Being an artist has nothing to do with your camera, your kit or your photo knowledge.
It has nothing to do with how long you’ve been taking photos or if you shoot on manual or automatic.
Being an artist is totally and completely about the mindset you inhabit when you are out shooting, and what you create from this state.
It’s about looking at the world in a way that is different from how we usually see it. It’s ridding ourselves of the habits to ‘get somewhere,’ to accomplish and tick things off our to-do lists.
It’s all about immersing ourselves, our senses, our beings in this beautiful, wild, chaotic and amazing world.
It’s diving deeper, seeing more and finding new and interesting ways to capture what we discover.
What you get from bringing this artistic approach into your photography are unique images.
Your photos become about expressing who you are, encompassing everything that you have seen and experienced in your life.
This to me is the joy of photography. So I have some simple, but immensely powerful tips that will help you connect to your inner artist.
“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.” – Ernst Haas
7 Powerful Techniques to Help You See More Compelling Images
First – ignore everyone
We spend so much of our lives in contact with other people. At work, our efforts are analyzed by our colleagues, boss or clients.
At home, our children, partner or family will comment on how we live, wash clothes, what we eat etc. We post something on Facebook and someone comments; everyone has an opinion.
As we are in constant contact with other humans, we find ourselves playing a role, fitting into expectations or rules or ways of living. We probably don’t even think about how the constant stream of people in and out of our lives makes us adjust and alter our behavior.
Creating art operates in a very different space – completely outside this interaction with other humans.
Being in the space of creativity is about forgetting what other people might think of our work, what other people are doing, literally everything that connects us to other human beings.
We need to release ourselves from our ‘normal lives’ and the way we live.
Because art can never be created by a committee. And what is completely unique and interesting about you is what will make the most compelling photos.
2. Know that we aren’t seeing the world as it really is
“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” – Jonathan Swift
Did you know that your brain processes two billion pieces of visual data per second? And yet we only see about 50 bits of this information.
Of course, our brains are doing us a massive favor. If it didn’t block out most of what was happening around us, we couldn’t focus.
What’s interesting here is what 50 bits of information are you seeing, and what 50 bits am I seeing?
If we are seeing such a small selection of what’s available, then it’s highly unlikely we are all seeing similar things.
Which makes our personal world highly selective.
I find this so exciting because it shows how we are always able to create something new if we only open up our awareness.
This explains why we can all stand in front of the same scene and take different photos (this happens all the time on my workshops.)
Let’s celebrate that there is so much more to discover in the world around us.
3. Take your time to really observe the world around you
One thing I constantly see in my workshops is when people find a subject they love, they shoot it, then move on way too quickly.
I think it’s a natural response to how we live in this modern life. We are very driven by results. We shoot something, then we move on to the next thing. Almost like we are ticking a box.
But the way to be more creative in your photography is to forget about where you want to go next.
In fact, forget about everything that is not totally related to the present moment you are inhabiting, and the subject you are facing.
Take your time. Watch the light. Maybe wait for the light to change to see what would happen to your subject.
Look at the shadows. The people that are passing. What’s happening around your subject? Feel the atmosphere, and maybe how it is changing.
As you see more and get to know your subject more, new angles will open up on how to shoot. Maybe the weather will change, making more dramatic images, or the light will soften creating a totally different feel to the mood of the shot.
The more you observe your subject the more it will reveal different qualities to you. You will notice more subtleties.
There is no rush. Allow yourself all the time you need to observe and shoot your subject.
4. It’s all about the light
“I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical.” – Trent Parke
When people ask me what I photograph, I always say the same thing – light.
My biggest passion and main subject in photography is light. I love light in all of its forms.
The joyful, effervescent light of a spring morning; the deep, brooding, metallic grey light before a storm; the deep, deep blues of twilight in the city; the misty, melancholic light of a winter’s afternoon.
Light is always changing. Each day brings us something different and each part of the day has different qualities. And when you have interesting light it makes your subject so much more compelling.
Your job is to play with light and your subject, seeing what happens when the light changes.
What qualities are revealed in your subject in different light?
“Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman
5. Photography is all about feeling
When we see a photo we really love it’s rarely only because it’s nice to look at.
Beyond the composition, color, light and all of the things that we can organize, there is a more important element to a photograph that is more elusive and hard to capture.
This element is emotion.
“Photography’s a case of keeping all the pores of the skin open, as well as the eyes. A lot of photographers today think that by putting on the uniform, the fishing vest, and all the Nikons, that that makes them a photographer. But it doesn’t. It’s not just seeing. It’s feeling.” – Don McCullin
When a subject stirs emotion in us – joy, love, fear – it will transfer into our photo. And when the viewer sees that image, we want that emotion to be evoked in them too.
Capturing emotion is an art, and it’s not automatic. But it’s totally worth focusing on. Find subjects that stir your emotion, and try to capture that feeling in your images.
The most iconic photos that we remember for years, or the ones that really speak to us personally, will be communicating a powerful feeling.
6. Be in awe
“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” – Mary Oliver
If we think that photography is all about feeling then the most sensible option when deciding what to photograph is to find subjects that fill you with emotion.
I like to ask myself – what fills me with such deep excitement I am in total awe when I see it?
You can probably guess that light is what makes my heart burst with excitement and makes me want to get my camera out.
But there are other things too.
Exploring nature is always something that excites me. Spending days walking through the hills near where I live in Southern Spain, or through the pretty English countryside of my adopted homeland on a beautiful summer’s morning.
Cities too, especially at sunrise when they are empty and beautiful. I like to explore, wander and see what I come across.
It doesn’t matter though what your subject is, the most important part of your decision of what to photograph is that it has to be something that stirs your soul. It has to thrill you. It has to fill you with awe.
Otherwise, what’s the point of taking the photo?
7. Stop thinking
Now, the last step is often the hardest. We are trained from an early age to be in our heads. To be thinking and doing all the time.
However, if you want to hit that artistic mindset where you are present, connected to the world and in total creative flow, you will not be thinking or analyzing what’s happening around you.
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” – Ray Bradbury
Once you have made the choices of when and what to shoot, then you can let yourself go.
Being an artist is losing yourself and becoming part of this magical and amazing world.
It’s daring to lose yourself to see what you can find. It’s being prepared to forget all the things that you have to do or worry about.
For this we have to be a little courageous, we have to experiment and try, we have to make mistakes and trust that we will take good photos (eventually). But –
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” – Vincent Van Gogh
I hope you enjoyed these ideas.
I’d love to know if these sparked ideas or inspiration for you. Let me know in the comments below. Thanks!