Creative photography tips to get your mind moving (Part one)
Creativity isn’t always something you can just turn on and off like a tap, and just like a leaky tap needs a freshen up, so too does your mind. Start thinking in new and interesting ways with these quick tips.
Over the many years that I have been photographing I have devised a few techniques that help me to open my mind and get me into the groove of making images. These are some simple techniques that I’ll use when I arrive at a new location, or something I tap into if I’m feeling uninspired. Hopefully, they can help you too.
The 20 photo challenge
The first idea is to stand in a five-metre square space and try to make 20 different photographs from that space. Ideally the images should feel unique and not just be records of the different views from that place.
What you’re likely to find is that the first six photographs might be quite easy, but after that the mind should start to ‘bend’, and give you creative solutions to the challenge. The objective is for you to use your camera in unfamiliar ways and push your skills and the settings as far as you can.
If you want a bit of a cheat sheet for it, you could try these ideas as a starting point: High key (over exposure), low key (under exposure), out of focus (really out of focus), slow shutter speed movement (using your Neutral Density filters if you have them), close-up, macro, monochrome, colour, desaturated colour, shooting different perspectives (high above your head to low on the ground), using unique lens filters, shooting through crumpled plastic, and finding reflections. That’s 13, but I’m sure you can think of a few of your own too.
Many years ago, knowing that I was going to set this challenge with a small group of photographers on a workshop I began looking around for something interesting to carry with me in my camera bag that I could bring into my 5m space to photograph.
I found a spatula in the kitchen. I liked its oldness and the way the light reflected off its battered metal surface. When I was creating my twenty different images, out came the spatula to help me. I began by holding it up to visualize its shape against the other shapes of the landscape and decided that the best place for it was above the horizon line.
From this simple challenge began my many years of photographing kitchen utensils in the landscape, and I still really enjoy seeing objects juxtaposed in unusual places. I like the process of identifying what aspects of each subject are of interest to me, and then, step by step, choosing the appropriate camera setup and techniques to enhance those characteristics. I like to keep exploring ideas until I run out of them or until (on review) I feel I have a few images that work.
Photograph the same object in multiple places…
Off the back of the 20 photo challenge is my next challenge – capturing the same subject in multiple places. This idea occurred to me while walking through the forest one day where I noticed a branch from a Beech tree on the ground.
Taking the time to really look at it, I realised I liked the awkward shape of its branches, the inherent flatness of the branch and the little blown leaves that happily clung to it. From that, the branch became a focal point for me. I held it up in the light, spun it around and began to make what I call portraits of it, in all sorts of places.
Watch out for part two next week.
About the author: Jackie Ranken is an Australian born, multi-award winning landscape/art photographer who has lived in New Zealand since 2004. She has over thirty five years’ experience within the visual arts and has been an international awards judge since 2002.
She combines her art practice with teaching and is a presenter in workshops and seminars internationally. Her passion is the creation of multi-layered narratives via in camera multiple exposures and intentional movements. Allowing play and serendipity into her creative process gives her personal freedom to break rules and push the so-called boundaries of traditional image making processes.
Since 2001 she has won many prestigious photography awards which have culminated in making her a Grand Master of both the Australian and the New Zealand Institutes of Professional Photography. She is a Canon Master and EIZO Ambassador. See more at qccp.co.nz.