Learn how to face the real reason behind your artistic inaction by turning around and heading straight towards your fears. Here are 3 challenging photo prompts to quickly get the creative juices flowing!
All of us began photographing out of a love for the creation. It’s empowering to gain the skills to shoot and edit in a particular way to achieve your intended result. Hopefully, some success soon arrives in the form of booking clients, exhibiting in galleries and, more recently, gaining followers. These accomplishments provide us the validation to continue in a world that undervalues our contributions. Here’s the problem: Our internal sense of success can quickly parallels that external validation. Too often, we disengage from the process of actually creating imagery.
I would argue that that is the real reason why we find ourselves with creative blocks. No, it’s not that we have run out of ideas; it’s that we haven’t been focusing on the ideas enough! Instead of generating for its own sake, introducing parameters is key. Why? Because I believe creativity is born out of challenges. Consider this: Your love photography was born out of hardship, out of the challenge of making something great despite feeling a little out of control.
In that spirit, here are 3 unusual photographic experiments that will get your creative juices flowing right away:
- Turn overlooked photographs into a duotone series. If you don’t feel in the mood to shoot, this is a quick exercise to get you out of your head and just making something, anything. The duotone effect (think Andy Warhol) is a great alternative to black and white. Plus, experimenting with colour will get your brain better tuned to colour theory. Firstly, find some simple images with good contrast––keep in mind that these could be digital or film. Every version of photoshop should have a duotone feature (use the search function if you’re unsure). Simply put, mess around until you are happy with the curvatures. Here’s the last step, which is arguably the most important: Print the images. Yes, really. Admire them. Frame them or use them like postcards to send to friends and family, just cause. By doing so, you are honouring your creation, giving it purpose in the world instead of on a screen. Suggested time: 5 minutes editing each + printing/framing/mailing
- Shoot with a friend, but also switch styles with them. You could accomplish this in a few different ways, but here are some examples so you can get the idea… Adjust your camera to their preferred settings. Create a double exposure effect by photographing the same thing and digitally combining them; yourselves, a tree, a trash can. Edit each others’ photographs in your own style. Suggested time: 30 minutes of shooting
- Force yourself into completely different lighting. Each one of us has grown comfortable working under preferred lighting conditions, and to tell you the truth, that has made us a bit lazy. This is true regardless of whether you prefer studio lighting or natural lighting; I guarantee that you regularly shoot under the same conditions or time of the day. Of course, it’s understandable to want this feeling of control, but it also makes things very predictable. So if you avoid harsh shadows like the plague, try shooting at midday and experiment with creative shapes from plant silhouettes or window blinds. Conversely, if you prefer that high contrast look, try shooting indoors or when it’s overcast. Try using flash––and not a fancy one––but the pathetic one that is built-in to your camera body. Explore those “unflattering” tungsten and candle lights. Heck, buy glowsticks or fairy lights or put a lamp bulb on the floor. You get the idea. The point is, use this as an opportunity to not just learn how to but it will also help you learn how to shoot when you’re uncomfortable. In the end, you’ll feel more competent when handling any unexpected lighting scenarios in the future. Suggested time: 30-50 minutes both shooting + editing
You’ll notice that all of these exercise also have suggested time frames, which is actually fairly important. Again, parameters can actually be your friend. While you don’t have to obey the suggested time frame precisely, remember that these are just exercises. No big deal! You don’t even have to create something you like, you just need to experiment with the challenge. By encouraging your problem solving capacities, I am confident that you’ll get into a more creative mindset. Hopefully some inspiration will strike and you’ll have a new, more experimental outlook that can propel you into making some exciting new work.