5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust

fire concept portrait copyright Aloha Lavina.

If I’m not a prodigy, it’s too late.

Interests form very early in our lives. Sometimes they form from our preferences, like what happened to Gillian Lynne, one of the legendary choreographers in the dance world. Gillian was a kinesthetic learner, meaning she loved to express herself through movement. Her mother recognized this, and enrolled her in a dance school. Gillian said of this moment in Sir Ken Robinson’s book The Element, “I walked into this room, and it was full of people like me. People who couldn’t sit still. People who had to move to think.”  We can’t all be lucky like Gillian, whose parents helped her make a commitment to her creativity early in life.

But the wonderful thing is, it isn’t until we commit to this interest that we find our means to be creative.

Commitment is something that we can make toward our interest at any point in our lives. So if you picked up a camera at an age beyond childhood, it doesn’t mean you can’t develop creatively in your photography. It’s never too late to learn!

1. Creativity is something that happens in isolation.

Some people think that creativity is something that happens by itself, like to a writer who lives alone in the woods beside a pond. We think that person is creative because of the isolation, without distraction. Maybe the silence of living in the woods beside a still pond is great for processing thoughts, but silence and isolation in itself is not the basis for a creative response.

Many creative triggers people have responded to are made of social situations and connections. I read in this great book about director Enid Zentelis who made a film about people waiting in line because she was waiting in a food line one time, and it triggered a creative response in her. Watson and Crick collaborated on the model for DNA—their different insights connected into a product that was creative because they thought together. Ansel Adams was good friends with Georgia O’Keefe. Although they worked in different media, they shared a common concept—the idea of starkness and simplicity giving a sensuality to a composition.frost concept portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Isolating ourselves thinking it will only increase our chances of creativity is a myth. Making connections between ideas we see other people having and our own ideas is a source of creativity. Paying attention to connections we could make between our concepts and what’s around us can trigger a pretty creative response.

2. Pressure kills creativity.

By pressure we mean things that might limit what we can use to create. These could be things like having just one lens or going on a photowalk when the light is “bad.”

But contrary to all the excuses, having a limiting factor in a situation where you have to create actually helps you be more creative. Sometimes having very little choice in your focal length is good for you. It forces you to move more; it distills your choices into how to compose rather than how to use equipment that you might have in abundance. This shift in decision making from what to use to how to use what you have is a situation that can trigger your creativity.

If you can respond with a solution to the situation, you have already begun to be creative.

3. Equipment makes you a better photographer.

This is one of those if onlys that photographers torture themselves. If only you had a better lens, if only you had a better camera like that guy with the 6800-dollar body, your photo would be sexier.

If onlys are a waste of time, and they actually kill creativity.

What promotes creativity is using what tools you have to think and see differently.

Part of creativity is inventiveness, a commitment to make something out of what you imagined. You don’t need an upgrade of gear to do this. All the gear you need is in your head.fire concept portrait copyright Aloha Lavina.

4. You need to go somewhere exotic to be creative.

Exotic places are great because they are full of new sights. These new sights might trigger a creative response.

But from a creative standpoint, sometimes you can see new sights with old eyes. That means you might be tempted to take the ‘safe shot,’ the one that has always worked for you in the past. If that happens, the creativity isn’t there because you haven’t invented a new way to express that new thing you saw.

On the other hand, you could be walking at a familiar place, seeing things you’ve seen before, but you put a twist into interpreting those familiar things with an unfamiliar composition.

That’s creativity.

It’s not going someplace you’ve never been. It’s seeing something in a way you’ve never tried. You don’t have to go away to do this. You can start right where you are, right now.ice concept portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

5. You need to have bursts of creativity when everything comes to you effortlessly.

Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was not a painting he created in a single moment of creativity. The Musée Picasso has the artist’s notes on the creative process for this painting. It shows how he struggled to create the painting plane by plane, sketching and then eliminating one element, re-adding it, then changing again. In the revisions that he made, it is clear that even though Picasso had an idea of what he wanted to say in his painting, he had to go through a revision process to arrive at a final result.

Meaning comes to the artist in layers. Staying committed to an idea while the layers sort themselves out in a problem solving process is part of our growth as creative people.

Be open to the burst of inspiration. But don’t forget that the rest of it is hard work, and patience.

Can you think of other myths about creativity that need busting?

8 Responses to 5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust

  1. Bernard Goh says:

    Hey, this is really a good article. I totally agree with your point 2 and 4. point 2, having limiting factor really helps us to be more creative. point 4, always people think the grass is greener on the other side. they should look again right here right now, they may find awesomeness and create unique composition pics.

  2. Aloha says:

    Thanks Bernard! I’ve been thinking about this for a long long time, but never really had the chance to form the words yet. I’m stuck at home because of the flooding in Bangkok and that was all right–I got to write! There’s a Swedish saying that goes “Fear less,hope more; eat less,chew more; whine less,breathe more;talk less,say more;hate less,love more;& all good things are yours.” Have an awesome day!

  3. Tony Martin says:

    Agreed with 3, 4 and 5.

    1. You can create isolation without being isolated.

    2. I also think that pressure can force creativity.

    3. I have seen some great photographs taken with inexpensive cameras.

    4. False, sometimes what you seek is in your own back yard, you just have to look.

    5. Not sure if I understand this one but if you surround yourself with creative stuff, people, books etc then you will start to see creatively.

  4. Andrew Bailey says:

    I agree very strongly with #2. Pressure is rarely fun for me, but it often forces me to stretch or bend my skills in ways I wouldn’t have thought. A new perspective for me often creates a fresh approach.

  5. Alizeh says:

    Some of the best work is when ur under pressure,at least for me and if u can cope with pressure then u can deal with the rest.
    I love that it mentions not to limit yourself because of your gear.If u have skill and talent it will show through.otherwise hand a hasselblad to anyone and see the quality of images.Gear is not the be all end all.

  6. Aloha says:

    Hi Andrew,

    You’re right there. Usually pressure that’s just right is great for a nudge into a new solution or new perspective. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Aloha says:

    Hi Alizeh,
    There’s something great that happens to our minds when we have a bit of pressure. It’s the urgency that helps us evolve our ideas. Thanks for the comment. And I so agree–gear is just tools to help us translate a vision. It’s the vision you need for stunning images.

  8. Ram says:

    Hi Aloha, this is so true. I hope to share this to people trying to be creative but seem don’t know where to start. Well, it seems I’ll be visiting this site more often from now, glad that I came by. Nice quote too 🙂

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