Wednesday, October 19, 2011

4 Ingredients for Creativity

In order to facilitate the creation of ideas, we must train ourselves to think creatively and to properly interpret new possibilities so that when the time is right we are better prepared to experience such an epiphany.
In particular, the things to exercise are awareness, knowledge, emotion, and imagination.
        Guy Tal, Creative Landscape Photography

 If there were a simple formula for creativity, we'd all be creatively engaged in fulfilling activities of artistic expression.  The problem is with Guy's word, "exercise."  Exercise means work ... focused, deliberate, methodical, and (usually) repetitive.  And getting down to work is where most of us stumble.

Here are four suggestions to help creativity:

1. As they say in the workplace, showing up is half the job. Picking up the camera with the intent to shoot is a good start.  We won't get any pictures if we don't have the camera with us.

2. Random shooting of pictures is as useless as the random firing of a shotgun to hit a goose. Set the mind at ease, remove the clutter.  Then decide on an objective, an assignment, or a project. This will provide some context or boundary.  It might be anything from "everything red" to "my cat yawing" to "the skyline from the roof of the parking garage."

3. Develop a practiced awareness of feeling. Knowing our emotional response to what grabs our attention gives us something to measure the success of our images.  Does the picture capture what I felt at the moment?  When I look at it does it evoke the equivalent of what I felt when I took the picture?

4. Know the mechanics of using your equipment at least as well as you  know how to drive your car.  The disruptive distraction of figuring out how to set the auto bracket of your camera, for example, can ruin the creative flow.

Finally, here's a bonus suggestion.  Take more pictures with mindfulness.  Tons of them.  We only have stuff to work with if we produce them.  I find that on a good day only 3% of my shots are "keepers."  If I'm really lucky, it might be 5%.  So I figure if I want to bring home ten decent images to work on, I need to shoot around 300.  But this doesn't mean rapid fire on the shutter release and playing the averages.  It means putting in the time, focus, attention, self-discipline and reflection.  Otherwise, you'll just be bringing home junk.  It's better to spend 2 hours of concentrated looking and responding, with 30 images and perhaps 1 "keeper", than to bring home a couple of hundred mediocre images.  So the counterbalance to "take more pictures" is "slow down and pay attention."  Attention to what's going on inside you, as well as attention to the equipment, the composition, lighting, and everything else that affects the photograph at the moment of capture.

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