Let's be honest, regardless how creative you may be we all have our highs and lows. In the field of photography, creativity should be an essential part of why we started. Our passion needs to be unleashed. Here are some ways to help you unlock your creativity.
Start a Project
Create regular projects for yourself until a series or cohesive body of work emerges. If you had to put together six to ten of your best images, what would they be about? Is there a narrative that you wish to express? What genre of photography are you looking to utilize? Keep a journal of your drawings or written ideas. I still have journals from years ago that I reference. The concept needs to be thought about properly. Merge your hobbies with your project. For example, I have combined my love of art, history, and culture. Why not try some new equipment or techniques for your project. You will choose between found pictures (e.g., photojournalism) and created pictures (e.g., conceptual). If you are lucky you might even be able to combine found with created pictures. Adding a composite of images in editing might lead to a series. A large part of the process is the wandering mind and experimenting.
A burnt abandoned car on Birrubi Beach in Anna Bay, NSW, Australia.
Sometimes the best images are completely spontaneous. Half the skill is recognizing the special moments when they arise. Even if you don't see anything that particularly inspires you, try to get in the habit of shooting every day to improve your creative and technical skills. It takes hard work and discipline to get in the mood. Find out if you are more creative early in the morning or late at night. Set yourself some creative challenges to explore for certain elements and principles in composition (i.e., look for texture and repetition of shapes). Here is a link to download my free ebooks about composition. Dreams, if you can remember them, are also a source of ideas. Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter, used to have an afternoon siesta with a paintbrush in his hand ready to paint.
Sunrise at Zenith Beach, Anna Bay, NSW.
What do you have to do to turn your idea into reality? What are the challenges and how can you solve them? Collect reference material. I enjoy using Pinterest to create my own mood boards for possible projects. I love to explore different styles of painting and periods of art. For example, I enjoy dark and moody landscapes that have a melancholic feel. English Painter Sidney Richard Percy depicts what I am drawn to. Also, I often use three books to check on photography and art: "The Art Book" by Phaidon Press, "The 20th Century Art Book," and "The Photography Book." Even though some of you may not have an interest in art, you have to admire a painter's ability to capture light and master composition.
Cathedral Rock in Kiama Downs two hours south of Sydney.
Change Your Perspective
I am glad I have not deleted some old photos to edit them again differently. Travel is a great way to stimulate your creativity. Visiting a new country, eating something bizarre, or learning a new language are all simple steps to re-wire new pathways. Experiencing a new culture and interacting with locals will surely give you a fresh perspective on life. In Claire Rosen's book "Imaginarium" she talks about divergent thinking and concepts that can come from a place, a person, an object, or an event to name a few. Be playful with your ideas and try not to think too literal. Comedian Robin Williams showed how this works best at 3:10 in this video.
Cathedral Rock from inside a cave.
Shoot Less, Shoot Better
Shoot without looking at the preview, this will force you to be in the moment. This will also force you to concentrate more on your idea and not on technical data. Also, try to imagine that each shot is precious. If you slow down and think about what you're doing, the number of images you shoot might go down, but the quality of your images will almost certainly go up. Turn off your preview mode while you are shooting a short 10-20 minute challenge. If you still have a film camera why not shoot a roll or two. Set yourself a timeline to work through this exercise to brainstorm ideas. When editing your best shots look at them once to avoid being indecisive and being too self-critical. Go with your gut feeling and intuition to make quick choice.
Arthur's Lake, Tasmania
The only person you need to please is yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you how or what to shoot. Once you have an idea, follow it though to its conclusion. If there is someone else you trust and value their opinion, why not bounce your ideas off them? Collaborate with other artists who understand what you are trying to visually communicate. De-construct your ideas for time and budget. Sometimes I feel a need to gain more skills in Photoshop as a digital artist. Other times, I may need more experience lighting subjects to convey an emotion I am not achieving. The whole journey of discovery takes time, patience, and perseverance
Sunrise at Boulder Beach on Batan island in the Philippines.
This seems like a logical step but it is one that is often overlooked. To get a basic understanding of psychology I often read from experts like Jeremy Dean who focuses many of his articles on creativity. Over the last 20 years of using photography as a medium of my self-expression, it has been very gratifying to tap into my past as a source of inspiration. I think of photography like a window to my subconscious memories. The end goal is to grow as a photographer and develop your skills and style to express yourself. Regardless of the outcomes, I always find it a very healthy experience. Have you got other ways to get you ready for creativity?