Technical or creative photography? This is why you need both
Are you more of a creative photographer, leaning on visual beauty and your intuition when taking photos? Or do you care more about gear, specs, settings, and other more “technical” aspects of photography? In this video from Adorama, David Bergman discusses the limitations of being focused on just one of them. He breaks down the importance of both aspects, giving you examples for improving them and perfecting your skills.
Technical vs. creative skills in photography
David discusses the difference between “left-brain” (technical) and “right-brain” (creative) thinking. Keep in mind, though, that this theory is just a myth – but we still do have people who think more in technical terms, and those who are more intuitive and creative.
In photography, you have people who enjoy using different gear and experimenting with light placement. They easily understand and apply things like inverse square law. And then we have people like me, who are full of ideas and easily inspired by music, emotions, other art forms, and pretty much everything around them. Being neither of these us better than the other, of course. However, if we want to take good photos, we need to embrace both aspects. One just can’t work without the other.
Importance and drawbacks of purely technical photography
People who have more of, as I call it, an “engineer brain” enjoy the technical aspects such as gear, planning, and methodical approach. Even though it’s sometimes looked down upon in the creative world, this way of thinking is essential! It’s especially obvious with professional photographers who need to deliver consistent results.
On the other hand, if these “technical photographers” don’t have the creative spark, it can be limiting in other aspects. Their photos might lack emotional impact or originality. A purely technical approach makes it difficult to embrace spontaneity or “happy accidents.” These photographers might also struggle to translate a creative vision into a photo. Without the ability to infuse creativity into their work, the images might appear technically perfect but artistically uninspired, with a lack of individuality or emotional depth.
Importance and drawbacks of creativity and intuition
Creative thinking is essential for infusing images with emotional depth and artistic expression. It allows photographers to convey stories, evoke emotions, and create visually compelling images. From creativity comes the personal vision and perspective, giving your photos individuality sets them apart.
Creativity also goes hand in hand with spontaneity. This means you can quickly adapt to changing environments and subjects and make quick, creative decisions that can capture fleeting moments and turn them into impactful images. Finally, it’s creative thinking that makes artists break the rules and come up with innovative techniques and unique work.
As I mentioned, I’m one of those people who leans more toward creative thinking and intuition. And don’t think this doesn’t sometimes pose a challenge. It sure does! Without technical knowledge, creatively inclined photographers may struggle to realize their visions. They might know what makes a good image but lack the skills to capture it effectively. How many times have I struggled with this…
Lacking technical expertise can also lead to inconsistent results. Sure, if you’re just a hobbyist, it’s not that big of a deal. But if you’re a professional photographer, this can be a problem. Ultimately, a lack of technical skills can limit your versatility, no matter how rich your artistic vision is.
Understanding the technical aspects of photography also involves post-processing. Without this knowledge, it can be challenging to enhance or correct your photos effectively and make the best out of them.
Strengthening the weaker side
David gives a great analogy to these two approaches through another thing I’m familiar with: playing the guitar. Just as knowing every chord doesn’t automatically enable someone to write a moving song, having technical knowledge in photography doesn’t necessarily lead to creating emotionally impactful images.
On the other hand, having a great idea for a song is not enough if you don’t know how to translate that idea into notes and chords. I still dream of songs sometimes, but I never learned the chords and forgot even those that I knew. Without technical skills, the creative vision remains unexpressed and unheard.
So, you assume where this takes us: you need to embrace both sides of photography, no matter which one is more prominent in you. But how do you do it? David gives some suggestions for technical photographers to embrace creative challenges and vice versa.
Improving creative skills
Limit gear usage: Technical photographers can experiment with limiting their gear. For instance, go out to shoot with just one body and one prime lens, like a 50 mm. This limitation creates possibilities, forcing you to pay more attention to the scene itself rather than focusing on your gear.
Shoot film instead of digital: Each time you press a shutter on a film camera, film stores hear “ka-chiiiing.” Joke aside, shooting film really is more expensive than digital, so it will force you to slow down and consider each shot carefully. This encourages more thoughtful composition and framing, enhancing your creative process.
Improving technical skills
Learn the technical aspects: Creative photographers should actively seek knowledge about the technical aspects of photography. This can include understanding camera settings, lighting techniques, and post-processing methods. Take advantage of various learning resources such as online tutorials, live workshops, one-on-one sessions, or blogs. You’ll find plenty of resources here on DIYP, and we try to make it understandable and fun. I know, “boring technical stuff” may not be the most entertaining thing to learn if you’re purely creative type. But you’ll enjoy the results once you start taking photos with this new knowledge.
Practice and experimentation: Other than reading and watching educational materials, engage in practical exercises and experimentation. Use different technical settings and gear to understand how these elements impact the final image. Needless to say, pay attention to the results, and even write down what you did. This hands-on approach helps bridge the gap between creative vision and technical execution. From my experience, it is a great approach for creative minds. This is what helps me a lot and what I enjoy the most when learning anything new, be it related to photography or any other skill I’m trying to master.
In conclusion, photography isn’t just about geeking out on the latest gadgets or floating on a cloud of creative bliss. It’s about striking that sweet spot between being a tech wizard and an art guru. Great photography is somewhere between precision and imagination.
Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.