12 Ways to Inspire the Creative Photographer Inside You: Part II - Digital Photography School

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.

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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.

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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.

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I created the photo gallery on my website using photo blogging software Pixel Post.

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.

Shade

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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  • http://www.portraitinspiration.com Jai Catalano

    Hmmm. I think shoot in BW is a stretch. I also think create a website and blog is a longer term fix. I agree with 10 of the ways to stimulate creativity.

    Here is another to tap into the creative side. Self portraits.

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    For me the most useful will be to get out of my comfort zone and shoot something different. And it is because of my travel blog I got interested in photography.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/11/lakshman-sagar-pali-rajasthan-how-to-reach.html

  • http://www.guigphotography.com/# Guigphotography

    I guess the colour or B/W tip is based on whether you tend to lean heavily on one or the other in the first place. In which case both suggestions have their place. I’ve been less comfortable with colour but a little project with it helped me start to get more out of it.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/8120053744/in/photostream
    Love your flowerhead shot, Jai!

  • Scottc

    I like #7, especially new techniques, and #11, shooting specifically for a B&W result adds a new twist.

    I like the first photo, seems we both enjoy car shows but your background is better………

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4429266233/

  • http://benchapmanphotos.blogspot.co.uk/ Ben Chapman

    I shot in B&W for the first time in 4 years last weekend…..I like it!

  • http://dewandemmer.com Dewan Demmer

    #7, #9 and #10 really can be challenging, and I have done these at one point or another and it really forces a person to change perspective and approach. i like that.

    In fact this is my latest project to get me brain turning over and moving in the right direction :
    http://www.dewandemmer.com/preoject-english-forests-and-around/

  • Mei Teng

    Trying out different genres and self portraits are great ideas to stretch one’s creativity.

  • http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu Steve

    I started taking some black and white and quite like the result. Will take some more. I know its not new but it was for me and I always like to experiment to find new creativity

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/African-Mammals/G0000IrGRBOD5m2s/I0000ZrcEJgXC9xA/C0000bdEkyK_8Dzs

  • http://csafotography.wordpress.com Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri

    Trying out new genres, B&W, and making use of the natural light are my favourite things from this one. I love shooting at the magic hours (both golden and blue). Some of the shots during that time have turned out to be really awesome. And B&W is the top in the list of favourites.

  • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

    It would be great to have a link to the first article for those that missed it.

    Thanks
    Darlene

  • http://marius-fotografie.blogspot.com marius2die4

    Nice tips!
    marius-fotografie.blogspot.com

  • Grendel Khan

    Re: Create a Photo Book. I do something similar which gets me photographing more. I have a young son who is blessed to have three sets of Grandparents, none of which can get enough of him. Of course, Grandparents are impossible to Christmas shop for as they already have everything they need and want. So I create a calendar each year to send to them that requires I have at least 13 print-worthy images of my son and his activities. My son is my muse but the concept goes further than that….

  • http://2ndnaturephotos@wordpress.com larry

    I will add a personal experience here – - I used blurb to make a couple of books. the first one was ok, so I thought I would try again. The second one was a disaster. Their program did not show that print/text shows when over or with a background. The print was the same color, the background covered it up and it did not show on the screen. They say they check everything, but they missed that. They printed ten books, all were unsaleable, and I had taken orders. They would not take them back or give me any money back at all. I lost $400. They did offer me a $15 coupon for my next order. After some discussion with them on the phone, I chose to take my account off of their site and no longer do business with them. I felt I was treated poorly, and that they had no cares about after the sale as long as they got their money. If you have had good results with them, I am glad. I will no longer use their services. I have had good prompt and consistant service with similair prices from ‘My Publisher’.

Some older comments

  • larry

    November 30, 2012 02:37 pm

    I will add a personal experience here - - I used blurb to make a couple of books. the first one was ok, so I thought I would try again. The second one was a disaster. Their program did not show that print/text shows when over or with a background. The print was the same color, the background covered it up and it did not show on the screen. They say they check everything, but they missed that. They printed ten books, all were unsaleable, and I had taken orders. They would not take them back or give me any money back at all. I lost $400. They did offer me a $15 coupon for my next order. After some discussion with them on the phone, I chose to take my account off of their site and no longer do business with them. I felt I was treated poorly, and that they had no cares about after the sale as long as they got their money. If you have had good results with them, I am glad. I will no longer use their services. I have had good prompt and consistant service with similair prices from 'My Publisher'.

  • Grendel Khan

    November 28, 2012 04:21 am

    Re: Create a Photo Book. I do something similar which gets me photographing more. I have a young son who is blessed to have three sets of Grandparents, none of which can get enough of him. Of course, Grandparents are impossible to Christmas shop for as they already have everything they need and want. So I create a calendar each year to send to them that requires I have at least 13 print-worthy images of my son and his activities. My son is my muse but the concept goes further than that....

  • marius2die4

    November 23, 2012 07:45 am

    Nice tips!
    marius-fotografie.blogspot.com

  • Darlene

    November 23, 2012 06:54 am

    It would be great to have a link to the first article for those that missed it.

    Thanks
    Darlene

  • Chitra Sivasankar Arunagiri

    November 20, 2012 11:36 pm

    Trying out new genres, B&W, and making use of the natural light are my favourite things from this one. I love shooting at the magic hours (both golden and blue). Some of the shots during that time have turned out to be really awesome. And B&W is the top in the list of favourites.

  • Steve

    November 20, 2012 08:24 pm

    I started taking some black and white and quite like the result. Will take some more. I know its not new but it was for me and I always like to experiment to find new creativity

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/African-Mammals/G0000IrGRBOD5m2s/I0000ZrcEJgXC9xA/C0000bdEkyK_8Dzs

  • Mei Teng

    November 20, 2012 11:36 am

    Trying out different genres and self portraits are great ideas to stretch one's creativity.

  • Dewan Demmer

    November 20, 2012 11:06 am

    #7, #9 and #10 really can be challenging, and I have done these at one point or another and it really forces a person to change perspective and approach. i like that.

    In fact this is my latest project to get me brain turning over and moving in the right direction :
    http://www.dewandemmer.com/preoject-english-forests-and-around/

  • Ben Chapman

    November 20, 2012 10:38 am

    I shot in B&W for the first time in 4 years last weekend.....I like it!

  • Scottc

    November 20, 2012 10:15 am

    I like #7, especially new techniques, and #11, shooting specifically for a B&W result adds a new twist.

    I like the first photo, seems we both enjoy car shows but your background is better.........

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4429266233/

  • Guigphotography

    November 20, 2012 07:36 am

    I guess the colour or B/W tip is based on whether you tend to lean heavily on one or the other in the first place. In which case both suggestions have their place. I've been less comfortable with colour but a little project with it helped me start to get more out of it.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/8120053744/in/photostream
    Love your flowerhead shot, Jai!

  • Mridula

    November 20, 2012 03:40 am

    For me the most useful will be to get out of my comfort zone and shoot something different. And it is because of my travel blog I got interested in photography.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/2012/11/lakshman-sagar-pali-rajasthan-how-to-reach.html

  • Jai Catalano

    November 20, 2012 01:58 am

    Hmmm. I think shoot in BW is a stretch. I also think create a website and blog is a longer term fix. I agree with 10 of the ways to stimulate creativity.

    Here is another to tap into the creative side. Self portraits.

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