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One Hand Tied Behind Your Back

Sometimes photographers try too hard to be creative. But creativity is more about overcoming constraints than is about hoping to somehow find a situation with unlimited options.

Some photographers I've talked to think that the holy grail of being creative is to find or contrive a set of circumstances that don't limit their options in any way. They want subject matter in perfect light. They want a camera bag so full of goodies that whatever lens or gadget they want is readily available on hand. At the least, that would be impractical and downright expensive. But regardless of how full that camera bag was, there would be something not there. Camera and lens makers are always coming out with new goodies. It would also seem that no matter where you went, and no what time of day or season of the year, you would always long for a situation just a little bit more perfect. Such locations and times are also far less common that more ordinary situations.

The fact of the matter is that this approach to creativity is a futile cause. Removing obstacles doesn't really make you creative. In fact, just the opposite. Instead, it makes you lazy. It would be far too easy to take the simple path and rely on tried and true concepts and scenes, photographed in tried and true methods.

Creativity isn't really creativity if you don't actually come up with something new. While it's not something that can be forced, true creativity comes from being forced to overcome obstacles.

Sometimes those obstacles are naturally present. You probably don't own every lens other goody ever made. You may find yourself shooting in a beautifully scenic location, but in less than ideal circumstances. Sometimes the light may be gorgeous, but there's nothing you can find that looks sufficiently photogenic. But that's not likely the ideal time to stretch your creativity muscle. You're probably better off if you can already be at least a little bit prepared for such eventualities ahead of time.

Thankfully, you can artificially create your obstacles, just to see what you can do.

I've heard of a number of different approaches to creating such obstacles. The most common one is to limit yourself to just a single focal length. But my favorite self-imposed obstacle is to go somewhere arbitrary, sit down on the ground, and limit yourself to only what you can photograph from that spot. There's a gravel pit on my way to the Olympic Peninsula I often stop at for just this reason. It's easy to think there's not much to photograph from sitting in the middle of an abandoned gravel pit, but that's the whole point.

What you want is a situation that forces you to come up with solutions to the problems that present themselves. I'm sure there are countless obstacles you can come up with for yourself. If you think of creativity as a sort of muscle, you need to exercise that muscle for it to get stronger.


Date posted: April 9, 2017

 

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Where Does Creativity Come From?
Two Opposite Ways to Get Out of a Creative Funk
Photography is Inherently Subjective
 

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