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All photographers find that, from time to time, our creativity needs a kick in the pants. Routines are comfortable because they are familiar, but routines don’t do much for expanding your creativity. It would make sense that if you break with routine in some way, you might experience a little boost in creativity. Below you will find seven ideas aimed at pushing you in a different direction and perhaps getting you to do something you’re not accustomed to. None of these exercises are difficult; none require you to buy any expensive new gear. Most of them are fun. I hope you find at least one of them useful.
Break Old Habits
This doesn’t necessarily mean a habit is bad, but if you’ve gotten locked into doing the same thing all the time it could be stifling your creativity. So try doing the opposite of what you normally do — if you always use a zoom lens, use a prime lens; if you’re primarily a daytime shooter, make time to shoot at night; if you only ever shoot in color, take the time to convert to black and white. Doing the opposite of what you’re used to can be jarring but this jolt can awaken new ideas for you.
Draw Up Some Inspiration
Think about what you consider to be the ideal photograph. Whatever your preferred genre of photography, imagine what you would deem to be the perfect subject, perspective, composition and any other element you think is important. Draw that picture (you don’t have to be a good sketch artist) to preserve it refer back to it. Now go out and try to find the scene you’ve just sketched and photograph it. You might not find exactly what you’ve drawn but it’ll be fun to see how close you can get.
And I mean fully manual. Set your lens to manual focus and switch the mode dial on your camera to M (and turn off auto ISO). If you’ve never done this before it can seem overwhelming at first, but I believe before long you’ll have the hang of it. Manual is the one mode where the camera will not make any decisions for you, so if you fail to get a perfectly exposed, perfectly in focus shot, you have to take the blame. On the upside, when you get it right you can take all the credit.
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Make A Self-Portrait
I realize “selfies” sometimes get a bad rap, but I’m suggesting something a bit more involved than simply giving the front-facing camera on your cell phone a wanna-be seductive gaze. Put your camera on a tripod, activate the self-timer and strike a pose like you’d direct a model to do, except you’re the model. You might even go all out and set up a light and change outfits a couple of times. This is something that can be both fun and humbling. And if you’re typically the one behind the camera, a self-portrait session will help you better empathize with those who are usually in front of your camera.
Break The Rules
Shoot into the light. Disregard the rule of thirds (or some other composition rule). Tilt your camera. Shoot midday portraits. Whatever you’ve been told repeatedly to not do, do that. You will find it liberating.
Do Some Mimicry
Flatter a photographer that is influential to you by imitating one of their photos. It’s one thing to see the photo in print, but actively attempting to reproduce a great photo can teach you a lot about lighting, composition and other creative aesthetic choices.
Take Portraits Of Strangers
In the introduction to this piece I stated that none of the exercises outlined here would be difficult. Upon reaching this point in the article, however, some of you might be ready to accuse me of false advertising. For some people, even candid street photography is difficult, so asking strangers if they can photograph them is downright unthinkable. If you can muster the courage to do it, though, you will walk away feeling confident and invigorated. And what can be better than finding people who are willing to let you practice your portrait techniques on them for free?
Try one of these ideas or try them all. While there’s some creative nugget to take away from each exercise, the main point is to have fun.