3 Simple Ways to Use Images as Journaling Prompts


As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words and there are simple ways to use images as journaling prompts that can provide great inspiration on those days when you find it hard to put pen to paper.

If you type “journaling prompts” into Google, you’ll get pages and pages of prompts to choose from, but, most will be lists of journaling prompts that are word-based such as questions and quotes.

Some people, however, respond more vividly to images than words.

So here are 3 simple ways to use images as journaling prompts:

1. Photographs

I’m sure you’ve experienced a time when you’ve looked at an old photo and been flooded with memories and emotions.

Photographs have the ability to transport you to another time and place – real or imagined – and for this reason, personal photos can be great journaling prompts.

However, any photo has the power to provoke memories, thoughts and feelings and can, therefore, be used as a journaling prompt.

If you’re using a personal photo, ask yourself:

  • How do I feel when I look at the image?
  • What memories are being triggered?

If it’s an image of something less personal, you could ask:

  • What’s happening in the scene?
  • How would I feel if I was there?
  • What would I be doing if I was there now?

The National Geographic Photo of the Day archive, Time Magazine’s Top 100 photos of the year and Unsplash are great sources of photos that you can use as prompts.

You may be tempted to use Instagram as a source for photo inspiration. However, there’s always a danger that you’ll end up scrolling mindlessly and fall into the social media rabbit hole.

So personally, I would avoid it.

In fact, I’d avoid all electronic devices when sitting down to write in your journal.



2. Paintings

Have you ever visited a gallery or museum and completely lost yourself in a painting?

This has happened to me several times, particularly when it’s a huge painting depicting a scene of some sort.

I find myself firstly wondering how the painter managed to create something on such a grand scale. I then wonder what was happening. Was the scene accurately captured or is the painting simply the artist’s interpretation?

Looking at a painting can trigger many thoughts, feelings and questions which is why paintings are another great visual source to use as a journaling prompt.

Whilst looking at a painting, you could put yourself in the artist’s shoes and write about what your thought process would have been. You could ask questions such as:

  • Why would I have chosen this subject or scene?
  • What would it have been like if I was an artist at this time?
  • What would life have been like at this time and how would my life have been different?

It’s likely however that the questions will form in your mind automatically and you’ll be inspired to write something in your journal.

Ideally, you can spend a morning or afternoon wandering around an art gallery until you find a painting you’re inspired to journal about.

Alternatively, a huge collection of paintings can be accessed online at The National Gallery and Cadogan Tate.



3. Oracle and Tarot Cards

I start most of my days by pulling an oracle card.

I’ll hold a deck of oracle cards in my hand and ask what message I need to receive. I’ll then shuffle the deck until a card “jumps” out with my message for the day.

I normally do this after I’ve journaled but sometimes I pull a card before I write in my journal and use the message as a starting point for my journal entry.

So if you find yourself wanting to write in your journal but can’t seem to get started, try pulling an oracle card and writing about the message you receive.

Alternatively, you could simply look at the image on the oracle card and use that as a starting point for your writing.

I personally don’t use tarot cards, however, I have a basic understanding of how they work and they too can be used in a similar way to oracle cards as a journaling prompt.

Journaling is an excellent way of identifying any underlying messages or common themes running through your life.

So, if you are a regular user of oracle and/or tarot cards, it could be interesting for you to keep a journal alongside your practice as a way to reflect on any recurring messages or themes and what they could mean.

Currently, my favourite card decks with images are:


Visual prompts are a great alternative to quote and question prompts and can be just as effective at unearthing issues, fears or concerns that you may be trying to avoid or suppress.

Of course, they can also trigger happier memories and highlight positive habits, beliefs and behaviours.

You’ll be amazed that looking at the painting of a melting clock or a screaming ghost-like figure can bring up seemingly unrelated feelings about a lost friendship or the need to change career, for example.

So even if you consider yourself more “wordy” than visual, every now and again, try these 3 simple ways to use images as journaling prompts.


Disclaimer: Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. However, I only recommend products or services I use personally or that I believe will add value to my readers, as well as friends and family. All opinions are my own.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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