I know the whole “family photography” hobby was my idea, but one of the biggest things I struggle with, both personally and professionally, is my own lack of creativity.
While I am no expert…because who really reads a personal blog to find an expert opinion, right…I’m going to share what’s worked for me and the things I have seen work for others.
Step 1: Admitting There’s a Problem
Because really…isn’t that always the first step…
Over the years, I have developed full e-Commerce solutions and several smaller sites for other people. I can write code in several different programming languages, most of which I taught myself when the need arose. I sincerely enjoy taking an idea or vision and turning it into a digital reality.
The same thing is true with photography. Given a specific idea for a shot, I can usually figure out the camera settings, angles, and lighting needed to pull it off… or as well as I can anyway.
But give me a gorgeous photography weekend with no initial ideas for a shoot…and we might just end up sitting around watching TV.
Step 2: Getting Help and Inspiration
With just such a weekend approaching, I once again find myself scrambling to find ideas for a photo shoot that will get the whole family involved. So, where do I go for inspiration…
Well, having now digested almost every episode that Phlearn has to offer, I can honestly say I am far better at PhotoShop from a technical standpoint than I ever was before. Aaron and the rest of the team have also taught me a few common sources for inspiration…Pinterest, various stock photo sites, etc. More often than not, though, those ideas tend to be a little too advanced for our little family of camera jockeys.
A few months into our photography journey, tho, I stumbled onto a photo contest site that allows even the most amateur photographers to share their interpretations of a number of contest topics in an attempt to win prizes of one sort or another. By looking through the open topics for Contests or Challenges, I’m usually able to come up with a few different ideas to choose from.
Step 3: Celebrating Small Victories
I joined Phlearn’s Facebook group, mostly to see the awesome images being produced by the folks there, but what has really impressed me is the constructive criticism that I see being offered up by the members of that group. They give the good with the bad and encourage each other to create better imagery overall. If I ever have the guts to post an image of my own to a group of that calibur, even the smallest compliment would mean a ton.
My family’s biggest source of victory in photography generally comes from Viewbug or GuruShots. While there are real equipment prizes for their contests, those are predominantly won by the same pro-level crowd that Phlearn targets. However, there is also a level of gamification built into the site where even amateurs can earn badges for completing certain tasks and each picture uploaded has the potential to receive likes and awards from other photographers. That may not seem like much, but being able to share small victories with my kids continues to give them a confidence boost and encourages them to keep at it.
Just recently, one of my son’s pictures was voted in the top 10% for a certain contest, beating out literally thousands of other pictures. You don’t win a prize for that, really, but knowing how excited I still get over one of my pictures doing well, imagine how cool that is at 14! It may not be something he brags to his friends about, but that’s definitely something we can celebrate as a family.
Step 4: Practicing Shampoo Principles
The old joke about the person who spends their life in the shower because the bottle says “Rinse. Lather. Repeat.” very much applies to my process of inspiring creativity, not only in myself but in my children. Since I wasn’t born naturally creative, I have to practice at it.
So, I try to schedule time to go take pictures… which means I also schedule a little time to find ideas. I go through my Inspiration board on Pinterest or browse the open contests on the contest sites and sketch (horrible) little doodles of what pops into my head about a certain topic. Once I decide on something, I re-watch a few episodes of Phlearn that I think might apply to the process of turning that sketch into a finished photo.
Since I do have a family to care and provide for, the time I have available to spend on these tasks varies wildly from outing to outing. Now, I have managed to get some pretty good shots “in the moment”, but traditionally my favorite shots are taken when I go out with a plan in mind…even if the best shots of the day aren’t the ones I set out to get in the first place.