If you want to learn how to improve your creativity to become a better photographer, you're going to also have to learn how to let go of a few things. Not the least of which is the kind of lessons that were driven into you since childhood.
Why Do Photographers Need to Be Creative in the First Place?
Spend enough time online within the realm of photography and you'll hear someone refer to us as “Creatives.”
If we're supposed to be creative, why is most of the photography training we receive delivered in the form of recipes? We're told how to use the Rule of Thirds, which complementary colors to use, and we're sold endless presets to paste someone else's post processing on our photos.
Is that really what it means to be creative these days?
Of course not.
While many of these solutions can truly help photographers, they aren't exactly creative. Photographers who want to stand out from the rest truly need to be creative, but how we go about that depends upon your motivation. Just what reward do you want from your creativity?
So What Happened to My Creativity?
I believe that we're all born as creative people. Children don't know how to do anything other than be creative. They're exploring the world without lessons or boundaries imposed by adults.
Any parent will tell you that creativity is messy.
That's because kids aren't naturally afraid of making mistakes. They don't care about being orderly. They aren't trying to fit in with anyone else. They just want to be free and creative. They want to explore their new life and sometimes you gotta make a mess to do it.
That's when we start to impose order upon children. We provide them with structure and boundaries.
As we do, some of their creativity dies.
A while later, kids go to school and get more lessons, more order, and less creativity. We learn that we can't do what we want, when we want. More than that, we learn that other people are judging us.
It used to be you could make someone else happy by pooping in your pants, but now that's no longer acceptable. You start learning to feel bad for some of the things that you used to do.
Basically, our creativity suffers when we do what we think others expect of us.
How Do I Get My Creative Juices Flowing Again?
Now we know what's happened to our creativity. We became civilized and creativity was beaten out of us. Banished. Not welcome in a productive society.
Fortunately, our sense of creativity isn't truly gone. It's just learned to hide in the face of potential embarrassment, ridicule or scorn from others.
There are times when you can get truly creative and receive praise for it. One of my favorite quotes came from Gen. George Patton:
“Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
In a nutshell, that's what you need to do with your photography. Here are a few hints to help you get there.
Stop Worrying What Other People Think
We inhibit ourselves because we don't want others to think poorly of us. Never mind the idea of doing something that may cause others to think well of us! Plenty of people are trying to avoid a negative impression instead of going for a positive one.
Creative people don't truly spend a lot of time worrying about what someone else thinks of their work. Yes, they want to be appreciated, but that isn't the most important thing in their life.
If they create something they truly love, and others don't like it, the creative person i more likely to think that everyone else just doesn't get it or is somehow incapable of seeing the beauty of their work. They won't change their opinion of their creation, though. It's still wonderful and self-satisfying.
Those are the folks who can give themselves over to creativity because they do it for their own reasons, not for public praise.
I know a local photographer who I think is quite creative. I also think his work is hideous, but that's irrelevant. He keeps pushing his boundaries and creating more work in his style because he's doing it for his own sense of creativity – not mine or anyone else's.
Let me give you another Patton quote:
“If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.”
Don't Be Afraid of Failure
If you take chances, you will fail. That's OK. We learn more from failure than from success.
Here's the important thing to remember. Being creative isn't the same thing as being talented. Talent is that innate ability to do something. Whether you're a talented photographer, singer, musician, artist or architect, talent means you know how to do something well.
It doesn't mean that you know how to do it creatively.
You can be talented and churn out the same style of work over and over again, and people will praise you for it. You never disappoint them because you always do what's expected.
Creative people aren't afraid of disappointing others, and they're willing to disappoint themselves. Failure is an indicator of change and potential progress. Thomas Edison didn't conceive of a working light bulb on his first try, or second, etc. Had he let failure stop him, the world could be a very different place now.
Follow Your Imagination and Help it Grow
Imagination is the heart of creativity. Your imagination forms new ideas and concepts. Your creativity puts a sense of style into your imagination. Your talent allows you to achieve the things you imagine combined with your creativity.
After years of following rules and conforming with the expectations of others, you have to give yourself a little time and space to break free. Use your imagination to conjure up some ideas. Then think about how to create the idea that's in your imagination.
You can wander around and see what interests you. Your first bit of creativity is deciding how you want to capture it. Choose your lens and select an aperture. Find the right angle. Choose the time of day or night. Will you use a long shutter speed or a short one to freeze motion?
Spend some time thinking about what you see, and then how you can help other people see it differently than anyone else.
Next, don't think about capturing something. Start thinking about creating something to capture. You may need to produce the scene for your photographs.
Some of your ideas will work better than others. Don't stop trying. You will grow as a photographer, both creatively and technically, as you start doing more work for your own satisfaction.
Learn How to Improve Your Creativity by Understanding Your Inner Motivation
Think about what you want, and which of these things is more important to you. There isn't a wrong answer.
Do you want to be admired by others?
Do you want to be satisfied by the work you do?
If you're fortunate, you may have both of those things. However, you need to decide which one is more important to your sense of self worth. That will guide how you create your photographs and what risks you're willing to take.
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Just visit my page for Lightroom Classic Performance Hacks to get your free copy of the guide.
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