A short while ago, I wrote a post on creativity. Specifically, on how we often get in the way of our own creativity. I thought I’d follow-up that post by writing an article on how to move past those self-induced obstacles toward actually improving creativity.
Not surprisingly, doing a Google search on the definition of creativity will yield a number of creative results! For me, creativity is that brief moment of inspiration, in which information (usually from disparate sources) coalesces into an idea which guides a set of actions. Quite often, this flash of insight appears to come out of the blue, from the seeming “nothingness” of our subconscious/unconscious mind. The results though, are very real and allow us to move forward, whether it be while shooting a house for a client, solving a business challenge, coming up with a household budget or working through a difficult parenting challenge with a young child.
There are a number of "best practices" that I found in my research related to improving creativity. Here are a few that I think can help boost creativity in your photography:
- Get out of your own way - As I said in my previous article, one of the biggest obstacles to improving creativity is seeing yourself as lacking creativity. I truly believe that this is not true. We may not have the ability to be a great painter but if we can critique a painting and make suggestions as to how it might look better, then the act of coming up with those suggestions is, in fact, a creative act.
- Pursue unfamiliar topics - I was surprised to find, in my research for this post, that taking the time to generally broaden our knowledge fosters new ideas and increases diversity in our thinking. Creativity comes from these new ideas “blending” with our older ideas. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman says that “Openness to new experience is the strongest personality trait for predicting creative achievement.”
- Talk to colleagues - One of the enormous pieces of value from sites like PFRE and other online REP groups is that you’re regularly interacting with people who have similar interests but who might have different ideas on how to do things. For example, in the comment thread on a recent post, someone mentioned using luminosity masks in a way that prompted me to fiddle around with the Luminosity blending mode in Photoshop. The result was that I discovered a different and useful way to use luminosity to affect an image.
- Improve your attitude - Late last year, I was in a creative rut with my photography. On the drive to a photoshoot, I realized that I was just so tired from working a couple of jobs and running after two young kids at home, that I lost my sense of anticipation for doing a photoshoot. I realized that my mindset was focused on having to do a shoot, rather than getting to do a shoot. I spent the rest of the drive getting myself into a more positive head-space. This approach translated into my being more curious/creative at the shoot, which yielded more interesting compositions and better images.
- Bring music to a shoot - Much has been written on how Einstein took breaks to listen to Mozart when he was "stuck" in his developmental work. I personally know a lot of very good photographers who bring music to a shoot. I’d imagine that there’s something about music that stimulates different parts of the brain and allows the listener to make different neural connections, which seems to positively impact creative thought.
- Try different compositions/shooting/editing techniques - If you’ve gotten into a rut of always shooting corner-to-corner, then looking for different compositions might spark some creativity. Indeed, you might have some agent clients who might like getting an “artsy” detail shot or two from each house. Another thing to try is to proactively look for opportunities at a shoot to capture related images that would work for a diptych (e.g., putting a vertical shot of a certain part of the kitchen on one side of the diptych and a vertical close-up shot of the kitchen's expensive faucet on the other).
In closing, I think it’s always helpful to try and incorporate more and more creativity into our work. I truly believe that doing so helps us stay out of ruts and makes the work more enjoyable. This not only tends to produce better results, it can also help to avoid burnout, which can extend a career! So, what are some of the ways that you flex your creativity in your photography?