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Most of us photographers struggle with our creativity. As time goes on you’ll likely experience fewer moments of passionate inspiration and longer periods of hard work and creative dryness.
It was during a period of creative dryness in my photography business that I discovered a whole breed of photographers who had been able to express their creativity in surprising ways.
They brought every part of their life to their photography, found beauty in unlooked-for places, and got in over their heads. Their ideas were just what I needed to breathe new life into my own photography.
Let me share with you three quotes that will help you understand yourself as a creative photographer.
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” – Ansel Adams
When you first became a photographer you likely focused on finding the perfect camera and lenses. For a while, it was all about chasing gear. But in the end, the gear doesn’t satisfy. Unless it helps you expand your creative horizons it becomes a worthless dust collector sitting on a shelf somewhere.
You probably tried your hand at copying what you saw on Pinterest or other photo sharing groups. I bet that once you were successful you got bored and moved on quickly.
Gear and gimmicks don’t satisfy you. In fact, you’re more likely inspired by the books you read, even though they are non-visual because they fire up your imagination.
The creative photographer brings to their work their whole life, their whole selves. That usually includes a whole host of other creative endeavors like music, painting, writing, or acting, even if you pursued them at different moments in life.
“I don’t just look at the thing itself or at the reality itself; I look around the edges for those little askew moments – kind of like what makes up our lives – those slightly awkward, lovely moments.” – Keith Carter
As a creative photographer, you’re often going to feel like you don’t fit in. You’ll likely find it hard to commit to one type of photography for the rest of your life (or as a business).
Here’s one idea that might characterize everything you photograph; beauty out of chaos.
Creative photographers are often at the fringes, on the edge of chaos and order, in unpredictable situations, trying to make something beautiful in difficult situations.
You’re likely drawn to “the real,” not being satisfied with mere poses but what happens between the poses, at the edges of a photo session – those “slightly awkward, lovely moments.”
“I realize more and more what it takes to be a really good photographer. You go in over your head, not just up to your neck.” – Dorothea Lange
With the pursuit of the perfect camera behind you (happy to use whatever camera you’ve got on hand), and Pinterest a distant memory, you bring everything you’ve got to your photography. But even when you find yourself up to your neck, you’re still holding back.
There’s nothing to force your creativity quite like walking into a situation that puts you in way over your head. You’ll be forced to figure out what to do at the moment.
I daresay that, for most of us, going in over our heads means overcoming ourselves. Overcoming our social anxiety, fear, and laziness. While a little social anxiety, introversion, or laziness can kill your creativity – it can also fuel it.
Successful creative photographers talk about how they challenged themselves through their fears and assumptions and constantly embraced constraints that forced them to grow as people and as photographers.
I love hearing from you. Which ideas do you resonate with and what do you look like as a creative photographer? Let’s chat in the comments below.