imari.

Woman leaping across a chasm silhouetted by an orange sky

As the sky turned orange, Keisha ran faster than ever, and used the last of her energy to push off and soar over the water below.

The End of Days

A boy stands with his bicycle watching as bombs rain down on a city skyline (Picture Writing Prompts)

Despite their best efforts, they arrived too late—the battle had already begun.

Do Shoes Grow on Trees?

A bare tree covered with hanging pairs of shoes against a clear blue sky

The day I threw my own shoes into the tree was the day I really started to grow up.

Wandering Robots

Small cardboard robot in a field of daisies (Picture Writing Prompts)

Everything about NB-317 was made of cardboard, except his heart—that was made of flesh and blood, and very capable of being broken.

Dream Come True

Blue house floating in the sky above mountains, held up by blue balloons

It all started when Quinn watched her favorite movie the night before they assigned partners for the eighth grade science fair project.

Storm at Sea

A pirate ship on stormy seas, with a purple sky and dramatic streaks of lightning

As the rain lashed his face and lightning tore apart the sky, Kiran had to admit he’d always thought it would be a lot more fun being a pirate.   

High school writers are ready to dig deep, exploring character development and detailed plots. These pictures offer a jumping-off point to set their imaginations free.

First Contact

Alien figure with a human in a spacesuit visible in the window behind them (High School Picture Writing Prompts)

This was it—the moment that would change what it meant to be human forever.

One Life to Live

An old man wearing a cowboy hat sits in front of a house (Picture Writing Prompts)

His face said his life had been a hard one, but his eyes told a different tale.

Winter Walk

Snow-covered field with a winding trail of footprints

Snow fell, creating a blank canvas to record the story of that fateful walk.

Modern Mary Poppins

Woman standing in the middle of a wheat field on a gray day, holding an umbrella and bag

She dropped into our lives on a gray day in midwinter, a hint of the spring that was to come.

All That Remains

A chair sits in the hallway of an abandoned building under a shaft of light from above (High School Picture Writing Prompts)

Dust motes filled the air of the abandoned hallway, replacing the voices once heard there.

The Question

Figure holding flowers behind its back, with a woman turning to look in the background

Their happily ever after began quietly, with a bouquet of wildflowers.

Night Lights

A person holding an umbrella walks down an alley toward a street filled with neon lights

Misty rain both blurred and emphasized the lights that lit Suri’s way home that evening.

Forest of Fear

Black and white photo of tree trunks with arms and hands reach out from behind them (Picture Writing Prompts)

At first, Mateo thought it was a joke, but the screams that followed told him there was nothing remotely funny about it.

The Yellow Door

A row of white doors with one yellow door (Picture Writing Prompts)

On their 14th birthday, every resident of Fresnia was required to stand before the Wall of Doors and make a choice.

On the Rails

Woman standing on railroad tracks holding a guitar and looking off into the distant sunset (Picture Writing Prompts)

Aliyah stood on the tracks, uncertain of where to go next.

How do you use picture writing prompts in your classroom? Come share ideas and ask for advice in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .

Plus, check out how we can use writing time to nurture sel skills ..

These picture writing prompts are a unique way to excite young creative writers. Find options for all grades on a variety of subjects.

Jill Staake is a Contributing Editor with WeAreTeachers. She has a degree in Secondary English Education and has taught in middle and high school classrooms. She's also done training and curriculum design for a financial institution and been a science museum educator. She currently lives in Tampa, Florida where she often works on her back porch while taking frequent breaks for bird-watching and gardening.

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pictures to use for creative writing

Walking by the Way

the road to inspired learning

Pictures to Inspire Creative Writing

July 19, 2021 by ami 1 Comment

Do you use pictures to inspire creative writing ? I do!

I taught creative writing lessons for several summers at a local enrichment program, and I used various artists such as William H. Johnson with bold, bright pictures to provide ideas for my students.

I keep an eye out for interesting artwork and pictures that would cause my students to consider and ponder.

pictures to use for creative writing

When looking for the right pictures to provide writing prompts, I look for something unusual or something with an interesting perspective.

Mysterious Pictures to Inspire Creative Writing

One of my favorite set of pictures to use to inspire my writers is the set found in The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. Every time I use this creative writing activity, it is a hit with my students.

pictures to use for creative writing

The introduction of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick explains why this book is mysterious.

A children’s book publisher was visited by a man named Harris Burdick. Burdick claimed to have written and illustrated fourteen stories and had one picture from each story with him. The book publisher was interested in publishing the stories, so Harris Burdick left the illustrations and told the publisher that he would return the next day with the stories. But he didn’t return the next day. He never returned. No one knows who Harris Burdick was; he could not be found. His disappearance was a mystery. The other mystery is the illustration. Each one has a title and a caption, but no one knows what Harris Burdick actually wrote.

Chris Van Allsburg took the illustrations and created his own reproductions. You can use the pictures to inspire creative writing.

How to Use Pictures to Inspire Creative Writing

I purchased a used copy of the book, and I used a box cutter to cut out the fourteen illustrations. I know. I know. It seems blasphemous to do this to a book. But I did say used copy.

I photocopied the titles and captions. I put the title and caption page PLUS the corresponding picture in a page protector.

pictures to use for creative writing

Review basic story elements: setting, character, and conflict.

Put numbers 1-14 in a hat. Let each student draw a number. If you have more than 14 students, pair them up before they choose a number. Pairs can collaborate for this creative writing activity.

Based on number, let the students choose an illustration.

Encourage students to write a short story using the picture prompt. I usually give my students a word minimum and maximum, but I will let you create your own rubric for this one since it can be used with a variety of ages and ability levels.

pictures to use for creative writing

This excerpt is from a story composed by one of my students (based on one of the Harris Burdick illustrations):

Long ago, an old carpenter lived in a small cottage in England. All who met him described him as strange and mystical. One eerie Halloween night, he went to the Wisdom Woods and chopped down the oldest, biggest tree. Then, right there in Wisdom Woods, he carved seven beautiful chairs out of the tree. He delivered one chair to each of his seven worst enemies. This is the story of the fifth chair—the one that ended up in France . . . by Abby W.

The story doesn’t stop there; the writer continued to craft an amazing tale. This is a student who declared to hate writing and believed she could not write anything of value.

Giving students a picture prompt is a way to inspire them. It helps them over the hurdle of writer’s block.

More Pictures to Inspire Creative Writing

Many of my students respond well to this writing prompt; they succeed in writing something that shocks them, and I succeed in turning around their “I can’t write” and “I hate writing” attitudes.

Because the picture prompts have been successful in my creative writing classes, I decided to put together an additional file of interesting and unusual images. They are probably best suited for older elementary students (and beyond!), but you know your students better than I do.

pictures to use for creative writing

The file of pictures to inspire creative writing includes 25 images:

pictures to use for creative writing

Some of the images have word prompts while a few do not (because I’ve found that some students prefer to use their own imagination for every part of the creative writing process).

pictures to use for creative writing

You can use these pictures in the same way that you would use the Harris Burdick illustrations.

Download the Creative Writing Pictures

Inspire your students!

Subscribe to the blog using the form below in order to receive your set of printable creative writing pictures. (Be sure to check your spam folder if you don’t see it!)

pictures to use for creative writing

July 19, 2021 at 12:01 pm

Thank you for these! They are awesome!

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making plans on a transparent wipe board - creative writing stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

How to Use Images to Teach Creative Writing

Landscape paintings can inspire elementary students to use their five senses and incorporate imaginative details in their writing.

pictures to use for creative writing

As soon as my elementary students have learned how to string words together to form sentences, I have them writing paragraphs and essays. To me, teaching writing is about passing my love of the creative process on to my students—and I have yet to meet a child who was not born to write.

When I was a new teacher, my students were fascinated by my daily calendar, which featured landscape paintings. They would stand by my desk between classes and tell me stories about the paintings. From there, the leap was natural: I could use art to teach them how to use their imaginations to write. Over time, I’ve refined the approach by having them pair paintings with prompts rooted in the five senses.

Back then, I saved the landscapes as I tore them off each day until I had enough for every student in my class. Each student first shared their painting with the class and then wrote, “What I see in the painting,” at the top of a sheet of paper.

Next, I had the students use simple sentences to list what they saw in their picture. I walked around the room helping them to grow their sentences. Sentences such as “I see a cloud ” became “I see a big, white, fluffy cloud.” As the students added adjectives to their sentences, we discussed other ways to grow sentences with similes, metaphors, and personification; with a little thought, the sentence became “I see a big, white, fluffy cloud that looks like cotton candy and I would like to eat it.”

My students quickly caught on, and their sentences became more imaginative. At the end of class, I had them turn in their picture and paper to me to keep for the next day.

On the second day, I passed out the paintings again, with a second sheet of paper. When I had students write at the top of the paper, “What I hear in the picture,” they were confused: How could they hear a picture?

“Imagine the painting is real and you are standing somewhere inside it. Point to where you are standing.” The students studied their pictures carefully, chose their spots, and pointed.

“Now close your eyes and imagine you are there,” I instructed. “Can you see it in your mind? Tell me what you hear.”

The students scrunched up their faces as they concentrated. “I hear a bird,” one finally said. “I hear a fountain,” another said.

Suddenly they were all chiming in. As they wrote down their sentences, I moved around the room as I’d done the day before, helping them grow their sentences. This time, the students were much quicker. “I hear a bird” quickly became “I hear a mama bird yelling at her kids because they made a mess of the nest.” At the end of the class, I again collected their papers and pictures.

The third day’s prompt was “What I can touch.” Once they’d chosen a spot in their painting, I asked them to close their eyes and imagine the weather within it. “Can you feel a breeze? Is it hot or cold?” This time, the students told me they were running through their painting on the warm grass, splashing in the cold water of the creek, climbing the scratchy bark of the trees, and touching the soft petals of the flowers. This time, I didn’t have to help them with growing their sentences; their creativity was running wild all on its own.

Taste and Smell

We explored the last two senses together. I first explained to my students how smell and taste are linked and started off by asking them what they could smell in their paintings. The students talked about the scent of the roses in the garden and the freshly mowed grass in the yard; one of the students said that the house in the picture reminded him of his grandmother’s and he could smell and even taste her fried chicken. Another said that they were having a picnic with delicious lemonade, and yet another told me that the American flag in the painting reminded him of July Fourth—he could smell the fireworks.

Putting It All Together

On the final day of the project, I passed all four pieces of paper back to the students along with a fifth, with lines organized and indented into six paragraphs. In the first paragraph, I had the students introduce themselves and share the name of their painting and artist. Then they used their notes from earlier in the week to write a paragraph for each day. They ended their essay with what they liked best about their painting. (For older students, try some of these strategies for revising a final draft.)

Then they mounted their picture on construction paper and drew a frame around it. I gathered their paintings into a notebook; students took turns reading each other’s essays for the next week. A local art gallery displayed the notebook, and seeing their work being read by others inspired my students to keep writing. Now, because I no longer use a printed calendar, local art galleries donate postcards that we use in exchange for exhibiting the notebook.

As an international teacher, I’ve seen art bridge gaps that diplomacy could not. Once a seventh-grade English language learner wrote that she could hear the sound of freedom in her picture. When I asked her about it, she pulled out her picture of a painting of an American soldier walking toward the light. “I don’t know what freedom sounds like,” she said as she reverently touched the soldier, “but I know he’s hearing it.”

Miss Britton

11 Intriguing Images for Creative Writing

~ 27th April 2020 ~

“A picture paints a thousand words.”

And a picture can, without a doubt, inspire a student to write 1000 words. In this journal entry, I want to share with you some fascinating photographs that can be used as writing prompts. These intriguing images can spark endless trains of thought and countless questions, leading to some top-notch creative writing.

I suggest using the images to ignite your pupils’ imaginations and provide an opportunity for an extended piece of writing. Ask them to generate their own questions about the images or provide them with question prompts to help them to mind-map their thoughts and ideas. Using visual stimuli can certainly help children to build their vocabulary and improve their use of descriptive language .

pictures to use for creative writing

Use the button below to share these intriguing images with others.

Image credits to:  Joan Verstuyft , Tom Cash , Thomas Kelley , Fred Kearney , Kevin Noble , Matt Artz ,  Rene Asmussen ,  John-Mark Smith , Snapwire , Gratisography

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8 literacy activities based on the bfg.

18th August 2016

With the release of the new Steven Spielberg big screen adaptation of Roald Dahl's 'The BFG', I thought it apt to share with you some of my favourite BFG resources for teaching English.

Activities for Children at Home (Part 4): English

21st March 2020

Today's entry to the series focuses on English activities and ideas. I hope to provide you with a wide range of educational suggestions to keep your children occupied while they are at home.

About the Author

Julianne Britton

Julianne Britton is an experienced teacher and author. Having taught across KS1 and KS2 and after just 3 years, she was promoted into leadership and given the responsibility of 'Science and Computing Coordinator'.

Specialising in 11+ entrance exams and SATs preparation, she has also worked as a private tutor, successfully supporting the education of 50+ students and, in addition to writing for CGP Books and Teach Primary magazine, Julianne also publishes educational resources for teachers on TES.

Julianne is also a member of MENSA.

Get in touch via [email protected] , Twitter or LinkedIn .

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20 Picture-Based Writing Prompts and Ideas for Kids

female student using a picture writing prompt

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A picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s certainly the case with visual writing prompts! 

Be it a simple object or a fantastical scene, a picture is all it takes to spark a child’s imagination. 

That’s why I love picture writing prompts for kids who are learning how to write. 

They help alleviate the burden of not knowing where to start while providing creative flexibility for students to pen their own stories.

I especially like to use picture prompts for teaching descriptive writing. They encourage children to focus, study, and evaluate an image with all its colors and scenery, which naturally sparks more descriptive text.  

Creative Writing Exercises

get this picture prompt printable for free!

What is picture prompt writing.

If you’re unfamiliar with picture prompts, they are a type of writing prompt that uses an image to start a story. 

Students then create a story, using the picture as either the setting or simply a jumping off point. 

The benefit of visual writing prompts is that it gives students a place to start. Not only that, it encourages them to use more adjectives and write in more detailed sentences.

Most students need some guidance beyond “write about this.” The again, too many details can be overwhelming. 

Picture prompts give kids just enough information to act as a stress-free starting point, and from there, they can tell their own stories.

They aren’t necessary for every writing activity, but they’re a fun and simple way to spark creativity—and they often prompt students to think (and write!) outside the box.  

How to Use Picture Writing Prompts

Students who struggle to write may naturally gravitate towards picture prompts. 

In fact, picture writing for kids is particularly helpful for reluctant writers who struggle with expressing themselves in words.

The prompts can be paired with any number of writing activities, from freewriting to journal writing to creative writing.

Choosing pictures for kids to write about will largely depend on the skill level and age of your student.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to use the most interesting pictures for writing prompts you can find.

As kids get older, their writing world expands, so their prompts can be more in-depth and structured.

You can even try using two unrelated prompts and have your students develop a story that incorporates both perspectives.

Here are a few more specific ways to use visual writing prompts:

1. Choose pictures that aren’t so clear-cut. Ambiguous images lead to more brainstorming, providing plenty of room for interpretation and creativity.

2. Give students ample time to look at and study the image. 

3. Give them 5-10 minutes to write everything they can think about when they look at the picture. 

4. Use the 5 Ws to start the conversation. This encourages young writers to look closely for clues about a possible storyline.

  • What? What’s going on in the image?
  • Where? Where is it taking place?
  • Who? Who or what is the subject of the scene?
  • Why? What caused the scene in the image? Why did it happen?
  • When? What happened before the picture? What happens after?

5. You can also give them a series of pictures for story writing . This is a great option for older elementary up to middle school students. 

As you can see, picture prompts are pretty open-ended. You can tweak and use them whichever way works best for your student. 

Want to try using picture prompts?

We’ve provided 20 creative, engaging visual prompts below.

Have fun! 

For more writing fun, try these fall-themed prompts , winter writing prompts , or one-sentence story starters .

20 Picture Writing Prompts for Kids

The icebreaker.

ice breaker picture prompt

  • Something mysterious caused the cracking.…
  • What do you think is underneath this sheet of ice?
  • How far will the cracks spread? What will happen?

The Gardener and the Magical Plant 

the magic plant picture prompt

  • It’s not an ordinary seed sprouting…
  • What do you think will grow?
  • Who is planting the seedling?

Adventures Of The Dive Club

adventures in the ocean picture prompt

  • Did they find treasure under the sea?
  • What did they capture on camera?
  • Where in the world are they? 

The Lion and the Lost Lambs

the lion and the lamb picture prompt

  • It was an unlikely friendship…
  • Do the lambs feel safe with the lion?
  • What is the lion thinking?

Runaway Cow

curious cow picture prompt

  • Why is the cow so far away from the rest of the herd?
  • What is the cow looking at?
  • What’s going through her mind?

Sunset at the Meadow

pictures to use for creative writing

  • The tire swing was still swaying as they left…
  • Who was playing here?
  • Where are the birds going?

A Kitty of a Different Kind

a special kitty picture prompt

  • Why does the cat have different eye colors?
  • It’s not just his eyes that made him different…
  • What is the cat’s name?

The Missing Plane

the missing plane visual writing prompt

  • Where is the plane going?
  • How did it get lost? 
  • What happens next?

Best Friends in a Snowstorm

two birds in a snowstorm picture prompt

  • What are their names?
  • How did they become friends?
  • What are they talking about?

The Icky Sticky Ice Cream Cone

the icky sticky ice cream cone picture prompt

  • The person who dropped this ice cream was startled…
  • What made them drop their ice cream?
  • Describe the scene, the emotions, etc.

A Bug’s Life

bug's life picture prompt

  • What is the bug doing?
  • What is his name?
  • His friends made fun of him because he was green…

The Secret Spy Frog

the secret spy frog picture prompt

  • What or who is the frog watching?
  • Why is the frog hiding?
  • What is his secret mission?

The Surprise of a Lifetime

the surprise of a lifetime picture prompt

  • What is this little boy’s story?
  • What or who surprised him?

The Hidden House in the Woods

hidden house in the woods picture prompt

  • There is something very special about this house…
  • Could this be the house everyone in the village spoke of?
  • Who lives there?

Beneath the Waves

beneath the waves picture prompt

  • Who took this photo?
  • Where are all the fish going?
  • Are they running away from someone/something?

The Boy and the Giant Roly-Poly Pumpkin

the giant mystery pumpkin picture prompt

  • It was no ordinary pumpkin…
  • What’s inside the pumpkin?
  • What is the boy going to do with it?

The “Cat-tastrophe” Shower

the cat who didn't want to shower picture prompt

  • The cat made such a mess…what happened?
  • What is the cat thinking?
  • What does he do after getting bathed?

World-Famous PupStar

the world famous puppy picture prompt

  • What is the dog’s name?
  • What made this dog famous?
  • Why is he taking the photo?

The Sinking House

the sinking house picture prompt

  • What do you think caused the house to sink?
  • Where are the people who lived in the house? Are they still there?
  • Use your imagination!

The Dinosaurs and the Broccoli Forest

dinosaurs in a broccoli forest picture prompt

  • Why are these dinos eating broccoli? 
  • Where are all the other dinosaurs?
  • Are there other animals in the forest?

Download and Print FREE Picture Prompts (PDF)

No matter what grade your kids are in, they will love these fun (and often funny!) elementary picture writing prompts.  

The concepts are suitable for a wide age range and can be used by first graders all the way up to middle school students.

Now when you hear the dreaded, “ I have nothing to write about! ” just pull out these picture prompts, provide pencil and paper, and let your young writers create!

About The Author

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Jordan Mitchell

pictures to use for creative writing

  • Image Prompts

How to Use Picture Writing Prompts & 25 Images to Inspire You

They say a picture is worth a thousand words…And in my opinion, this is so true. When you’re sitting there, staring at a blank page there are a couple of ways you can get inspiration . One of the best ways to get inspiration is through picture writing prompts. The same image could have so many different meanings depending on who you show it to and the questions you ask yourself when you try to explore the image in detail. But how do image prompts inspire you and how exactly do you use image prompts? To help you out, we have collected over 25 images from around the internet and provided some guidance on how to use image prompts. To go an extra step further you might want to take a look at these fun video writing prompts for kids.

For more inspiration take part in our daily picture writing prompt challenge . Each day you will be given a new picture prompt to write about.

25+ Images to Inspire Writing

pictures to use for creative writing

Check out this mega list of over 85 random picture writing prompts , plus a free printable for more inspiration!

How to Use Image Writing Prompts to Inspire You

Some of these images might give you an idea for your story straight away, others may need some more thinking about. Here are some tips on how to use image prompts to inspire you. You might want to take a look at these fun image prompt storytelling games to help you further.

  • Give yourself time to look at each image prompt, maybe around 1 minute to just observe what is actually happening in the image.
  • Spend a further 10 minutes writing everything that comes to mind when you look at the picture.
  • Don’t just look at the image or its appearance – go deeper. Think about how the image makes you feel and imagine if you were in the image what would you be doing?
  • What: What is happening in the image?
  • Where: Where is this place or location? Is it on Earth or on a faraway planet?
  • Why: Why is this image important?
  • When: When do you think these events took place? Think about the history of the image or what will happen in the future.
  • Who: Who is in the image? Can you link any characters to the image?
  • Don’t focus too much on telling a story just yet. First, make as many notes as possible on a piece of paper relating to the image. After a good 10 minutes of note writing, you should have a load of ideas to help you with writing a story.

paper polaroid camera template by imagine forest

How do you use image prompts?

Do you like using image prompts? Do they help inspire you when you have nothing to write about? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

picture writing prompts for kids

Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.

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  15. 11 Intriguing Images for Creative Writing

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