Every photographer starts by photographing what is interesting to them. This subject matter eventually becomes a type of comfort zone. This helps to develop a style and a body of work; however, as with all comfort zones, we need to move out of them in order to grow. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially in photography. One way to step out of that comfort zone and expand your photographic style is by shooting a subject or style of photography that you’re not typically known for. If you’re a landscape photographer, try shooting portraits; if you’re a nature photographer, try shooting urban and cityscapes, etc. Try bringing your creative eye (from your preferred style) to this new subject; this will allow you to start distancing yourself from other photographers, further cultivating your vision. This activity won’t be the only thing you need to achieve this. There is a component of photography that is truly unique; something that no one can duplicate no matter the amount of effort or the opportunity. That singular component is inspiration. Inspiration can be defined as the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions. Only you can interpret how your intellect or emotions are moved at any given time. Even if two artists are inspired by the same thing, the inspiration touches each artist in a manner truly unique to them.
Start opening yourself up to inspiration. We come in contact with hundreds, even thousands of things during our daily routines. How many times do we actually stop to absorb a potential inspiration? If we do, do we try to focus on that while we shoot or even use it for a future project? We almost always continue about our days and forget that moment or sudden source of inspiration. If you’re waiting until you get to a photo shoot to be inspired then you’re waiting entirely too late. Use any inspiration that you come in contact with as part of your work. It could be food, literature, film, music, art, other artists, other photographers, your surroundings, a family member, a friend, nature; it could be anything. We wake up to a world of inspiration surrounding us, we just have to open our eyes to it.
I’ve been trying to tap my creative side as a photographer for the past couple of years now. I’ve done everything that I’ve suggested in this series of blog posts; however, I came across a piece of literature this year that has helped me expand my creative thinking. I was gifted a book on the creative process that I highly recommend. It’s written by an actor, writer and creative director from Minnesota named Blaine Hogan and the book is entitled Untitled: Thoughts on the Creative Process. By no means is this book mind blowing (at least not for me), but I did take substantial notes and it really has helped me to further develop my ideas (either photographic or marketing related). One suggestion that Hogan provides is a process that he likes to call “scratching.” This process is a time set aside to gather and collect ideas that will be used at a later date. Hogan uses music; he pulls five or six eclectic songs from his music library and listens to them on repeat. He then writes down any thoughts, ideas, feelings or emotions that come to him while listening to those songs. It doesn’t matter if these things are fully fleshed out; what matters is that he was inspired or interpreted a specific thought or emotion and he wrote it down. Those scratching exercises always help generate project ideas in his role as creative director. Listening to a small music playlist may not be the way for you to generate ideas or draw inspiration that can be used in your photography; however, you can find an activity that does work for you. It boils down to interpreting the inspiration that surrounds you on a daily basis and cataloguing it for future use. The cataloguing is almost as important as gathering the inspiration, but I’ll get into that for my next post.
Get inspired and I’ll be back with more on the cataloguing process in the next post!