(Editor’s Note: We’d like to welcome this guest post from Nate Joaquin Torres. Nate is a photographer based in Orange County/Los Angeles who specializes in portrait, lifestyle and event photography. He loves minimalist and artistic photography that has a film feel. Visit him online at nateimaginate.com.)
If you are like me, then one of your favorite things about photography is the ability to be creative.
There is no better feeling than having a creative concept in your head, planning the execution behind the photoshoot, then seeing your creative concept come to life through a photograph.
Sometimes we can get stuck in a creative rut and feel like none of our ideas are unique. So the question remains — how do we stay creative and what can we do to gain that inspiration of creativity when we are in a rut?
In order to remain creative, you want to keep learning. By reading photography books, blogs or watching various YouTube videos on photography, you will constantly be exposed to new things for you to try out.
I once watched a documentary on rap artists and what makes the great ones so successful in their rhyme schemes, creativity and lyricism. They stated that they stay up to date on current events and read a lot because it gave them more material in their head to rap about.
When I heard this, I came to the realization that this can be applied to any creative job.
If you read or watch about a certain technique, try it out yourself and adapt it to your own style. You might find that you have even created something completely different and unique to your own photography style.
If you have been photographing for many years, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as an “expert” in photography and that you have learned everything there is to know about photography.
A big proponent of staying creative is to remain humble and to know that even if you have been photographing for many years, that you still have a lot to learn.
The more of an “expert” you become, the less creative you can be because the less willing you may be to try something new and step outside of your comfort zone.
The true “experts” are the ones that don’t declare themselves experts and the ones that know they are on a journey of constant improvement.
Become a sponge and learn everything you can while graciously accepting criticism and feedback (as long as it is positive).
Know that you don’t know everything and this helps ignite a creative spark within your brain to constantly improve and try something new.
Whenever I am in a creative rut, I gain inspiration from an artistic music video or movie. Sometimes I also like to go on Instagram and scroll through my “Discover” feed to gain inspiration.
When you do this, just be careful to not compare yourself to the more established photographers as this could end up un-motivating you if you let it.
Side note: When gaining inspiration from outside sources it is important to remember that you are on your own journey and that as long as you are better today than you were yesterday, then you are progressing. Approach any inspiration-seeking with this mentality and you will be fine!
When gaining inspiration from a song, movie or other photographers, pay attention to the feeling/emotion you feel when viewing their creation — whether that be sadness, wanderlust or joy. Then when you go to photograph, approach the shoot with this same emotion and let it carry through in your photography. It will reflect in the setting you choose, the way you choose to pose your models, and even the lens you decide to use.
Here is a real-life example:
I was in a creative rut and decided to put on my favorite Indie playlist on Spotify. The songs I was listening to gave me an emotion/feeling of wanderlust. I imagined I was laying on the beach while listening to these songs. After listening to my playlist, I knew I wanted to capture that emotion I was feeling on camera.
In my next shoot, I used that emotion in my photography. For my setting, I decided to go with the beach and I had my model put her hands in the air and told her “throw your hands up in the air and act carefree.” Combining this setting, with posing, and some compositional techniques, I was able to capture this photograph which has been a favorite among many.
The beauty is that you can gain inspiration from anywhere, you just have to be open to it. Once you find that inspiration, pay attention to how it makes you feel and transfer that energy into your art and you will be surprised at what you can come up with!
Relax your mind
Studies have shown that relaxing your mind is very important in order for us to be more creative.
It is difficult to force creativity. If your mind is overstimulated and you try to be creative, you will have trouble. Instead, you need to relax your mind and let the ideas flow.
In order to promote creativity within myself, here is an activity I like to do at least once a week that you can perform as well!
Go on a walk without your phone or music. When walking, pay attention to your thoughts and notice the beauty in your surroundings. Notice how the light hits certain objects and the way it casts a shadow on the ground. Observe the symmetry in your surroundings. Take note of the compositional beauty that already exists within nature.
This exercise will do two things. One, it will help train your eye to notice the beauty in ordinary things that others might not see (which will help your creativity), and two, it will allow you to relax and clear your mind.
Once you get back from your walk, take note of all the creative thoughts that came to your mind. Eventually, you will have a notepad full of creative ideas!
I say start with one walk a week and then if you find that it is helpful in relaxing you while sparking creative ideas, then increase the number of times you walk!
Have fun and enjoy the process
This last tip may be cliché, but it is very true. If you aren’t having fun trying to be creative in photography, then what is the point?!?
I’m sure we all picked up photography because we loved the ability to create and we had fun doing it.
When experiencing creative frustration, remember why you started photography in the first place.
With my photography sessions, even if a creative idea didn’t pan out in my shoot like I thought it would, I learn from the shoot on how to improve for next time, but most importantly, I remind myself I love photography and I am doing this to have fun!
I photograph for the sake of doing it because the act of photographing itself brings me joy and happiness.
If my creative juices weren’t flowing as well during a photoshoot, I know deep down inside that it is OK because I still had fun, enjoyed the shoot, and that it is all part of the process.
When you are having fun, you are more relaxed and it doesn’t feel like a chore. You will feel more inspired and motivated to continue at it.
In summary, enjoy the process.
If you want to be more creative, keep learning, stay humble, find inspiration, relax your mind and just have fun with it. Enjoy the process. It is hard to teach creativity but there are steps you can follow to unlock your inner creative potential.
If you feel discouraged at times, don’t give up, that is just part of the process. Remember these tips when in a creative rut and know that it is a journey, not a race.
Now I want to hear from you!
Are there any tips listed in this blog that you are going to try out? Or do you have a tip you like to follow that helps get you in a creative mood?