Do you want to be more creative as a photographer? Then you need to exercise your creative muscles. Just as many people go to the gym to strengthen their physical bodies, photographers can strengthen their creative mind, using techniques that cause them to look at old problems in new ways.
I have five quick tips for you today to get you started. After you try these, think of some of your own. These exercises not only will help you become more creative as a photographer, they will help you avoid burnout or boredom. Enjoy.
Tip # 1
Make portraits of a mascot
My friend Andy has some little plastic, toy cows he calls “The Holsteins.” He carries them in his travels and he puts them in the frame of his travel shots, no matter where he is, and no matter what time of day it is. He places the Holsteins in different parts of the frame and he improves his sense of scale, composition and framing. Sort of like the famous traveling gnome of a few years ago. Give this a try because it’s fun.
Tip # 2
Try a new photographic genre
A few years back, I was inspired to try cowboy photography. As a bird photographer, that’s about as extreme a jump as I can think of. The point of this exercise is to find new ways to see. By working with a new genre, you exercise different creative muscles that might be able to jump back to your usual genre of photography.
Pick any genre – but this works best when you choose one you haven’t ever tried before.
Try a one-camera/one-lens shooting day
While it may seem counterintuitive, restricting your gear options will increase your creativity. You find new ways to accomplish your goals when you are restricted in your gear choice. I found this out early on in my career, but quite by accident. I was dirt poor and could only afford one camera and one lens. I had no choice but to make do. It did offer me several challenges but in learning to overcome those challenges, I upped my creativity game. Try this for an hour, a day or even a week. I guarantee that you will surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
Shoot five elements
In this exercise, spend the day identifying five specific elements in each photo you make. This forces you to come to the grips with the fact that creativity starts in the mind. If you decide what you are looking for, then it “frames” the way you see and you will see differently if you are shooting with purpose rather than merely reacting to the things that happen to pass you by while you have a camera in hand.
What elements should you look for? Simple – pick any five from this list:
Spend an hour making “memory chromes”
When I was young, a popular slide film was called Kodachrome. So I devised a seeing exercise I called “Memorychrome.” I would go to scenic locations WITHOUT a camera, and then using nothing but an empty slide sleeve, I would put the 24x36mm cutout to my eye and blink. The blink would represent my press of a memory shutter. This entire exercise took the gear out of the equation and allowed me to put 100% of my attention on seeing. I highly recommend you try it. It absolutely sparked my creativity to the point that I still do it at least once a year, just as a refresher.
It’s important to exercise. Just ask your doctor. In this case, consider me your photo doc and I am writing you a script. Go try these exercises and be prepared to improve your photography without spending one thin dime.