Category Archives: Creativity
The struggle between creative inception and audience imperatives revisits us at times, like a stealthy tomcat, which in Annie Dillard’s book The Pilgrim of Tinker Creek left bloody footprints on her chest while she slept. She only knew the cat’s night wanderings and fights through the visible prints on her body when she woke.
Like Dillard’s tomcat, the debate between what we create and how our creations survive when we release them into others’ attentions remind us of the boundaries between the visible and invisible facets of our images.
Recently, I experienced a “stuckness” in my image making; I was stuck in a composition that was someone else’s, and I could not seem to move from it. The polarity between creative inception and audience imperatives catapulted my motivation between the pressure of having to create something on the one hand, and on the other hand being immersed in pleasing an audience. Both poles seemed unattractive, and so I resorted to inertia. If I didn’t make any images, I didn’t have to deal with the tug of war inside.
Avoidance, though, has its costs. Discontent from not being creative, distracted wishing for the experience of creating something, questioning creative identity. Most compelling is to review past work and to remember projects that brought excitement in the past and the anticipation of embarking on a question or set of questions that would fuel a creative thrust.
So the past few days, I’ve had to have a long conversation with myself. Why didn’t I make images any more? How do I take the first step in unraveling a creative paralysis, and thereby set myself free? How do I quell a hunger to just make photos?
What I learned in this internal conversation came to light literally in an image today.
In this simple portrait, I realized that there is a compulsion to say what we want to in a visible way that which is invisible to the eyes of everyone else.
Let me submit a humble philosophy.
When I create portraits, the thing that I look for is the essence of a person.
Sometimes, it is what they do that makes this essence visible.
Sometimes, it is their environment.
Other times, it is invisible in the image.
In portraits where the photographer is the focusing on interpretation rather than fact, mostly the fact is visible, but the interpretation takes a lot more craftsmanship – how do we portray a person’s attributes, the way we see them, in ways that are visible to everyone else?
In an essay on bridging the visible and invisible words, Yahia Lababidi removes the division between invisible and visible by adding the indivisible – that quality that implies a bridge between worlds. The photographer’s intention materialized in the image.
When we succeed, the audience is able to see what we mean. It becomes a conversation between the photographer in one place and the audience in another place. This conversation between viewer and image maker is the indivisible; we create impact on our audience in the impressions we leave in the audience’s minds as our images touches their perception.
I’ll be harsh on myself: the portrait I created today is not technically perfect. For example, some highlights are blown, albeit intentionally. This is because I wanted that halo of light around the face. And this is because the person I photographed appreciates illumination in thinking and in life.
Only one eye has a highlight, and she’s not staring at the lens, instead her attention is on something she’s reading and thinking about. In the literature on the language of eye positions, it might mean she is examining facets of her identity, reflecting on a potentially transformational idea.
Totally artistic intention. Totally invisible to you, the viewer.
And so perhaps I have failed in this image. Perhaps I have failed because the indivisible line between the invisible and visible is not as clearly drawn for the audience who is not able to know these things I have just explained.
But I also think of Yahia Lababidi’s statement in her essay, that “Bodies are like poems…only a fraction of their power resides in the skin of things.” If the mystery of the invisible nudges the viewer to wonder the significance of an image, does it fail?
Al Ghazali wrote, “This visible world is a trace of that invisible one and the former follows the latter like a shadow.” In the shadows of the photographer’s mind, there is always an intention, and whether or not we fail to make it visible is beside the point.
Because the reason why we make images isn’t just because of the results. The real push is to keep making images, to keep trying, because it is part of who we are.
Maria Rilke wrote, ”It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves, so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again, invisible, inside of us.”
Our task is to keep trying.
My friend Ugyen told me the other day he borrowed someone’s Nikon D80 to try it out, and he can’t wait to take photos. I’m excited for him. In many ways I envy him the beginning of his photography journey.
A certain nostalgia hits me when I hear of someone excited with their start in photography. Thinking about this led to my questions: why is it so attractive to be a hobbist? What makes it so good to go back to basics, even after publication and all the hundreds of thousands of images of people and places? Why is the hobbist approach so important right now?
I’m tempted sometimes to scroll through the scores of gigabytes of unprocessed shots in the hard drive. Sort of like a pat in the back for having seen them, and captured them. But this I know is not photography. Photography isn’t the past; it’s the present.
The reason I want to go back to basics has more to do with my mind than my camera.
The camera should be an extension of the mind. And the mind of a hobbyist is different from the working photographer.
Part of my lifelong inquiry is about creativity—about what inspires people, how they get insired, and the sustainability of passion that stems from a sense of wonder.
I find hobbyists have a great potential for creativity.
Hobbyists are fearless.
Humans learn to fear, and it’s a product of our own creation. We fear not “doing it right” and of others’ reactions to our decisions. As a working photographer I’ve faced clients whose creative ideas differed from mine; I’ve also faced photography contest judges who slammed creative decisions because they did not fulfill technical interpretations.
But the hobbyist isn’t making images to please a client or judge. He is free to use whatever skills he has to make something that only he can see. This leads to a lot of freedom.
Expectations can kill creativity.
The nature of a hobby is that the expectations are internal. The urge to make something beautiful or fresh out of the daily ordinary can be a professional urge, yes, but in the hobbyist it is unfettered by expectations from someone else.
Experimentation is part of the hobbyist’s freedom.
The freedom to try something just for the heck of it is in the power of a hobbyist. She can make a thousand images just because of something she wondered, or is trying to figure out. This freedom to follow the lines of a “what if…” gives the hobbyist the perfect platform to innovate and experiment.
Passion fuels creativity.
The best part about being a hobbyist is the absence of creativity killers and large doses of passion. Ultimately, this is the ‘high’ a photographer gets from his or her hobby. Passion carries the craft through the difficult learning that we must engage in to become technically and artistically mature in the art.
I wish Ugyen, and others who are starting out on their photography journey, a long and happy love affair with light.
It’s a wish I would gladly receive, too.
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!
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If Iâ€™m not a prodigy, itâ€™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 Robinsonâ€™s book The Element, â€œI walked into this room, and it was full of people like me. People who couldnâ€™t sit still. People who had to move to think.â€ Â We canâ€™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 isnâ€™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 doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t develop creatively in your photography. Itâ€™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 DNAâ€”their different insights connected into a product that was creative because they thought together. Ansel Adams was good friends with Georgia Oâ€™Keefe. Although they worked in different media, they shared a common conceptâ€”the idea of starkness and simplicity giving a sensuality to a composition.
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 whatâ€™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 â€œbad.â€
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.
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 â€˜safe shot,â€™ the one that has always worked for you in the past. If that happens, the creativity isnâ€™t there because you havenâ€™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 youâ€™ve seen before, but you put a twist into interpreting those familiar things with an unfamiliar composition.
5. You need to have bursts of creativity when everything comes to you effortlessly.
Picassoâ€™s Les Demoiselles dâ€™Avignon was not a painting he created in a single moment of creativity. The MusÃ©e 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 donâ€™t forget that the rest of it is hard work, and patience.
Can you think of other myths about creativity that need busting?
I was truly disappointed when Nikon posted this on their Facebook page “A photographer is only as good as the equipment he uses, and a good lens is essential to taking good pictures! Do any of our facebook fans use any of the NIKKOR lenses? Which is your favorite and what types of situations do you use it for?”
Nikon later posted a sort of apology, “We know some of you took offense to the last post, and we apologize, as it was not our aim to insult any of our friends.”
But the question is out there now. It annoys photographers immensely when someone says, “That’s a great picture. What camera do you use?”
As if the years of practice didn’t count, only the camera. Sometimes, the size of the camera around the photographer’s neck is the thing that impresses people the most. Thus is propelled the commercial perpetuity of the camera companies.
And so the hobbyist who’s just starting out with that camera that isn’t so big and doesn’t have that fancy lens begins to doubt they have what it takes to improve their photography, and questions why they should continue with their hobby.
Although it is true that professional photographers need the flexibility and control a complicated dSLR affords, it is untrue that the most expensive gear makes you a better photographer.
When I first started with digital cameras, I came across a young man named Joey Lawrence in a forum called DP Challenge.
This young man was using a one-megapixel point and shoot.
And he was winning challenges left and right with his dramatically lit images. Joey L was using that little camera to capture some amazing images. Here’s a screen capture of one of his shots.
Joey L now uses professional camera bodies for his commercial work, but when he used a little point and shoot, you could already see his “signature” on his images. It’s this signature that makes him the photographer he is. It’s called vision.
It’s the skill of knowing how to light. The camera has a great computer which meters on the light in a scene and calculates what to do to render a good exposure. But it is easily fooled, flooding the sensor with light when the scene is too dark, or making a subject too dark when against a brightly lit background. It’s the photographer who controls the camera to see what he or she sees, making the image.
It’s the skill of knowing what makes a good composition. Cameras do not think about balance, about tension, about color palettes in an image. The photographer does, and the photographer decides how to create these elements.
It’s the skills of artistry. What to include in the frame, what to exclude, to make a message. It’s how shallow to make the depth of field, or how sharp everything needs to be. It’s how the values need to be, to create contrast.
Rob and Lauren Lim over at Photography Concentrate wrote about how studies point to the value of the photographer behind the lens. The studies found that “One of the biggest differences was in how [artistic people] think. Experts tend to notice more details, and have more understanding of their thought processes.”
So it’s not your camera.
It’s the hours you spend getting to know the gear you have, practicing the skills you learn, learning some more, and being persistent. It’s being reflective and imaginative, and always reaching for that next level in your creative approach.
No camera or gear upgrade will give you good images automatically. Conversely, no matter what gear you have, if your vision is strong and your skills are strong, your pictures will come out strong.
Hold that camera in your hands–the one you have now–as what it is, the tool that you can use to capture your vision.
Unleash yourself on a learning spree, take lots and lots of pictures, and again, learn from what you do. Ultimately, you are the author of that signature.
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!
If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.
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Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer
What do you do when you have to wing it during a shoot and you have little or no prior information?
Making it up as you go along is one of the most pressure-filled experiences you will have as a photographer. But remember, travel photogs and photojournos do it, so if they can, so can you.
The key is to be open and prepared for all the possibilities. One key to being able to wing it on location is to have all your gear ready. If itâ€™s a portrait photoshoot, you need to pack all the light equipment you think you might need, something which you learn from experience, and once youâ€™re on location, you need to summon every ounce of your creative problem solving to make your images work.
Here are some tips for when you have to make it up as you go along.
Donâ€™t pack light.
I mean, weight-wise. For a shoot I did for a magazine cover, I brought six lights, so I would have twice as many as I needed in case something happened and some units failed. In the middle of the shoot at the location, a half-finished boutique hotel, there was a tour of the premises for a group of about ten employees. As they walked through the room where we were shooting, one of them knocked down one of my lightstands and the strobe and receiver attached to it broke into pieces as they hit the floor. I didnâ€™t have time to stop except to glare at the offending person; I quickly removed the broken equipment to look at later, and replaced them with backup items.
Bring all kinds of light shapers, just in case.
I also brought a lot of light shapers. Good thing, because I had to do a reasonably wide portrait including the environment. The walls were dark, especially the black granite with the hotel logo which absolutely had to be in the shot. I couldnâ€™t use a softbox because it would create a large reflection on the black granite. Also, I wanted to use the mirror in the shot, and had to have lighting that included the clothing, face, and everything else in its range. To light the subjectâ€™s face and clothes and have some nice fall-off around her, I attached a honeycomb grid to one strobe and used the mirror to reflect some of that light to light the environment.
Create the look using the environment.
For another shoot, I had never been to the location. All I knew was, the client wanted the photos to look â€˜mysterious.â€™ So while the model was going through makeup and hair styling, I walked around with a flash unit and lit it at various rooms in the location. Even the bathroom. The bathroom had a ledge with some candles on it, so I decided to light the candles to create separation between the subject and the wall. Then I used one light to light the model and the jewelry for which this image was a branding shot.
Bring a range of focal lengths.
Iâ€™ve preached about the advantages of using just one lens, but at times when you have to wing a shoot, you donâ€™t want to be caught without a focal length that will give you the images you need. Bringing a range of different focal lengths makes sure you have the right lens for the shot you want.
One of the questions I always ask before a shoot is, what type of shots does the client need? Usually you will be asked to do a variety of shots, for example, some wide full body shots with environment included, half-body shots, and closeup shots. This range means you might be using from 24mm to 85mm. When I am shooting for a jewelry company, I always ask if they want product closeups as well. If they do, I remember to pack my 105mm macro and 60mm macro lenses along with the 24mm-85mm range.
Bring useful accessories that have nothing to do with lighting or lenses.
I always bring safety pins, hairpins, double clips of varying sizes, and clamps, and bungee balls with me. Safety pins are useful for clamping down dresses that are too big. Hairpins take care of hair thatâ€™s stubbornly distracting in a shot. Double clips are good for holding up reflectors if you donâ€™t have an assistant. And the most useful accessory for me is the bungee ball. Itâ€™s elastic and attaches around objects, so I can place flash units onto poles, branches and other objects when itâ€™s awkward or impossible to use a lightstand.
Winging it might not be advisable for a portrait photographer, but if you absolutely have to make it up as you go along, it is not impossible. With thorough preparation, you too can create on the spot.
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!
If you like whatâ€™s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.
When you are on assignment, often even with extensive research, there are variables you cannot prepare for. Challenges you find on assignment include:
- Light conditions
- Having to search for vantage points that work
- People are always moving around
Also even if you studiously pore over maps of the place you will be photographing, you still have the challenge of composing based on what the layout of the area really looks like when you encounter it with the light, weather, people, etc when you get there. You still have to search for vantage points that work for the story you are shooting.
To be a successful travel photographer, you have to become a successful visual problem solver. A visual problem solver takes the existing conditions of where she is shooting, and finds ways to arrange those conditions into a harmonious image.
Like many artistic skills, visual problem solving is actually made up of a complex subset of skills. Here are 10 practical ways to practice your visual problem solving.
Â Ways to practice visual problem solving
1. One lens or focal length.
Making images with one focal length is a limitation, but it is a limitation that allows you to free up your creative problem solving skill of composing with a constraint. Constraints like simply using a 50mm for an entire story is something that can help â€˜forceâ€™ you to compose in creative ways. You have to zoom with your feet with one focal length. You have to move around. What this does is simply get you into the habits that allow for creative visual interpretations of whatâ€™s in front of you. If you have a zoom lens on, like your kit lens, donâ€™t worry. Simply tape the lens to the desired focal length you want to work with for the week, and donâ€™t change it!
2. Tell a story using a theme.
Themes can do wonders for your creativity because it is another constraint that you can impose on your image making that will challenge you to discover ways of solving a visual problem. Interpreting the theme you choose can hone your observation skills, composition skills, and all the other discrete skills demanded of a creative shooter. For example, you could shoot the theme â€˜blueâ€™ today! There are many ways to interpret this theme. It could be the color blue, the many hues of blue, or it could be the metaphorical blue, interpreted by images that show abandonment, sorrow, etc.
3. Crop in camera.
If you tell yourself that every frame must contain only whatâ€™s necessary to tell the story, you are giving yourself an opportunity to become a great visual problem solver.
These days with humungous digital RAW files, itâ€™s easy to just snap away and crop your compositions later. But what this does is make for a lazy visual problem solver. If you ever want to be a photographer on assignment, you want to get the compositions right in camera; often your editor will expect the files as they are when itâ€™s time to submit a story. Practicing this composition in-camera skill will enhance your visual problem solving skill and improve your photos dramatically. You might even find that you donâ€™t need to spend hours in post-processing because your straight-from-camera pictures are already breathtaking as they are. Imagine that: less time on the computer, more time to shoot!
4. Look at things in fresh ways.
Take a page from poetry. Wallace Stevens has a great poem called â€œ13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbirdâ€ where he explores how to see in 13 very short stanzas. Looking at things in fresh ways means to move not just your feet, but your mindâ€™s eyeâ€”what can you see if you look at a subject in a different way? Given a theme, what would be a list of ways you could look at it? Changing up your point of view not just physically but also mentally can change the way you interpret the subject.
5. Using design principles.
Line, form, color, balanceâ€”these are always great themes to shoot. Spending some time composing using graphic design themes can inject freshness into your imagery. These are also elements you can find in every setting, so you will never run out of things to photograph.
6. Photograph the light.
There is no more beautiful way to interpret a place than by recording the way the light falls on it. A tree is a tree is a tree, but a tree in great light is a beautiful photo.
Â 7. Vary your exposure.
Changing your exposure subjectively is a great way to interpret scenes and give them mood and atmosphere. You can try high-key images, or images that are overexposed to give them a bright, cheerful mood. Or you can underexpose to change the mood and give it a bit of mystery. You can spend a lot of time photographing one scene, and vary the exposures with which you capture it. Then you would have a lot of images to choose from, to tell the story. Making subjective exposures gives you a way to bring emotion into your images.
8. Vary technique.
There are some themes commonly used in travel photography that would work to help you vary the techniques you use to capture a place. Panning, light painting, and slow shutter work are some of the techniques you can use to creatively interpret your vision while on assignment. Practicing these techniques wherever you go can give you a variety of images that might give you more insight into a place.
9. Use color in various ways.
Color is everywhere, so this is a great way to explore a new place. But making color work for your image is a skill that can help you move beyond just making eye candy, into making expressive images.
Seeing how colors complement each other, or how it affects the mood of an image, is a great skill and can help you in visual problem solving. For instance, a spot of blue in an otherwise all-yellow-and-green landscape might make a better photo.
You can also influence color in your images by changing up your white balance settings. (You can change white balance in RAW, so if you shoot in RAW the white balance setting is quite irrelevant. But if you need a visual feedback system for the â€˜feelingâ€™ color produces in an image, try shooting in a different white balance just to be able to see the effect on your image on the LCD screen.)
10. Use contrast to add interest to an image.
Iâ€™ve discussed some techniques for using contrast in images over at LightStalking. Spotting contrast is another way to add interest to your images. Practicing seeing contrastâ€”in content, color, values, size, lines, textureâ€”hones your observation skills and gives you a whole new way of seeing.
With some patience and perseverance, you can train yourself to be an effective visual problem solver. Practice will make these skills part of your natural workflow, so start on them today!
Which of these 10 have you tried? What have you done to produce an image you loved?
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If you like whatâ€™s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you donâ€™t like whatâ€™s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.
Itâ€™s been a pretty serious week. We witnessed a media empire break open with more sparks than the explosion that demolished the Death Star. Olso suffered from terrorism attacks, and then Amy Winehouse died.
So to cheer up a bit, I decided to put together a playlist of songs this week. The playlist spans a few decades, so if you can recognize some of it, feel free to sing along. Thereâ€™s nothing like belting out a song to relax those shoulders and get ready for a week of shooting photographs. There’s nothing like a workflow with a fabulous soundtrack to inspire great shots.
Â 1. Papparazi by Lady Gaga
You can start with that catchy chorus, â€œIâ€™m your biggest fan Iâ€™ll follow you until you love me.â€ Chase that shot until youâ€™ve got the right one. Dog that light until it gives you magic.
2. Shiny Happy People by REM
Take the camera and â€œPut it in your hands/Take it take it/There’s no time to cry/Happy happyâ€¦â€ Go to the park, shoot the lovers smiling. Throw a dog a Frisbee and catch it while it smiles with teeth all bright and shiny.
3. 3×5 by John Mayer
Unlike John, take your camera for a walk and you donâ€™t have to lament, â€œdidn’t have a camera by my side this time,â€ but donâ€™t forget to â€œsee the world through both my eyes.â€ Open your other eye thatâ€™s not peering through the viewfinder, and donâ€™t just tell the story, but experience it.
4. Girls on Film by Duran Duran
Cast some models, set up some lights, and catch some â€œGirls on film (two minutes later), girls on film/Girls on film (got your picture), girls on filmâ€¦.â€
5. Pictures of You by The Cure
Get some inspiration from some of your old shots, and count yourself lucky you have so many more photography opportunities to look forward to. Robert Smith darkly recites, â€œI’ve been living so long with my pictures of you that I almost believe that the pictures are all I can feelâ€¦,â€ but you know deep in your heart that if you were singing that song to your craft, youâ€™d know feeling your photos isnâ€™t a bad thing.
6. Photograph by 10,000 Maniacs
You can do some documentary photography on the street. You can even experiment with your Monochrome camera setting. Maybe youâ€™ll find yourself telling stories like Dorothea Lange, or the Italian cinema masters. 10,000 Maniacs captured a great lyrical image in their song, â€œI found this photograph/underneath the broken picture glass/tender face of black and white/beautiful, a haunting sight.â€
7. Vogue by Madonna
Take some inspiration from Madonna and study some photos of those â€œLadies with an attitudeâ€ and â€œFellas that were in the mood.â€ Harlow, Dietrich, Garbo. Adopt the drama of yesteryears and try a pinup shoot. Câ€™mon honey, â€œDon’t just stand there, let’s get to it. Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.â€
8. Photograph of You by Depeche Mode
â€œWhat good is a souvenir of something/you once had when all it ever does is/make me feel bad.â€ This song is great when youâ€™re editing bad pics out of the bunch. Delete. Sing. Delete.
9. Better Together by Jack Johnson
Get sentimental and try some sepia toning. Thereâ€™s nothing like that sentimental sepia that will save an image that had to be shot with iffy lighting. Take Jack’s advice and feel that photos are like â€œOur dreams,” and they are made of real things, like a shoebox of photographs and sepia toned loving.â€
10. Kodachrome by Simon and Garfunkel
Try some plugins in your processing and evoke the feel of â€œKodachrome, they give us those nice bright colors.â€ Shoot some landscapes and run the action, â€œThey give us the greens of summers, makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah.â€ Youâ€™ll be crooning like Simon and Garfunkel in no time.
If the past weekâ€™s got you down and you need to pick up some inspiration for your photography, why not make your own playlist?
What are your favorite songs when shooting?
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.
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Creativity is like a tap. You can turn it on if you know how, but sometimes, it can run out and trickle down to a drip.
Recently I had conversations with a couple of my students who have very successful photography businesses. They have built a living around photography, and they work some 12-16 hours a day, often more, shooting and preparing images and selling these to clients. Lately though, our conversations have centered on feeling overwhelmed by all the photography they do.Â The problem is probably not that they are shooting too much, but that they are shooting too much of the same thing. Theyâ€™re burned out, and what worries me is that they are talking about quitting and â€˜finding something else to do.â€™
Whenever a photographer I know tells me theyâ€™re quitting, I get upset for several reasons. One, every single photographer I know did not start their journey in photography with the goal of making money. They started out with the wonder of arranging the chaos of their surroundings into beautiful harmonies. Two, photography, like everything creative, isnâ€™t a destination to reach but a journey to traverse and savor. Three, I believe that creativity isnâ€™t beyond anyoneâ€™s reach, and it is one of the most enjoyable states of being. If you combine the joys of wonder, engagement and learning, youâ€™ve got a heck of a potential for being happy doing what you do.
So how do you know that youâ€™re experiencing creative burnout? Here are some ways to tell.
1. You start thinking about your couch in the middle of a shoot.
If you are in the middle of something you supposedly love, and you begin to think of less interesting things like sitting on your couch doing nothing, itâ€™s time to step back a bit.
2. Your feet hurt, and a little voice tells you, you shouldnâ€™t have booked this one.
Working too much on the same repetitive tasks brings boredom. Your capacity for creativity ranges from the end where you are not challenged and you get bored, to the end where your skills are challenged beyond what you can handle, and you get frustrated.
3. Dramatic lighting leaves you going, Yeah Yeah.
Light is a turn-on for a photog. If great light leaves you indifferent, itâ€™s definitely a sign that youâ€™re burned out.
4. You donâ€™t feel excited about carrying your camera around.
If you have the chance to carry your camera around and the thought itself makes you tired, you have creative burnout.
5. You scoff when people like me talk about passion.
If you experience similar signs as the ones above, all of which involve boredom, frustration, or indifference, there are a few simple things you can do to rekindle your love for photography and combat creative burnout.
1. Leave your camera at home, and go to a place you like.
Seeing the world through a viewfinder sometimes gets in the way of experiencing it. This sounds trite, but sometimes a photographer can get so used to viewing everything through the lens that he or she forgets that the world is so much more than that rectangular space. Freeing yourself from the frame can sometimes reframe your perspective and give you the nudge to try to capture what you find beautiful, again.
2. Watch a movie without analyzing lighting and camera angles.
Someone who picks up a camera, sometime in the beginning of their journey, has seen something beautiful and wanted to take that beauty with them. Movies are made the same way. Watching a movie just because itâ€™s a great story can help you find a similar simple feeling, and this might be the spark that lights your fire for photography all over again.
3. Engage your imagination instead of your eyes.
The imagination is a powerful source of creative drive. Activating it by asking it to turn on by reading is a great way to open the mind. Opening your mind will help you to free associate, or float from one idea to another in a relaxed way. This free association is often the source of those insights that move you to produce something creative.
Â 4. Socialize with non-photographers who are creative.
Not just photographers, but musicians, painters, and others have to find their wellspring of inspiration in order to stay creative. Hanging out with creative people gives you a support system for your own creativity, and it also helps you tap into the enthusiasm and love that creative people have for their art. This support system is not essential, but it helps you keep fresh. Hanging out with artists not only is fun, but being in a creative atmosphere can spark imagination.
5. Watch a TED video.
Iâ€™ve been a great fan of TED for a long time, and what attracts me to the videos is the unconventional ways that the speakers think. TED videos open up connections between things that we may never have thought about, and are enjoyable to watch simply because the ideas that are discussed in them are interesting.
6. Get pampered.
Taking time to step back and slow down is something difficult to do these days. Youâ€™re always connected to a huge community who want to talk to you and have you talk back. Thereâ€™s wi-fi everywhere now pretty much, so it seems you have the obligation to always stay on the grid. But the thing is, attention takes energy, and if you are constantly paying attention, all that concentration is going to wear you down. There is no reason why you canâ€™t rest. A little rest goes a long way to rejuvenate your spirit. Going for a foot massage or a facial is something I sometimes do, just to stay still and have someone take care of me. Similarly, if youâ€™re not in Asia where those things are very affordable, you can go out for a good meal or sit on a bench in the park and just breathe. There are endless possibilities for simple things you can do to feel pampered, and you can give your concentration abilities a rest for a while.
7. Experience life through your other senses.
With the rise of visual media itâ€™s hard not to use our sense of vision all the time, to engage with our world. But as visual authors, we tend to overuse and overwhelm our sense of vision, creating an imbalance. Balancing out our senses, and experiencing life through taste, touch, smells, and sounds might just be the trick to triggering a creative period. Go out for a great meal (or make one), go paragliding or swimming, play with your dog or take your kids out to the zoo, and find your balance through the sensory adventures that you experience.
Creative burnout is something that you might not be able to avoid when you are passionate and driven about photography. But there are signs to let you know when your drive has driven you to burnout. Knowing when to step back, give yourself a chance to rest and refresh your perspective can go a long way to combating creative burnout. Taking care of your creative self helps you to keep the sense of wonder and engagement you found through your photography, where you may find a lifetime of joy and beauty.
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. You might also like:
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