Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Creativity In (Urbex) Photography - 7 Tips To Wake Up Your Images

Creativity is essential to successful photography. It is a critical element of photographic vision. Yet for many it is a mysterious thing that's seemingly unattainable. Either you are born creative or you are not. But I'm here to attest that creativity is something that can be learned and fostered. I believe everyone is capable of being creative.

Below are seven tips to awaken the creativity within you.

Cultivate Curiosity
Web of Neglect - Mojave, California
Kids are naturally creative and imaginative. I'm often amazed and intrigued at the way my three young children see the world around them. It's so much different than how adults look at things.

Children don't know. They haven't been told yet how everything works. They don't know what different rules and laws there are. They haven't been told what they can and cannot do. Because of this, they don't have boxes and limits.

Since there are no boxes or limits, kids are free to explore. The sky is the limit! Anything is possible. Their developing minds are eager to understand. Children are quite curious about it all. That's why they are so full of questions.

It is curiosity that drives creativity. Creativity lives in the unknown. Know-it-alls are not creative because they lack the mysterious.

Arthur Schopenhauer said, "Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees." Creative photographers stop for a moment and ask themselves all sorts of questions about the scene in front of them before they capture the photograph. Those that make a successful photograph do so because, while asking questions, they were able to think about the scene in a different way than what everyone else has done before.

You have to cultivate curiosity, and the way to do that is to find the mysterious and question it. Keep questioning it, in fact, until an original thought forms about it. Once you've thought about the scene in a way that "nobody yet has thought about [it]" then you are able to creatively capture it.

It is that inner child you must find--the one that doesn't yet know everything and is eager to explore and understand the world around them. You have to be full of questions.

Lose Yourself
The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
With regards to capturing photographs, Henri-Cartier-Bresson said, "You can't go looking for it; you can't want it, or you won't get it. First you must lose yourself. Then it happens."

How I understand what he was saying is that great scenes often just happen. No matter how badly you want to capture a great scene, it's not usually within your control. You can't control Mother Nature or what other people do. What you can do is immerse yourself into the scene and keep an open mind about what you might find.

Losing yourself means keeping an eye out for photographically-worthy things, even if--especially if--it may not be obvious at first. You cannot be rigid in your approach and you cannot be rigid in what you will capture. Rigidness is not conducive to creativity.

In other words, stay loose. Keep an open mind. Be open to spontaneity. Celebrate unpredictability.

Become Uncomfortable
Copy Machine - Mojave, California
Comfort is an enemy to creativity. Pablo Picasso said, "If you have five elements available use only four. If you have four elements use three." This principal can be applied to several aspects of photography.

If you own five lenses only ever use four of them. If you own four cameras only ever use three of them. Actually, I'd make those numbers smaller. If you own three lenses only use two of them. If you own two cameras only use one.

The less options you have, the more likely you'll think outside-the-box with the options that you do have. Renown poet Charles Bernstein said, "Art often thrives on limitations."

If there are five compositional elements in a scene use only four. If there are four compositional elements use three. Don't include too much and keep things as simple as possible. "Art lives only on the restraint it imposes on itself, and dies of all others," said Nobel Prize winning author Albert Camus.

Less is more in photography. Don't include too much in your images or in your camera bag. This goes against what society says, but you'll never be satisfied with "more." You will never have enough "more." All "more" does is make you lazy.

This is why almost all of the great innovations are made in garages and basements. Big corporations with seemingly unlimited resources are not able to do what some individual can accomplish on his own in his spare time and with a limited budget. It's the opposite of what one would think, but it is true. Less is indeed more.

The concepts of limitations and less may not sound appealing. Society says that we should have more, not less. Society says that we should free ourselves of limitations. "Embracing the limitation can actually drive creativity," artist Phil Hansen said. "We need to first be limited in order to become limitless."

Throw The Rules Away
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Photography rules are meant to ensure consistently good results but rarely allow for great results. They were designed for students and amateurs to make a noticeable leap in progress, but they were never meant for long-term use. Photography rules are actually mere guidelines.

Some photography "rules" are the rule of thirds, keep the horizon out of the middle of the frame, the triangle swirly thing, Sunny 16, odd numbers, negative and positive space, histograms, keep the sun behind you--there are tons of others, and new ones are created all of the time. Whenever you hear someone say that you should always do something in photography, that comes from some "rule" that they've learned.

Rules bring formulas, and no creative photograph has ever been made from a formula. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to photography. Each photograph must be approached individually, and what works for one image may not work for another. You have to judge each scene separately, and decide what is best for how you want your photograph to look.

Forget Fame
The Turned Table - Boron, California
Don't get caught up with how many likes, stars or pluses you get on social media. Don't get caught up with how popular you are or are not. It really doesn't matter what other people think. Your photography should be personal to you.

You cannot please everyone and you shouldn't try. When you try to please others through your photography you often "play it safe" or try to copy someone else's work who is popular. Either way, you are stifling your creativeness.

Instead, forget fame. Forget about commercial success. Be true to yourself. Value your individuality. Do not worry about whether or not anyone else "gets" what you are creating.

Photograph Your Passion
Broken Angels - Bodfish, California
If you photograph what you are passionate about, you'll give it your all. If you photograph what you love, you'll create your best work.

Imagine trying to hold a conversation with someone about some subject that you don't really care about and that you are not knowledgeable about. Do you think you could make the conversation engaging? But if the conversation is about something you care deeply about and are knowledgeable about, that conversation now has interest.

Photography is a form of communication. When you photograph what you are interested in, you are able to hold an engaging nonverbal conversation with the viewer.

Creativity lives just as much in the heart as it does in the mind. When you feel intensely about a subject you are more likely to move beyond the surface and into something more meaningful.

Photography Projects
The Lost Chair - Mojave, California
Having photography projects will help develop your creativity. Projects challenge the photographer to achieve more by giving him or her purpose and direction.

Projects will get you off the couch and out in the world with your camera in hand. There is a motivation that pushes one to actively photograph more often.

Another benefit of a photography project is that you can explore a subject at a deeper level than if you simply encountered and photographed it. You are able to find the deeper meaning, which allows you to photograph it in a different way than you would otherwise have done.

An example of a project that I'm currently working on is abandoned furniture found in abandoned structures. You can be as broad or narrow as you'd like, but having something specific that you are working towards will go a long ways toward awakening your creativity.

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