Five tips for boosting your photographic creativity

Getting ideas is more than just seeing new things to photograph

“Celebrity on the red carpet”
Getting ideas for shots is more than just seeing new things to photograph.
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Get past photographers block – try these tips.

When you run out of ideas you’re stuck. Getting past this block may be simple. Going somewhere new helps, but you’ll soon run out of places. Try a few idea-boosting tips.

The list of new places to go can be as long as your arm. But, you can’t get to them all. Too far away, too expensive, too time consuming… a problem. Sometimes you have to rely on your wits. You need to think past your lack of ideas. There are some simple things you can do.

Repeats

In photographic competitions I often hear judges say “…it’s a good project, worth following up”. What they mean is the picture is pretty good, but more work will help it become perfect. It’s a fair bet there are lots of pictures in your portfolio that you can re-work with another shoot. Having looked at the shot you will see things you can improve. Repeating old work with a new eye and technique is a great way to improve. It’s also a confidence booster. You will see how much you have improved your skills.

The other thing you can do is take the same picture under different conditions. There’s more variety in the same scene than you might think. Try shooting out of the same window every day for a year. Capture all the seasons, all the states of light and events. There is enough to look at, just read this article… Photographer snaps a million photos out his window in two years External link - opens new tab/page.

Explore new topics

Sometimes a creativity block is about knowing your subject well so you seem to know all the angles. That is rarely true. How to get past it is to take a new perspective. Some of the great advances in science have been from people learning new topics and cross-connecting the ideas. So, try something new. Learn a new topic. Explore a new area of photography. Research a new technique and then use it. New things frequently lead to new ideas. These feed back to your block. Change tack and try a new direction.

Take up a project

Being creative and trying new things takes commitment and application. Often a creativity block is about not committing yourself enough. Try a new project. Commit time, resources and energy to your project. You will learn new things, try new ideas and explore them in depth. Set yourself a personal project. For example, try water-droplet photography – it takes time and practice to get it right. You need to do some research, you will have to put together some basic equipment. You will need to work with new techniques and new ways of looking at your subject. This is not a one evening project – you could make it a whole career. The point is that running a project on one subject gets you into a subject in depth. This opens up your ideas. Try it – its fun.

Challenge yourself

Developing yourself and your skills is about getting past what you can do and trying out some things you cannot do – yet. Sure, there is some fear of failure there, but, no one will criticise you for trying and not getting it right on the first shot. Take time and try out something totally new. You can do it. Look for more difficult approaches, try out alternatives or deliberately do it differently to your normal way. It is certain you will learn something. I often suggest to my students that they buy or borrow a new lens. Then spend a month using it – stop using all other lenses. You will learn a lot of new ways to look at old ideas.

Look for new inspiration

Read a book; search Google images on a new subject; talk to another photographer; break an old habit… there are thousands of things you can do to find new ideas. Most of them are about raising questions. Look at yourself and find out what you know very little about. Then find out about it. Ask new questions, get new answers. The Internet is an endless source of new information… do some idea searches. You will find lots to think about.

The way of creativity…

I have sometimes heard from students that ideas and creativity are a genetic gift of some kind. I don’t subscribe to that. Creativity is more often about playing with ideas, trying new things, and making connections. Creativity is not a talent. It is a skill that can be learned and encouraged. Watch this video. It’ll help you look at yourself as a different, more creative person: How To Be Creative – its not a talent! External link - opens new tab/page

3 responses to “Five tips for boosting your photographic creativity

  1. Damon (Editor)

    You are very welcome. Good luck. Water photography is one of my wish-list items too. I look forward to seeing the results.

  2. Oh, I need to do this. I get stuck and failure is a fear of mine, so thanks for this post. I want to try the water droplet thing–just have to bite the bullet and go for it. THANKS for the push.