A great project always starts with a good idea and revolves around it. But how do you come up with good ideas? Can it be taught? Jamie Windsor believes that it can, and in this video, he’ll share with you four steps that will lead you to have great ideas for your photos and projects.
Technically, there’s no formula that will help you learn how to come up with ideas. You can learn composition, lighting, and other aspects of photography, but separating a good idea from a bad one could be a bit trickier. Thankfully, there are some steps we can take to develop our mind and push it in the way of coming up with new ideas.
Jamie gives examples of three fantastic photo projects: Touching Strangers by Richard Renaldi, Alina by Bettina von Zwehl, and Lucas Zimmermann’s Traffic Lights. All three are results of brilliant ideas, those that make you think “Why didn’t I think of that?”
But why didn’t I think of that? You know all the elements needed to create shots like these. You have the skill and the gear that you need. And yet, you didn’t get the same ideas. It can be a little frustrating, but instead of dwelling on how you didn’t get the idea you like, you should wonder how another photographer did. How does their brain work and how did it generate an idea this good? It’s not the knowledge of particular elements, it’s how one links them together.
Our mind has the ability to connect different elements, even if they’re seemingly illogical and not connected. This is essentially how ideas are born. But how can we make the process more deliberate? Jamie suggests these four steps that you can take to exercise your creative muscle and come up with better ideas for photography. And if you ask me, it works for other art forms as well.
Step 1: Feed your mind
Consume lots of high-quality media: photos, movies, paintings, books, comics… You get the idea. Fill your life with creativity by creating, but also by looking at other creators’ work. Learn new skills, travel new places, try out new techniques and mediums, and combine them.
But keep in mind: it’s not just what you know, it’s how you think. To come up with good ideas, you need to break out of your thinking rules. You need to challenge them and provoke them. And how can you do it? Well, the easiest way is to talk to people you disagree with. And not just to prove your point, but to really listen to what they have to say. This way you can change your point of view, see things from another perspective, expand your knowledge and views of the world. From my experience, another thing that helped to modify my way of thinking were psychotherapy sessions. They helped me to change some harmful patterns of behavior, which pushed my thoughts in new directions, which then caused new ideas to emerge.
Another thing you should keep doing is creating. This doesn’t mean creating a masterpiece every time, but just practicing. You can do things without a purpose and see where it takes you, just as an exercise.
Step 2: The default-mode network
This is, simply put, the way you link the elements from step 1. Hardly anyone gets a great idea by sitting down and thinking very hard about coming up with one. It usually happens in everyday, mundane activities like making coffee, washing the dishes, and of course: taking a shower. We perform these familiar actions “on autopilot.” During these moments, your brain functions differently, and this is the key moment for forming new ideas inventing concepts that don’t exist in the world already. Personally, I often come up with ideas for my stories while cleaning the house or washing the dishes. Just let your mind wander and it will take you to new places.
Step 3: Write it down!
When an idea popped into your mind, stop what you’re doing and write it down. Do it straight away! You may think you’ll remember it, but once your brain switches from “autopilot” and starts focusing on other activities, the idea is likely to vanish. Trust me on this one.
Step 4: Act on it
A great idea without you executing it is worthless. So, once it pops into your head and you write it down, you feel the urge to create and you’re enthusiastic about it. If you’re like me, you may even be obsessing about it! Well, use that drive, passion, or obsession while the idea is still fresh in your mind. It won’t last forever, and once again – trust me. Jamie mentions all of these points in the video but I can relate so much!
Even though Jamie has made the whole idea-getting process less abstract, it’s still not a process you can rush and do in a few hours following the steps. This is more like a practice for your everyday life. You’ll get some new creative habits, you’ll modify your way of thinking, and over time you’ll build an inventory of great ideas. Here are a few more things to keep in mind during the process
- Be true to yourself in your ideas: try to avoid clichés, be innovative, and see the world through your own lens.
- Don’t be afraid of bad ideas: great ideas often come after several bad ones. Alternatively, you can turn a bad idea into a good one by modifying it and building upon it.
- Get feedback: talk to other people and see what they think about your project but,
- Believe in your idea: you should get feedback, but you should also have a conviction in your idea and believe in it.
Do you believe that coming up with ideas can be learned up to a certain point? What helps you come up with ideas?