A lot of people have asked us how we come up with so many ideas for our photo shoots. They sometimes comment saying "I could never come up with something like that" or "I wish I was more creative." The world isn't divided into creatives and non-creatives. An abundance of creativity is inside all of us. Creativity is a muscle and some people work their creative muscles more than others. Just like with any other part of the body, the more you exercise it the stronger it gets.
For 9 years, David and I worked as wedding and portrait photographers and felt very fulfilled by the work we were doing. It was a gift to be able to make a living with my camera, and I felt I was able to express myself by documenting weddings and families with my own creative perspective and flair. Until that just wasn't cutting it anymore. I felt a void inside of me. There was more I wanted to share and express with the world than my work was allowing me to do. So, we did something about it.
On January 1, 2021, we set a goal of building 100 sets and doing 100 photo shoots in one year with the goal of discovering our creative voices and artistic style. That meant we had to do 2-3 shoots per week. There were days we had shoots planned where we would wake up and have zero creative inspiration and no concept for a shoot. We had to force ourselves to be creative on command. And we got really good at it. With enough practice, anyone can learn to unlock their creativity on command.
Here's a guide to unlocking your creativity.
Begin trying to absorb as much inspiration as you possibly can. I really encourage you to look outside of your own medium for inspiration - or if you are going to, at least look to the greats in your field. Look at art books, not the internet. David and I seek out movies, architecture, paintings, sculptures, textile art, and cartoons the most. We very seldomly look at any other photography work. Avoiding looking at the work of other photographers helps keep our minds pure. I want to create work that is uniquely mine, not a skewed version of someone else.
All of this content you are absorbing will ruminate in your brain and mix together. Eventually, new ideas inspired by everything you have seen will begin combining in interesting ways and develop into ideas that are pure and true to you.
One new idea can change everything. It only takes 1 idea. Really sit with the gravity of that for a minute. Ideas are free and it only takes one.
David and I start each day in our sunroom. We challenge ourselves to sit quietly and write out 5 new ideas. Sometimes there is a theme to this. Sometimes it is 5 new photo shoot ideas or 5 new youtube ideas. It can be really hard to do sometimes, but we are always able to come up with 5. That's not to say they are all good ideas, but every once in a while a great one will come to you. And when it does, act on it!
I have to give David credit for this one. He walked me through a beautiful visualization that has helped me unlock so many new creative ideas inside my mind.
Sit in a comfy, quiet place. Play some meditative music in the background. Close your eyes. Clear your mind of everything. Slowly begin to imagine yourself in a long hallway with lots of doors on each side. Inside each room is a memory, an experience, something you have seen before, something that has inspired you. Start to walk down the hallway. Choose a door that you would like to open. Put your hand on the knob and walk into the room. What do you see? Let the imagery fill your consciousness. Is there anything you can work with? Does anything inspire you? Walk out of the room and close the door. Walk down the hallway further, and choose a new door. Repeat the exercise. Take bits and pieces of each image and combine them together to create a new idea.
**It's helpful to have a pen and paper nearby to jot down ideas as they come.
Having a framework to work within can be helpful when trying to think of new creative ideas. What are your parameters? Do you have a budget? What materials do you need? Do you have a time limit?
For example, during our 100-set project, we had a lot of parameters we had to work with. We only had 1 day to conceptualize, style, build a set, and photograph a shoot. The shoots took place every day at 6 pm. Our materials were plywood, latex paint, lights, and a camera. We tried to keep our budget to no more than $200 per shoot.
Parameters can present challenges at times, but they can also help facilitate interesting ideas that you otherwise never would have discovered.
There is no inspiration in being a workaholic. Do things, go places, talk to people, and experience life. There is so much value in living a well-rounded, balanced life. You will be able to pull so much inspiration and develop new ideas based on these experiences.
A journal is such a simple tool, but it can be one of your biggest creative assets. A journal provides you with a space to sort through your thoughts and feelings. It can also help get you into the mindset to create. Develop a journaling practice that works for you and gets you in a positive headspace, so you can unlock your creative potential.
Here is the practice I follow every day:
- Jot down thoughts, feelings, or things that are happening in your life.
- Write down 10 things you are grateful for. These can be small things like coffee or sunshine or more substantial, abstract things like people, feelings, etc.
- Write out how you want yourself and your work to be perceived by others. Always write in the present tense. Start with "I am" or "My work is."
EX: I am a creative powerhouse. Innovative ideas come to me frequently. I am a successful artist. My work is shown in galleries all around the world and regularly sells for thousands of dollars. My work resonates with people and is received in a very positive way.
I end each journaling session by recentering myself on the biggest creative goals and making a plan of what I want to accomplish that day.
Act on your ideas! One idea leads to another. Action is crucial to your creative success. Some ideas need to marinate in your mind longer than others, but make sure you get into a routine of taking concrete actions on your ideas.
I hope this helps you get started on your own creative journey and brings forth an abundance of new ideas that excite and energize you. Be patient with yourself as you start out. It's called the creative process for a reason. It doesn't all happen overnight. Enjoy the process and remember to take in the views along the way.