OK, so you’ve subscribed to two or three photo magazines, you’ve taken a class or two and you’ve read a dozen photography books. Why is it that you just don’t feel excited about your images anymore? It could be that it’s time to take things to the next level. I believe that every single day, people miss things. Let’s face it, we’re all busy. We get stressed out or we’re distracted. But by now, you should have the skills needed to change all that. You now have the ability to see things in a new and different way.
Looking back; and remembering my first award winning shot, I was told to think outside the box, to do something that was totally different for me. Keep in mind I was in high school at the time. Most of what I shot in high school was: Sports, and girls, Drama, and girls, Pep Assemblies, and girls. In other words, “people” were my main subject; more specifically girls were my main thing. At that time, things definitely were not my thing.
So I went out and shot a picture of a mushroom. To me there was a lot more you could do with nature shots. There was framing, leading lines, color and all that stuff. But eventually, I started getting into a rut (again). Actually I got extremely depressed, because there were so many other nature shots out there that just took your breath away. I got jealous of those National Geographic photographers that had lens so big, you could take a portrait of big horn sheep from a mile away. I knew my stuff was good, but so was the 100 million other nature photos out there that most photographers shoot when they first get started.
Over the last 30 years I have been a US Army Photographer, I’ve been a Wedding Photographer, Portrait Photographer, Newspaper Photographer and Nature Photographer. Like most of us I went through each of these areas without thinking about what I had learned other areas of my life. That’s the secret to becoming the best at whatever you do. Each of you has different experiences and skills, besides photography. Don’t try to separate that from what you’re doing now. All the photo tips in the world won’t help you, unless you get excited about what you’re shooting! If you like to hunt, or dance, or sing, or whatever, use what you already know to give your shots that special creative edge. No knowledge is ever wasted, unless you refuse to use it.
Developing a creative eye, does not mean you have to try something totally different every time you feel a rut coming on. In fact, what I often suggest to students is to go further than you ever have before. If you like basketball (for example) shoot the players and the game, that’s a given. But also shoot pictures of the audience, the cheer leaders, the ball boy, the coaches, the locker room, the score board, the backboard, reflections off the floor, the ball leaving the tips of the fingers, the ball just at the edge of the hoop. Shoot looking down at the game, get down on the floor and shoot looking up. Try shooting past one player at eye level, to give the illusion that you were in the middle of the game. Take every fact that you know about the game, and figure out how to shoot a shot that tells a story.
Keep in mind that many people either do not read, or do not want to take the time to read. What that means to those of us in photography, is that every shot (or every series of shots) should tell a story. If you know how to knit, take so many shots, that someone could learn the entire process just by studying your images. Include all the details you would need to know. Get close-up shots of how the yarn sets on the needle. If it takes ten shots for someone to understand a certain stitch then do it. The greatest test any photographer can put his or herself through is to be able to teach something to someone else who knows absolutely nothing about the subject. Once you’ve learned to pay that much attention to detail, new projects will seem to pop up faster than you can create them.
On my own web site, I decided to add a section on Photoshop Tips. I have been using Photoshop for at least ten years, but I really had to take a step back to make it visual. To just say (with words only) click here; pull this menu down, or open this dialog box was not going to cut it. I had to go back and create images that showed where these tools were, and what they would look like when you used them correctly. It was much more challenging than I expected.
Every person is unique; every soul walks this earth to experience different things. Some people love nature and natural things. Some people love sports and adventure. Some people love people, and some do not. Your job is not to change how people feel about things, but to embrace how you feel about those things. Being creative is not a class you take once and suddenly you find you’ve arrived. It’s a way of feeling, seeing, and discovering; it’s being open to new ideas, new perspectives, and new ways of looking at life. Remember: being creative is not a destination; it’s the journey we take on the road to discovering who we really are.