If I get any constant compliment, it is that I am creative. I have had people ask me how I get my ideas, but more often people act like it is something I am gifted with that they don’t have access to.
Assuming I were to believe that (and I don’t… not at all) I still would suggest to anyone interested that there are a variety of ways to – um – work out your creative muscle. I believe that the way we think is a great deal like the way we move. The less we exercise, the stiffer everything moves, the more we push ourselves outside our comfort zones – the more limber we become.
As a kid I spent a lot of time alone, so I had to think up things to keep me entertained. So I have been ‘stretching’ my creative limbs for a long time. Yet, there are a few things I do that keep it fluid. For the most part, I think these are things that could work for anyone.
(Above: This is me … embracing my oddballness.
Disclaimer: Not everyone embraces my creative side.)
Give Yourself Permission to Be Different:
This sounds like a no-brainer, but the truth is most of us are afraid to be diverse. It’s outside the bounds of how we’ve been brought up to ‘fit in’. It’s how we function as a society. “You are normal, you do what is expected… so we’ll accept you.” Except that kind of normal rarely gets a much attention. And the truth is, we get bored with commonplace. And in our current society we are beginning to appreciate unconventional. Annie Lebowitz, Pablo Picasso, even Georgia O’keeffe all ignored expectations and dared to be extraordinary. So remind yourself that in order to be creative you have to give yourself permission to be different.
Some of my first ‘portraits’ are a perfect example. Face paintings and all kinds of exocitc weirdness. My models and others around me told me this stuff was too off the wall. The very same ‘off the wall pieces got me my first writeup and feature here in VerbSap for images like these:
Look at Everything, But Look for Another Angle:
Often what makes an image pop is an unexpected angle. It is easy to get into the habit of shooting what we see from the point of view we are accustomed to seeing it from, but challenge yourself to try a different perspective. Lay at a child’s feet and look up at the from the ground. Tilt the camera, tilt your subject, put your subject in unexpected places.
For the shoot below I stood up on a ladder looking down at my model. I could have taken the photo from ground level, but the effect would have been altogether different.
Be the Teacher – Assign the Lesson:
Sometimes when I have nothing to shoot and I feel like I need to push myself, I give myself assignments. I have to get twenty great photos in a backyard, or the backyard. I have to find 15 food items in my fridge and get some professional images. I have to shoot at least 25 black and white images of things I am used to seeing in color, and so on. If I can’t come up with a good assignment, I find one on the internet, even if I don’t intend to submit it to the website. The simple practice of working on the assignment helps me stir the creative juices.
The egg below was an assignment many years ago on a photo site that had contests. I can’t remember the theme, but I do remember racking my brain for a way to make everyone look twice. This accomplished that:
It isn’t always true that the more you shoot, the better your pictures will be. But the more you work at it the better your ideas may become. Like many things, the more your are comfortable with your craft, the more you are likely to take some risks and try something new.
Look Over Someones Shoulder:
Looking at the work of others isn’t a bad thing. Once upon a time someone saw and ate the first potato and liked it. Other people saw that it looked good, tried cooking their own, and came up with thousands of recipes since then we all love and enjoy. Get ideas, get excited… get inspired. There is a lot of great work out there by some really talented and creative people, try to put yourself in their shoes and see the world from their eyes.
There’s more I could add to this post, but hopefully my basic premise is clear here. Some people may come by that creative gene naturally, and some people may have to work at it a little. But anyone can learn to stretch their imagination with a little work and some effort.