Jump start your creative thinking


Where do you turn for inspiration in your photography?

Often, we draw a blank, and things just don’t seem to connect. You try to force an image, but it isn’t working. Time to step back and reconsider what it is you’re doing, and take a different approach. There are a multitude of things you can do to see things in new ways, from new points of view. Try a few of these, and see if you don’t get caught up in a renewed sense of excitement and purpose:


Create a “self-assignment.” Go out on a mission to photograph a single category of images, and be as creative as possible in interpreting the topic. Self-assignments can range from the very abstract (“Circles,” “Arrows,” “The color yellow”), to the more concrete, but still open to interpretation (“Shadows,” “Tennis Shoes,” “Machinery”). Be as open-minded as possible in considering your topics and subjects. The more you search for items that fall into your self-assigned category, the more immersed you become in your creative process, and the emotions may start to flow of their own accord. Bingo!

Think small. When you go out to take images, don’t lose sight of the trees that make up the forest. Consider looking for patterns, textures, and objects within a scene that are worthy of a study in their own right. get in close, fill the frame with your image, look for new angles. See if you can capture an image that leaves the viewer with a bit of mystery: where, how, when was this taken.

Change things up – get out of your comfort zone. Do you normally reach for your 70-200 zoom? Leave it in the bag and pop on a prime lens. Has your wide angle become your security blanket? Switch to a telephoto. Always shoot in aperture priority? Try shutter priority, or better yet, do some experimentation with manual modes. Trying new techniques leads to mistakes, mistakes lead to a rich learning experience, and often some of the best photographs can be “happy accidents.”

Keep an eye out for the unusual. When you’re out and about, avoid preset expectations of what you expect to see on location. Look for things that are out of place, unusual, or contradictory. For example, the folks at Digital Photography School talked recently about photographing graffiti in the context of a children’s playground. My lead-in photo of a lizard peeking out of the top of a sea urchin’s shell is another unusual image captured candidly, as is the one below of the rather unconventional clothesline contraption. Keep your eyes open and look for the unexpected, and you’ll be surprised what you see.



Get out there, try some new things, look for new and different ways to capture the conventional, and look for unconventional subjects waiting to be captured. Before long, you’ll be immersed once again in the creative process, and on your way to creating new and wonderful images.

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