Kick Your Creativity Up A Notch

Kick Your Creativity Up A Notch

A Guest Post by Larry Lourcey.

How much better would your imagery be if you were more creative? Is there any photographer out there who wouldn’t like to be stronger in that area? Creativity to a photographer is like ingredients to a chef. If you only have salt and pepper to work with, your food won’t taste as good as the person with a cupboard full of spices. So how do you fill up your Creativity Cupboard?

One of the best ways to boost your creativity is through self-assignments. By definition, a self-assignment is something you impose on yourself. There is no money to be gained, no real deadline, and no limit to your creativity. Unfortunately, the lack of deadline often causes us to leave projects on the back burner and eventually forget about them. By having a clearly-defined project, with real deadlines, you will drastically increase your chance of completing the project.

Self-portraits are one of my favorite challenges to work on. The model is readily available, there are no creative limits and they can really help you to grow artistically. A few years ago, I turned forty. To celebrate, I created a project that would combine two of the things people hate the most: turning forty and having their picture taken. The project, called 40@Forty, required me to create a new self-portrait every week for forty weeks and post them on my blog and Facebook. By announcing the project and uploading the results every week, I created a deadline for myself. I knew if I missed a Monday upload, someone would ask – so I did my best to have something ready every Monday. As difficult as it was, it ended up being one of the most fulfilling educational endeavors I have ever pursued.

Your self-assignment doesn’t have to be about self-portraits or even portraiture. Maybe you will choose your favorite album and create an image representing each song title. You could go to a museum and choose your favorite 10 paintings, then try to recreate them photographically – once a week for ten weeks. The possibilities are truly endless. All that matters is that you define your project, set deadlines, then tell all your friends and clients. The time you invest will pay big dividends- so get to it!

If you have any other great ideas for self-assignments, please post them in the comments. Hopefully you will inspire others to give it a try!

Texas-based portrait artist Larry Lourcey has earned the designation of Master Photographer by the Professional Photographers of America. His Photography Blog offers lots of great information, along with a healthy dose of humor. If you dare, you can also follow him on Twitter: @larryphoto

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Some Older Comments

  • Larry Lourcey August 27, 2011 05:59 am

    Amy- there are tons of ways to add creativity. Personally, I like to move a little away from photography, but you can certainly do 100% traditional photography in a creative way. Just depends on what flavor you prefer! Thanks for commenting!

  • Tim Lawson May 10, 2011 01:45 am

    One of the best tips I have had re creativity, is to take the word "photography" literally and concentrate on recording light. Two fellow photographers have told me to look at shadows and some of my best recent work has resulted from looking at interesting shadows.

  • German May 9, 2011 01:40 am

    I´m always looking for new ideas to enhance my creativity. Great post and congratulations!

  • Amy May 7, 2011 01:48 pm

    I do agree with kicking creativity up a notch but it seems like it becomes less photography and more painting and drawing and such. Isn't there a way to add creativity but not take so much of the realistic side of things away?

  • kate si May 7, 2011 01:39 pm

    SO MUCH THANKS @tate! It's easy to suggest self assignments but it doesn't help if you don't know where to start. Sometimes I use a stack of index cards that I wrote random words on but it's great to have links with THEMES to work with. I was hoping I'd find that in the post but I'm glad I found your link in the comment. It's nice to see suggestions that anyone can apply to themselves rather than what people are already working on. I understand wanting to show off your own work but sometimes it's just great to have someone give help rather than give a display. So thanks so much again!

  • Jessica Berry May 7, 2011 05:13 am

    This is a good article, a reminder that we need to push ourselves to try something different and to throw ourselves out of the stagnant loop we create quite often. I am just starting out, trying to improve with just an old point-and-shoot. I find it discouraging sometimes through the weekly assignments that I can't quite recreate something, and a point-and shoot is hardly ever used.

    So I decided to start my own project, My Project 365 ... Keeping in mind to try different angles and as long as I feel better about what I can produce, that is what matters. A picture a day is hard to do, but I feel it has helped me in what I have created outside the project...

  • shaun/tenzenmen May 6, 2011 01:26 pm

    block pop ups on the site perhaps? i don't even know what it is you're talking about presumably cos i have it blocked.

    where's peter.....?

  • Larry Lourcey May 6, 2011 11:56 am

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone. Best of luck with your creative endeavors!

  • joann, sidewalk chic May 6, 2011 11:21 am

    This is so true. Since I started doing self-portraiture, I've noticed my photography get better with the use of different techniques, landscapes, etc. Whenever I'm in a funk, I just tell myself to go out and shoot anything, and that takes the pressure off.

  • Heather May 6, 2011 10:07 am

    when I get in a funk I shoot my favorite things around the house. Last time I shot my favorite jewelry, it turned out really well :) you can see the results here:

  • John B May 6, 2011 09:56 am

    Yep, Larry's info and images are excellent.

    The DPS pop up (NOT related to Larry's site) is about as much fun as getting shot in the head by Navy Seals. At least that only happens once. Or so the latest story goes.

    Come on DPS - listen to your people. Kill the pop up for those of us already subscribed.

  • Phil Grierson May 6, 2011 09:01 am

    One of the local photography groups I work with has a meetup every two weeks called the weed & seed shoot. We usually go someplace as a group and shoot mostly closeups of nature, but we can shoot anything we want. Then we post some of our best work on the club's webpage so everyone can view and comment if they desire. No prizes or anything, Just something to get out and practice while improving your creativity and it makes you look more closely at everything around you.

  • Daniel Winter May 6, 2011 06:59 am

    Great article! Will try something myself!
    P.S.: Jason, you've just got yourself an ally!
    *** Please, dPS folks, remove this annoying pop-up Jason complained about! ***

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer May 6, 2011 06:09 am

    I think just using portrait orientation automatically kicks up creativity as landscape mode gets used way too much. Another thing I do to increase creativity is to go out with only one lens, preferably a prime lens:

    Also, I will keep mentioning this in every comment I put on dPS from now on until that unbelievably distracting fade-pop-up asking me to e-mail subscribe to dPS is done away with. Once an e-mail address is entered it should remember that and never bother you again. In reality, such an intrusive gimmick should not be used at all. I cannot believe more people do not complain about this.

  • Mindy May 6, 2011 04:49 am

    I really like your images; they're different and interesting. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Egle May 6, 2011 04:20 am

    Great articel, absolutely agree to the point, you need to have a deadline or at least a goal to reach. I wanted to learn more of understanding my camera and to take better pics, so started Project 365 Moments of Life. My goal is to take a photo a day and do put effort in doing it. I enjoy it so much and have already received feedback from my friends saying my photos getting better & better! Without a project, my camera would be sitting on the shelf!

  • Marleen Cafarelli May 6, 2011 03:16 am

    Larry, loved the 40 series! The diversity was terrific. I would like to see how it would change as you re-do the series at ages 50, 60, 70, 80, and hopefully 90. All of them put together into one book would show interesting differences as you age, as well as how your view of life changes. What a wonderful keepsake it would be for your future generations.

  • Lucretia Nickell May 6, 2011 02:34 am

    Loved this post and couldn’t agree more. My husband and I were just talking about this the other night. Taking a picture of ourselves can be very fun but challenging. When I take a picture of myself I am trying to share certain things about myself or the photo that I really like and I want the viewer to feel the same.

  • Michael White May 6, 2011 02:18 am

    I never thought about my practice in the idea of being creative, but I challange myself to find good subjects to photograph in any weather, time, and place. Occasionally it really pays off!

  • Anita Maffei May 6, 2011 02:05 am

    I've recently challenged myself to a "365 day project" that I post on my FB page. It has definitely forced me to pay closer attention to the world around me so I can get my "shot of the day." I have learned so much already and I'm not even a full month into it. Highly recommend this challenge to anyone looking to grow as a photographer. Please take a look, and let me know what you think.


  • Kate May 6, 2011 02:00 am

    Love this article. I really love the idea of doing a series of self-portraits, one a week, for a period of time. I might try that! I am stuck in a portraiture-rut lately...this seems like a good way to try branching out :)


  • Niki Jones May 6, 2011 01:23 am

    Good article. Reminded me to get back to the project I've still yet to finish.

  • Mridula May 6, 2011 01:01 am

    I am going to turn 40 soon!

  • Kyle Bailey May 5, 2011 08:43 am

    Kicking up your creativity I think starts from seeing things from a different viewpoint or perspective. I read an article a while back that talked about taking an object of some sort and finding 50 ways to shoot it. It gets quite boring if you actually force yourself to get to actually shooting 50 but in the process you break through self-imposed habits out of sheer frustration. I've only been shooting for a year but already I've got habits that I find are limiting or at least shortening my creative vision in certain situations.

    Here is a link to my most 'interesting' images on Flickr - I would love comments and criticisms if you would take the time.

  • cpando May 5, 2011 05:39 am

    I think it was in a post from DPS where I first read about a 365 proyect, and I thought it was a great way to push me and help me learn to take better pics. But as I know me, I created a flickr group and I invited more people to join so I have this pressure required not to quit. Then to spice things up and help make it a bit more dinamic introduced the "suggestion of the week" that is a non-mandatory idea to shoot during the week.

    I am very happy with the results so far

  • Larry Lourcey May 5, 2011 04:24 am

    Thanks for the comments! Erik- great point about trying new things without fear of failure!

  • Major Latimer May 5, 2011 02:57 am

    I start a new project next Monday called the Major Progress Report a blog/vlog where I have to post videos and/or written blogs about the business of photography and other creative fields such as music or design, drawing/painting etc. It has to go up weekly. I am going to have personal projects as well as updates I challenge myself to as well as other. Along the way I hope to learn from other artists and photographers specifically. As well as share things I have learned as a photographer/videographer with a new business and focus in making progress in my career. It's going to be a challenge but exciting!

  • tate May 5, 2011 02:55 am

    Here's a great site for competitive people who can handle a weekly photo deadline:

    You compete with many amazing photographers - if you hit the top-2, your image is placed on their front page for a week and you receive a coveted ribbon in your portfolio. It's not easy , but can be a great learning opportunity =))

  • Ozzie May 5, 2011 02:43 am

    Good article, quite inspiring.

  • ScottC May 5, 2011 02:23 am

    After a recent car show, I realized my "car" photography was lacking. So I did a project where I photographed my own car (Mini), the deadline was the next weekend with good weather.

  • fatima mustafa May 5, 2011 02:02 am

    awesome article and definitetly very inspiring! thanks for sharing your experience and ideas!! :D

  • Larry Lourcey May 5, 2011 01:51 am

    @Erik Thanks for the comment. True about the deadlines... without them, you will postpone and postpone.

    @Peter - Not a problem - if it is color you want, check out the rest of the series - . Let me know what you think.

  • Peter May 5, 2011 01:34 am

    Perhaps you could kick your creativity up a notch by introducing some colour into your work.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck May 5, 2011 01:10 am


    This is a really great suggestion! I would love to be able to travel to interesting locations and spend days studying and shooting, but this is not possible. Often I start looking around the studio and just try some experiments with lighting, objects etc. This self portrait, for example, was created by using a "mouth mounted" Nikon SB600. Just trying new things, without fear of "failure" - photography is discovery!

    I also run by a deadline - I update my Photo Blog every night. This helps to keep me one track.