Creativity in Photography – Part 1

Attached to this E Mail is Part 1 of a two part article on creativity in photography.  It is a very abridged version of the origin taken from two books listed at the end of Part 2. This article is only a part of three parts covered under the following headings -“Finding Inspiration,” “Exercising  Creativity,” and “Developing your Vision,” which are linked together in the creative process as far as photography is concerned. Part 2 will follow on shortly when I have the time to write it. Until then good light and good shooting.

We all have the potential to be creative, but creativity is difficult to define as it in the ether along with Inspiration and Vision.

Creativity is exploration and imagination. On the other hand it is looking for something without knowing exactly what this thing is. If you know precisely what you are looking for you are not being creative. You are simply trying to find something that most likely others have found before you. Creativity must be channelled, otherwise it runs wild without following a specific direction. This direction, this goal, is your personal vision. It is vision that brings inspiration and creativity together.

For many people, photographers and viewers alike, a photograph is simply a record of what was in front of the camera. There is really no thought given to interpretation. But for those of us who see photography as a creative, artistic and personally expressive endeavour, the scene in front of the camera is always a starting point for your journey. The creative photographer has to find the scene that he or she responds to and recognise its potential for personal interpretation. This is not an easy task.

Few understand the difference between snapshots, with no interpretation, and real photography that entails personal interpretation. This is the reason we so often hear the phrase “you were in the right place at the right time,” a comment based on the false idea that the photograph represents exactly the scene that the photographer encountered. It is a comment devoid of the concept of personal interpretation. For the photographer trying to be creative, the recognition of the vast difference between the scene in front of you and the photograph you can produce is the beginning of your transition from recording the scene photographically to expressing how you feel about a scene emotionally.

“Eventually I discovered for myself the utterly simple prescription for Creativity: to be intensely yourself. Don’t try to be outstanding; don’t try to be successful to be outstanding; don’t just do pictures for others to look at, just be yourself.” 
Quote by Ralph Steiner (photographer)


Being creative is not the same thing as being as being inspired. On the one hand, one can be inspired and exercise creativity. On the other hand, one can be creative without being able to find inspiration.


Inspiration by itself does not not necessary result in creativity of new work.


Creativity carries with it certain risks, the most notable being creative for creativity’s sake, without following a specific inspiration and without catering to the of a specific vision.

What makes inspiration a reality, what turns inspiration into a work of art or a photograph, is creativity. Creativity in this regard is the logical outcome of inspiration. Creativity is what makes inspiration a physical reality. It is therefore through creativity that you will make your inspiration comes to life in a work of art.

The subject or scene that inspires you can be imagined, remembered, or found. In lens based photography on the other hand, you must start with a “found object”, whether it’s a landscape, portrait, sports event, architectural subject, street scene, or virtually anything else you can imagine, and respond to it with a RAW file that you can then interpret in your own creative way.

How to find this state of focused creativity? It’s hard to say for sure because we are not fully in control of creativity. In fact, we may not be in control at all. What we are in control of is our openness to taking advantage of inspiration.

From there we only need to take a small step to apply our creative abilities toward our photography in particular. We only need to make minor adjustments in order to use our imagination toward creating photographs that are ours only, images that are new, images that we constructed in our mind and that are the result of our unique personal creative abilities.

Photography, as with all visual arts, is a non-verbal language. In order to express yourself adequately, you have to learn how to communicate your thoughts to the viewer, for communication is truly the essence of fine photography.

“One does not think during creative work, any more than one thinks when driving a car. But one has a background of years – learning, unlearning, success, failure, dreaming, thinking, experience, all this – then the moment of creation, the focusing of all into the moment. So I can make, without thought, ‘fifteen carefully considered negatives, one every fifteen minutes, given material with as many possibilities. But there is all t he eyes have seen in this life to influence me” 
Quote Edward Weston (photographer)

Creativity may be described as focused freedom. On the one hand you are free to create, on the other hand you are focused upon your work and your vision. It is a mix of two opposite directional forces in a way. In that respect it is a challenging state to find, to experience, and to make happen.

Doing so means finding new solutions to old problems. In other words, being creative is not something that is specific to artists and photographers. Being creative is also being imaginative. It is being able to think ahead, to think into the future. Creativity and its sibling, imagination, are all around us. As soon as we seek to create something new, no matter how insignificant it may seem, as soon we seek to solve a problem effectively and pro-actively, we become creative by using our imagination to find new and effective ways to complete the task we set out to achieve.

Liberating your creativity and making images you have not created so far requires leaving your comfort zone. It requires doing things that are new to you, things whose outcome is unknown to you. Because you have no previous experience creating or showing these new images, you cannot predict the exact outcome of your creative work, nor can predict people’s reactions to this new work. Your responsibility at this point is to liberate your creativity by producing new work. To liberate your creativity you need to take a chances.

The aim of creative photography is to make a visual interpretation of an experience, not just to record an image. 
Quote Monte Nagler (photographer)

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