The 5 secret steps every creative photographer should know

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The creative process involves five simple steps…

The creative photography process is simple…

It’s completed in five steps. Knowing each step helps you be creative without forcing it. Recognising each step will help you know what to do and how to prepare for the next step. Here is the process for you to work through.

Here are the five steps in the creative process…

Stage 1. Imagining/visualising:

• Developing ideas, visualising details, solving problems, considering concepts, ideas, feelings
• Storyboarding, scenarios, presentation shots, angles and lighting
Explanation… In this stage the primary ideas and concepts will need to be ironed out into the visualisation. Your mind-picture of the final creating will need to be fully detailed. This is the stage where you decide what you are going to shoot and how that shoot will turn out. For more on visualisation see: 80 year old secret of world class photographers revealed.

Stage 2. Planning:

• Experimenting, researching, designing the set/shoot context
• Provision of props and equipment
• Consideration of location/studio planning work.
• Creating check-lists for the shoot requirements.
Explanation… This is where your ideas need to be tested and planned out ready for the shoot. If you need to acquire resources, travel, consider staff/models etc these will need to be included. At a smaller level, say table-top still life it may be no more that gathering your props. The planning needs to be on a size and time-scale appropriate to the shoot you have in mind.

Stage 3. Artistic Interpretation:

• Developing the story/angle of approach/main idea
• Style considerations
• Technical variations of camera settings (movement blur/Depth of field/exposure etc)
Explanation… This is the most indistinct stage. Your artistic interpretation of the scene may be integrated into the planning stage, or into the shooting stage. Alternatively it may stand alone. It depends on how much of a story there is, or how much of a range of shots you anticipate shooting in the end. In my experience it helps to have a lighting plan and camera position plan from the planning stage. But, keep yourself flexible in the shooting stage. You need to be able to respond to the light and scene characteristics of the location in stage 4. However you choose to organise this stage, your story-board/visualisation will guide you in artistically approaching how your shots will be set up in this stage.

Stage 4. Shooting; evaluation/refinement:

• Application of skills and techniques to realise the scene as visualised
• Technique types include – aesthetic, intellectual, and technical (photographic).
• Technical variations of camera settings
• In-camera review of results and re-shoot as necessary to achieve visualisation
• Shoot variations ensuring spread of images exploiting potential of the scene
• Refining/re-shooting/possible reinterpretation
Explanation… Here is where the plan and the visualisation come together. You are going to do the shoot. You will need to evaluate your results as you go along (chimping). You will also need to make sure that you cover all aspects of the plan for the shoot (check-lists).

Stage 5. Presentation:

• Presentation, competition, viewing, website publication, other publication
• Exhibition
• Sale/contract fulfilment
Explanation… This is the final goal. In this stage you are presenting the final result of your shoot. The different ways you present depends on your media, the publication type and what you are hoping to achieve (public or private end result; exhibition; sale etc.)

The exact detail of what happens at each stage

The creative process will differ from shoot to shoot. After all, the idea itself, the circumstances and the resources needed will vary. So you will need to adapt the circumstances of each shoot to the stages in the process. To begin with, work on understanding how to use each stage and what to achieve to complete it. With experience you will be able to work through each stage quickly.


This five step process helps to provide a framework for you to follow when going through the creative process from idea to final presentation. It will not stop you going through the agony of the creative birth of an idea, but it helps to inform you how you should bring that idea to fruition. Creation is more than an idea, you have not truly created something until you have a tangible result at the end.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

4 responses to “The 5 secret steps every creative photographer should know

  1. This is great Damon:)