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5 Tips to Unlock Your Creative Potential [Guest Post]

Man overlooking Norway fjords at sunset

One of the most challenging aspects of photography is learning to be creative and see creatively. It’s easy to believe that some people are born with natural ability and many of us assume that we just don’t have it. However, this is not an excuse not to aim for a high level of achievement.

I’ve always told my students that photography, or any art for that matter, is NOT about natural talent. Nobody is born with the creative eye. No artist stumbled on their craft by accident. We all start off as beginners and we all go through the challenges of making it to the next level. Once we acknowledge that we are not limited by our natural born abilities – we can shift focus to our desire to learn and unlock our creative potential. There is no single formula to being creative or to create great images, but here are a few ideas that helped me along the way.

Pretend You Are an Artist

Many of us don’t consider ourselves artists or artistic, but the next best thing is to simply pretend that we are. Ask yourself in any given situation what an artist would do. I remember doing this exact thing when I first got into photography. I would see an old bike leaning up against the fence, and instead of simply pulling out my camera and taking a photo – I would try to imagine other images or paintings of similar subjects. What made them unique? What made them work? What about them inspire me? Pretend you are that artist and then approach the subject with complete awareness of every aspect. What angles do you have to work with? What textures, what colors, what backgrounds?

Since you are pretending to be an artist, it is now your job to move around. Get low or get high, move left or right and try to create something artistic in the way you think an artist would. Every single subject I would shoot, I would imagine myself as a great artist and try to do what I thought they would do. Of course, most of the time I failed horribly. But this mental exercise was incredibly beneficial to unlocking my creativity.

Camera as a Paintbrush

Photography is a strange medium. I feel that it is almost the reverse of traditional artistic mediums like drawing or painting. Instead of using a tool, like a brush, to lay your ideas down on paper or canvas, we are changing our position relative to our subject, to essentially draw or paint, by moving the camera. Imagine turning your camera or cell phone to live view mode where you can see the subject on the screen. Anywhere you are, simply spin in a circle and watch the world recompose itself on your screen. By turning or moving up and down – you are constantly “re-painting” the image you are creating.

Now imagine walking through the world with an ever-changing screen in front of you. Wherever you decide to stop and push the button is your artwork. Choosing the exact spot, exact angle, exact time of day and even the exact settings used – determines what this artwork becomes and how effective it is when it comes to moving a viewer. As photographers, the absolute most important thing we can do is be incredibly aware of where we are standing and how we change our position both in space and time to put something meaningful in front of our lens...

READ THE FULL ARTICLE published as a guest blog on Outdoor Photography Guide!

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