12 Ways to Inspire the Creative Photographer Inside You: Part II
A Guest Post by Andrew Gibson
Note: Andrew Gibson is currently offering his 5 popular eBooks for under $20 on SnapnDeals.
In the first part of this article I came up with six ideas that you can use to break out of a creative rut. I’ve been there myself, when it seems as if there is nothing around to photograph and no subject seems appealing.
The idea behind these articles is to give you some inspiration for those times when creativity seems hard to come by. Here are the rest of the ideas:
7. Try a new Genre
Part of the fascination of photography is that there are so many genres and techniques to try out. That’s part of the fun. Even professional photographers have a comfort zone of subjects and techniques that they are familiar with. Anybody can learn a lot by trying a new genre.
For example, if you’ve never photographed a stranger before then why don’t you look for a model on a website like Model Mayhem? The whole exercise of finding a suitable model and coming up with the concept of a shoot and taking the photos will be challenging and educational.
I tried some steel wool spinning photos last week for the first time. Great fun, and a new way to use a local location for photos.
8. Build a photoblog or a website
What do you do with your photos after you’ve taken them? Uploading to Facebook, Flickr or 500px is one thing, but an interesting challenge is to set up your own website or photoblog.
If you have no idea how to do this, don’t panic – it’s fairly easy once you know how. You can use WordPress or Pixelpost to set up a photoblog with an absolute minimum of programming knowledge. The instructions for both are easy to follow. And if you don’t want to buy your own domain name and a hosting plan (essential in order to have your own website) then Blogger, WordPress.com or Tumblr may be the answer. The important thing here is to create your own personalised space on the web for publishing your photos.
The best approach is to be critical of your work and only post your best images. Online portfolios are usually judged by the strength your weakest images. Weed those out to improve your portfolio.
A website or photoblog can work well if you have a long-term project to publicise. Check out Bill Wadman’s 365 portraits as an example.
An added bonus, if you’ve never done this before, is that learning to create a website or blog may be a useful skill to add to your CV.
9. Create a Photo Book
Do you print your photos? I printed some of my favourites out a few years ago on a borrowed A3 printer and most of them are still stored in a wardrobe. I framed a few, but not the rest. This is a problem for me when it comes to making prints – what to do with them afterwards?
One answer is to create a photo book instead. Blurb is perhaps the most well known photo book service but there are plenty of others. The quality from the best companies is extremely high.
Designing a photo book is not just a matter of placing photos on pages. It will force you to edit your images, look for themes, juxtapose images on the same spread and learn about graphic design. If you have a long-term project a photo book could be a great end product and a nice reward for the hard work you put it in.
Another reason I like the concept of photo books is for the legacy. Books are easier to give out to friends and relatives than prints. You can create a meaningful collection of your best images that people can look at for many decades to come.
10. Make the most of the Light
Are you lazy with light? One of the quickest ways to improve your photos is shoot in the best light. If the light is beautiful, this will inspire you to take better photos.
Here are three types of light that I like:
The golden hour
This is the hour around sunset and sunrise when the sun is low in the sky and casting low, raking light over the landscape. Ideal for landscapes, seascapes, architecture and portraits.
The blue hour
This is the period from after sunset to night when the natural colour of the ambient light is deep blue. This is a beautiful time for taking landscapes and seascapes. If you take photos by the sea, as long as you have a tripod you can take photos until it is nearly dark. The water reflects the light left in the sky so that you don’t end up with large black areas in the image.
For portraits my favourite type of lighting is shade. The light is soft, flattering and beautiful. On a bright sunny day any light bouncing off nearby sunlit areas brings a real glow to the model’s face.
It’s important to make the most of the light. It requires effort to make sure that you’re in position when the light is at its best for your subject. But you’ll be rewarded with stronger images.
Now, reverse that idea. Why not try different types of light? For instance, is it possible to take photos of the landscape in strong midday light? I’ve seen it done – one solution is to convert to black and white to take advantage of graphic shapes and shadows created by the direct light.
And what about portraits? Shade is beautiful, but what if the subject is backlit? Or in the midday sun? How can you make this light work? A technique to try in midday light is to use portable flash to fill in the shadows or overpower the light from the sun.
One of a series of photos shot on the beach in the middle of day in the summer. I used portable flash to light my model and counter the harsh light of the sun.
11. Shoot in Black and White
I love black and white photography. In black and white there is no colour and the image requires a strong composition using elements such as shape, line and tonal contrast to succeed. It takes time to learn how to see in monochrome. Here’s an easy way to get started.
Set the camera to its black and white mode (check your camera’s instruction manual if you don’t know how to do this). Set the filter colour to red or orange and increase the contrast. Now, when you take photos, the image is displayed on the LCD screen in black and white. This gives you immediate feedback on how well the composition works in black and white.
The image is displayed in black and white even if you set the file format to Raw. The beauty of shooting in Raw is that you have a full colour file that you can do anything with afterwards. That includes converting to black and white in software that gives a better result than the black and white mode on your camera.
You may not think of photographing colourful subjects like flowers in black and white. It’s a different approach to a common subject that can work really well.
12. Work in Colour
Here’s another way to look at things in a fresh way. Why not set a colour project? Spend the day just taking photos of things that are red. Or blue, yellow or green…whatever colour inspires you.
An alternative is to work with a more subtle colour such as brown or grey. This can really challenge your creativity as you look for ways to make interesting photos from subtle colour palettes.
A selection of photos utilising the colour red. Not all taken on one day – but it shows how effective it can be to group photos together that share a strong visual element such as colour. Going back through your old photos and arranging them by colour may give you a new way to present your work – or inspire you to take more colour based photos.
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