Use the 'word limit' of your image to make a story. Try to make your images mean more than just freezing a frame in time. Photography is a universal language that allows you to convey your point. So craft a message, and use photography to say it. My good friend Prasenjeet Yadav once gave me a great bit of advice, he said "An image has a lifetime, a story does not". It does not matter if you need 1 photo for your story, or 100, but without a story, no matter how great the image is, it can be redone, remade and will finally become redundant.
How to develop your creativity
A great image combines Creativity and Technique, and by using these two factors you will move away from just 'clicking' an image to capturing and creating them. I may not be able to teach you creativity, but I can certainly help you learn.
Why is creativity so important?
We live in an age of selfies, Facebook, snapchat and Instagram (to name a few), it has been estimated that we are collectively taking close to 1 trillion images a year (Yahoo estimated 880 million for 2014). It feels like everyone and their dog has a camera these days, and no matter what you shoot, the chances are someone already has a similar shot or a better one, and even if they don't already, they will... and soon. 30 years a go, a clean photo of a tiger was amazing... now, it is common place. And not due to the soaring population of tigers sadly, but due to the abundance of people with cameras.
We all know the adage "a picture is worth a 1000 words" after all... But it can also be silent, or say the wrong thing too, and sometimes, even a 1000 words, is not nearly enough to say what we want to say.
So, how to make sure your images don't drown in this ocean of photos?
There is no 'fail-safe' method for this, and different things work for different people, but these are the things you can do (in no particular order) to keep my creativity flowing. Remember, there is no quick-fix for creativity, it is a journey, so you might as well enjoy the ride! :)
- Keep shooting, no matter what: Keep shooting and critiquing your own work. If you did not like how an image turned out, do it again, but differently... you will start to generate a mental inventory of what you like and dislike, as well as what works and what does not for your purpose.
- Look at other people work: This is essentially the same as the first bit of advice, but without you taking the images... keep looking at other people work and see what you might have done differently.
- Set yourself challenges: I once did a 365 project back in 2012 (taking and sharing a photo everyday for a year). It is almost impossible to go or do something interesting every single day of a year, so you are forced to make the mundane look magnificent. This was a challenge of creativity rather than taking photos, and forced me to do and try things I had never done before. There are many challenges out there, but here are just a few:
- Themes - set a theme and stick to it, e.g. colours, seasons, objects...
- Go Chimp-free! Cover your LCD and don't look at it until you have finished shooting!
- Emulate the film days and limit yourself to only 36 frames. This forced limit will mean you will have to think more about a scene and it's value before shooting. Better still, use an old firm camera for a bit! :)
- 1 spot 20 shots. Stay in one place and shoot 20 shots all around you, try an encapsulate that place, but without moving.
- 20 spots 1 shot... ok, not that great a name, but it is basically the inverse of the above point... shoot the same thing, but from as many different perspectives and angles as you can find.
- google photography projects and you will get an exhaustive list of ones that might suit you! :)
- Expand your horizons: Try different types of photography. If you shoot landscapes, try portraits for a change. If you use natural light, play with a flash for laugh. Try reversing your lens, free-lensing, anything! At worst, you will learn some new technical skills.
- Experiment: This is I think one of the most important and encompasses everything said above... try and mix things up... Take all the 'rules' you know and throw them out of the window and see what you get. See if you can merge multiple types of photography, e.g. take a landscape with a subject in the distance being illuminated by an external flash!
A camera is a tool, and like a tool, you need to know how to use it in order get what you want it to get. "What you want it to get" is key to this sentence. Imagine a builder if you will. This builder can use every tool to mastery level, they know every technique and trick required to build anything, and they are the epitome of building expertise and skill. But if they don't know what to build, this skill is useless. Less than useless, it is a waste! The same is also true for architects... They might design and envisage the most amazing structure ever to be constructed, but without the building skills, it is just a pretty drawing! Neither complete a great building without the other. A photographer needs to be an architect and a builder. They need to be able to envisage a message and then build it. The two go hand in hand.