How creative can you become as a photographer?
Are you pushing your limits or not even close to reaching them? When I read Steven Covey’s Book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, I wondered what those habits might be for us photographers. Effectiveness is important in photography, but given its artistic nature it’s all about creativity in the end.
Creativity is a sport. Everyone starts out in the Little League, some make it to the Major League and others end up in the Champions League. But what is it that raises your game? If you want extremely great photographs, you have to be willing to make it an extreme sport!
Luckily, a few tweaks here and there will already make your photos much more creative. No matter how far you want to take it, these 7 habits will pave your way.
1. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE RABBIT HOLE UNTIL YOU FOLLOW YOURSELF
Being extremely creative means being extremely lost at times. You have to feel comfortable letting go of the known to explore the unknown. Creative gold neither lays in other’s footsteps nor can it be found on major roads. You have to take the extra mile on the road less travelled to forge your own path.
Imagine you are in a cave with a large group of travellers. Since the standard route bores you, you start looking for something else. That’s when you and some others explore an alternative, rockier route. You gain more and more confidence on the way and you feel it’s time to forge your own path. When your fellow travellers all turn right, you silently turn left and wander through a dark tunnel with many junctions.
Great, you got lost! Perfect, because now you can prove whether you deserve to find something special. You could practically return to your fellow travellers or the big group. That means that you give up your own journey though. You inhale deeply and you keep exploring.
You get stuck, you fall down, you hit your head and the experience is more scary than enjoyable till you see a pixel of light in the dark. You fight your way to the light, which turns out to be an incredible underground waterfall with a way out.
Your photography is like that cave. You start where everyone starts, but you have to explore it yourself even if you have to drive a new tunnel. It is challenging to leave the beaten path and create your own. Millions of photographers online constantly surround you. It helps to learn and get inspired from highly creative people, but sooner or later it’s time to focus 100% on your own journey.
Values you have to strengthen to strike photo gold are open-mindedness, curiosity, playfulness and courage. Only if you constantly dare to try something fresh and original, your creative output will become fresh and original as well. Always ask yourself when you take photos:
“When was the last time I did something for the first time?”
2. ALWAYS IMPRISON YOURSELF TO BREAK OUT AGAIN.
As self-defeating as it sounds, unlimited creativity in photography comes from the highest of all limitations. As much as creative souls hate to be confined, it’s ten times worse not to be. Confinement carries the opportunity of a highly creative approach to something. Absolute freedom, however, carries the risk of a decent creative approach to everything and anything.
Once you’ve explored all aspects of a genre that you’ve confined yourself to, creativity emerges. How? Your safe and comfortable confinement quickly fuels your ambition to break out of it creatively.
Imagine you are a prisoner. You don’t dare to break the rules, because the guards like you for keeping it safe and sound. One evening you can’t help it anymore and start drawing on your perfectly clean walls. You get carried away a bit and realize that you’ve broken the rules for the first time. However, it gives you a sense of freedom that you remember from your childhood days. “I’m screwed anyways, I might as well go all in!” you think and slowly take out the colors you’ve smuggled in. The creative fire in you flares up and you splash the walls in all colors and sign it with your finger.
At night, you continue digging that hole in the prison wall that you’ve hidden for months. Half an hour before sunrise you see the sun for the first time in weeks. Before you run off you take some time to cover the broken wall with a cardboard that has a hole in the middle. As you escape through the blue lavender fields, the whole cell block illuminates by a projection of a blue sky and a gorgeous sunrise through the “camera obscura” you left behind.
If you do it right in photography, you not only bring your own style to your favorite genre. You also transform and open it up for others around you. Try as many genres and styles as possible, but pick one and focus on it as long as you can. That way you learn the ins and outs of it and explore all opportunities or lack of those.
Some photographers shoot all sorts of genres while others limit themselves to one. As long as it’s fun and makes you happy, you are doing it right, of course! If you want to become highly creative though, you need to focus on one genre or style for a very long time to innovate it.
Only in chains you develop an unbreakable will to set liberate yourself completely.