Creativity is not a personal trait or talent some photographers are born with and others are not. In fact, research shows everyone can be more creative and innate talent is a weak predictor of creativity. Creativity is a learnable skill that can be enhanced through practice and hard work. By just adding ordinary tools of thought to existing materials, creativity can flourish.
Here are 10 practices that can help photographers cultivate their creativity.
- Tap into Other’s Creativity
The first and easiest practice is to tap into others’ creativity. This includes other people, books, music, conferences, and events. Creativity is contagious. When you tap into others’ creativity this will spark your own. Creativity is not created from a mysterious void. Creativity is the summary of many inputs and influences. Any creative act relies on raw material.
Simply notice what you notice. Absorb raw material from your surroundings and things you gravitate towards. You never know in advance which raw material will be the essential muse for your next photo idea. But if you keep allowing yourself to absorb creativity around you, sparks will begin to go off.
When you go to a restaurant and are amused by how the chef plated your food this is a creative spark. When you are in the car and a song comes on, and you just have to sing and sway, this is a creative spark. Maybe there’s a verse from that song that you can create something visual. Look for these creative ideas and sparks all around you.
- Push Your Comfort Zone
Changing your routine and pushing your comfort zone makes your mind engaged. You are forced to think more creatively. When you drive home from work the same way every day your mind relaxes and goes on auto-pilot. The same thing happens with our photography when we photograph the same subject in the same way. If you always photograph macro flowers, try photographing a vast landscape.
The point is, there are a lot of different ways to photograph. When you try something new, it can help your brain create new connections allowing you to be more creative. When you come back to photographing flowers again, you will bring with you what you discovered from landscape photography. Do this often. Even if the photos are just for you, just for fun.
If you want to be more creative, you have to be prepared for the process to be messy and allow yourself to meander. This is essential for creativity to continue to flow. demands, restrains, and held-fast ideas can inhibit your creativity. Meander when you are photographing or editing. If you always follow the rules of third, photograph something in the center of your frame. Also, meander in your everyday life. Walking to a different part of the park, trying a new genre of music, exploring a new restaurant, all will help spark creativity.
- Embrace Boredom
Boredom is a requisite to creativity. We need to be deliberate about creating space and time to promote inspiration. When you’re bored, you daydream, which activates your unconscious mind. This provides the capacity to develop intuition and your brain’s imagination network. Have you ever noticed you get a great idea in the shower? This is because you stopped forcing an idea or thought. Deliberately, creating a quiet space and allowing your mind to wander with no distractions, allows for the background creative ideas to surface.
- Get a Mentor and Tribe
Being a photographer can be quite isolating sometimes. Especially, when you want to push the boundaries of what everyone else is doing and discover a new way of seeing and exploring. Spend time with people who are creative in different ways than you.
Having a tribe of people who can be supportive, give encouragement and guidance can make all the difference. When what you are creating get’s to that point of being an epic failure or it’s on the cusps of something great, supportive people will make all the difference. Your photography will flourish when supported to pursue something more inside. A creative network is an immense source for taking risks and pursuing new ideas and styles.
The Average of Five Rule states that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Think of the people you spend the most time with. Are they contributing to your creativity or draining it?
- Just Say Yes
Say yes, more than saying no. Even if that yes, makes you feel a little uncomfortable. No’s, shuts doors, ideas, opportunities, and creativity. Saying yes, helps you look beyond the obvious toward new creative projects. Just say yes!
- Learn Something New
Learn something new that is not related to photography. Perhaps, it’s a new language, art, sport, or activity. Learning something new exposes you to thinking differently, meeting new interesting people, and discovering how you relate to the world around you.
Experiences are all connected and you’ll be more creative and more likely able to connect different ideas together when you learn something new.
- Make Beauty Accessible
Seek beauty all around you. In fact, have an area in your house or studio that cultivates beauty, aesthetics, and inspiration. Too much clutter can stress you out, and make it harder to think creatively. The Oxford Dictionary defines beauty as “A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.” Beauty is essential to photographers and can be your greatest muse. Look to nature for beauty and objects you are most drawn to.
Creativity doesn’t just happen, it is the summary of many inputs. Ansel Adames once said, “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.” Creativity is all around you and ready for you to embrace it.
- Create a Framework
Give yourself a structure so you are not overwhelmed with choice-making. Decision fatigue happens when cognitive abilities get worn out due to making too many choices. Basically, the more decisions we make the harder each decision becomes for us. This happens to photographers all the time. If I say, today I want you to grab your camera and go out and photograph anything, it gives you many options. However, those options can hinder your creativity because it’s too many. Instead, if I say, today I want you to grab your camera and photograph something green, now you have a framework for your creativity to grow without excess decision making.
- Listen to Music
Playing music in the background can change the whole mood of your activity. Bring a Bluetooth speaker to your photography sessions and play music the client will like. I notice this sets my clients at ease and I can get more natural poses and facial expressions. When you are editing, music can play a role in keeping you focused and inspiring creativity. Don’t be afraid to change the genre of music. Different tempos, lyrics, and sound can all influence your creative work.