Exposed! :: Fire Up Your Creativity ::

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I went out recently with some students from our ProProgram. The afternoon was an unstructured social event with the focus on having fun with our cameras. I was a participant - not a teacher, mentor or working photographer.

I left the regular equipment at home and brought my 4x5 Graflex press camera, a large format film camera that was the overwhelmingly dominant camera 70 years ago, but very cumbersome by modern standards. Why the Graflex!? I wanted to fire up my creativity!

In this edition of Exposed! we explore ways to fire up YOUR photo creativity.

As humans, we tend to do the same things the same ways. We get comfortable and as long as the results are good enough there is no need to change. Many photographers fall into this rut. They get decent results and remain content.

Do you want decent or spectacular? To go beyond decent you need to make some changes. You need to challenge yourself. You need to try new things:

Below are some tips to help you make that jump to spectacular:

  1. Get a different camera

    I am not talking about the newset, best DSLR. I am talking:
    • plastic toy cameras
    • a point and shoot
    • an iphone camera
    • a Holga
    • a panoramic film camera
    • a 4x5 view camera
    • a camera with an extremely wide lens
    • a camera that can be sacrificed to creativity (ie if it breaks you won't cry).

    With something completely new you start with a clean slate - you are forced out of your regular world. You'll make new mistakes and find new successes and opportunities.

    #6 Try something whacky: shoot from a ladder at the top of a hill

  2. Shoot on film!

    "What?! How will I see what I've captured?!"

    Exactly! You won't. You'll be forced to shoot differently. You'll need to shoot smartly or have poor photos.

    At least turn your digital screen off. Disable it for the whole day. Do not look until you get home.

    It's a very good learning tool for those that have the fundamentals down pat.

  3. Don't look through the viewfinder (or use the live view). Wing it...

    "Oh, c'mon! I'll never be able to see what I am shooting."


    Try these steps:

    • Put on a very wide angle lens (14mm for small sensors, 20mm for full frame.
    • Get close... closer!
    • Set a reasonable exposure
    • Flip to manual focus at 3-6 feet
    • Start shooting

    It's different and will give you a brand new perspective.

  4. Learn to shoot in manual mode.


    Auto modes work reasonably well in many circumstances. In tricky lighting (also known as creative lighting scenarios) auto modes will give muddy, middle of the world exposures. Yuck.

    Learn the fundamentals. Reap the benefits.

  5. Learn

    • Shoot, shoot, shoot. Repeat
    • Take workshops. Find a good instructor in your city
    • Join a group

    There's nothing like hands on, practical learning to kick start your creativity.

  6. Try something whacky

    • Take photos while riding a toboggan
    • Shoot a spontaneous food fight
    • Take a photo every two minutes for an hour... wherever you are, whatever you are doing
    • Make 50 handheld self portraits while walking down the street.
    • Photograph your cat from a distance of LESS than 18 inches. 12 photos please. Good luck!
  7. Be safe. Try new things.


    Be careful.

    Try tips 1-6, above.

    Report back.

    Pro Perspective

    When I started shooting stock I'd come up with an idea and people would say "you can't do that!" I did and got amazing results (and a few spectacular failures)... also some excellent sales.

    Two weeks ago I carried a ladder a mile up a steep ski trail to shoot a cross country ski race. A friend said "I can't believe you carried that ladder... and all that equipment that far in the snow!" A week later he couldn't believe the results.

    Ignore the naysayers. Follow your dreams and imagination. Try the unbelievable. That's how people have breakthroughs!

    Watch this video clip from the movie of the true story "The World's Fastest Indian"
    An excerpt:"Dad doesn't think you can do it. Everyone thinks that..."
    See the movie to see what happens (Ok, ok... he smashes the record... despite the naysayers.)

    Final Frame

    The unstructured afternoon of shooting with the ProProgrammers did not result in my most magnificent photos. I took a single photo that took 30 minutes to capture with the Graflex 4x5. But it forced me to interrupt patterns and produce new creative juices. It's all a process.

    Take photos. Have fun.