Five Steps to Improve Your Creativity

Five Steps to Improve Your Creativity

Creativity is not some mysterious, elusive attribute that only the lucky people get. It is a skill that can be learned and developed. A muscle that can and will get stronger with work. One of the most painful statements I hear from discouraged aspiring photographers is "I love photography, but I'm just not creative enough." It is akin to saying that you have a dream but no faith in your ability to reach it. The statement of "I'm just not creative" denies all of the moments in life that rely on creativity.

What do you do when you have a drink in a bottle with a pry-top, but no bottle opener? Do you give up and stay thirsty or do you find a way to open it?

Any inebriated college student would find a way come hell or high water, and to be plain about it...creativity in art isn't that much different. Human beings are problem solvers by nature, it is in your very nature to be creative. So lets talk about the five things you can do to stop denying your creativity and nurture it's growth instead.


1. Believe That You Are Creative.

I realize that this seems like a catch 22. How can you believe you are creative without evidence to back it up? You do this by looking at and admitting to the times in your life where you already have been. It doesn't have to be anything major. Even something as simple as picking out a piece of furniture for your home is a creative process. You ask yourself what styles you like, what room it's for and whether or not it might look good. That requires imagination.

"But David, that doesn't apply to me. I've never bought furniture or decorations"

Ok that's weird, but what about buying your best friend a birthday present? What about the excuses you made up to get out of school when you were a kid? Those things require you to solve a problem in front of you as well, and we've all done something like that. If you look objectively at yourself it is impossible to honestly say that you've never had even a moment of creativity. Admit it and stop crippling yourself.

2. Notice the Little Things

When I feel stuck creatively I always find myself giving some time to macro photography, and it took me a long time to understand why I did this. We get caught up in our routines and as a result stop looking at the world around us. We become blind to the beautiful little occurrences in day to day life. This takes us entirely out of being able to live in the moment. Maybe playing in macro photography isn't the answer for you specifically but, for me it quite literally forces me to notice the details I would otherwise overlook.

Not only will this practice keep you in the moment, but you will begin to take little moments in time for yourself. The phrase "stop and smell the roses" is brilliant for a few reasons.

3. Be Curious

Ask every question that comes to mind. Curiosity is the heart of creativity. It doesn't even matter what you ask, throw caution to the wind and question it all! It's ok if you ask something obvious, and it's ok if you look like a dork because of it. Wonder about how things work. Question why you behave the way you do, and why other people do. Try to ask about it all. Yeah, you're going to get on some people's nerves but so what? If they get irritated with you...ask them why!

Creativity thrives on "what ifs." I couldn't even tell you how many of my most successful images have been born out of "what if we tried this?"

4. Spend Time in Solitude

The word "solitude" can be terrifying but, if you can overcome the fear of being alone there is a definite benefit to it. So much so that it is considered the most common trait among the exceptionally creative. In the quiet you can hear your thoughts, which may be scarier for some than the idea of the solitude itself. However, by listening to those deeper parts of yourself you become more empowered, more comfortable with your creative voice. All of the truth, beauty and purity comes from the deep places in your mind.

Life tries to stop us from taking this time for ourselves but we have to do it. Even if it means taking a walk by yourself for fifteen minutes a day, it is crucial. Creativity washes over us when we are still.

5. Stop Being So Hard On Yourself

For a lot of us (including myself) this can be the most difficult step. Our little inner critic likes to make sure nothing comes out without being ripped to shreds. It doesn't matter if your ideas are brilliant or moronic. The great part is that you are getting better at generating them. Plenty of completely stupid ideas have been wildly the Snuggie. Don't let yourself get bogged down by your own criticisms, or anyone else's for that matter. You may be on the fence about an idea and have one off comment from another person completely kill what you came up with. Have the fortitude to charge forward and love your silly and amazing ideas even if nobody else joins you in it.

You will become more creative the more you practice. All you need to do is admit it, and allow yourself to be.

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Digital Macdaddy's picture

Great read! I just got back from an engagement shoot this evening. We had a location planned out, began shooting, things were going as planned.....then security comes up to kick us out! They said that my camera was ok to have, but the little 5-in-1 reflector was the "pro" item so they wouldn't allow me to shoot anymore.

This definitely threw a wrench in the shoot. So I had to get creative and still get the photos the couple wanted at that location. As we were leaving I was photographing them while we were heading to the car. Instead of moping and dwelling on the situation I was able to come up with a solution to still get the photos they wanted while avoiding any further conflict from the guards.

From there we went out to a more natural setting to finish the shoot which came out to be the best part of the whole session! So it worked out great!

With this article being true, I think there is one more important step in improving your creativity. I would look at other professionals work and it would bring me down, I would get jealous at their creativity and wonder why I did not have it. I started learning photoshop a lot more because I could not afford one of these Hi end retoucher that the big shot super creative photographers use who really are 50% of the creative genius behind these guys. At the same time, I stopped being jealous and really started to examine the work of the photographers who I really admire. Looking at some of these amazing photographers work and ideas, inspires my mind. Then getting out and doing it for myself. Bamm "you start go get ideas" But you really have to emerge your self in it. Your not out to copy other people, but all these amazingly creative photographers learned their creativity from exactly what I just said. But yes, I agree very much with this article.

Short story, I worked in a huge photo studio for a big furniture company in my 20's. Before that I worked in a bagel store, so I had no design experience. I got a job as PA and was always on set. I became interested in what was going on because it was a extremely creative environment. I worked side by side with 5 or 6 very talented designers with very different styles. Because I was so emerged in my surroundings and environment, I actually watched what they were doing and tho was not even really interested in design, I became very creative in that area and had my friends asking my what kind of furniture to buy and how to decorate their rooms because I had developed an eye and got very good at it and became very creative myself in design.

Platitude. Overused platitude.

I am not artistic, but I think I am creative. I do a creativity site-- I used "teach" creativity at the Smithsonian--or I would say, expose people to the creative process, if there is such a thing. And I would add that it's never too late to blow out the stops--I am 70 and am working on a script for an animated feature for kids. I sit around with my aches and pains and think about a world in which animals are the equal of people. They even go to college.

#4 is major for me.. it just starts flooding in. Plus, I bought a fuji to capture that creativity.

Work. Inspiration and creativity come from the work, not the other way around.

What works for me is spending time dabbling in other mediums- painting, drawing, mixed media. That, and spending time with other creatives... even just grabbing a drink with my hairstylist or with old photo school roommates really gets the ideas bouncing around!

My experience is that the main reason people "hit a wall" and "lose their creativity" etc is usually because they didn't build a proper photographic foundation in the first place.

Creativity is about breaking boundaries. Before a person can break boundaries, he must know the boundaries. The way to learn the boundaries is the old fashioned way of going to school and assisting. Today, most people are convinced that they can teach themselves all they need to know about photography. Unfortunately, self-taught people have giants gaps in knowledge and these lacunae eventually prevent them from advancing.

Bottom line: The main reason that people hit walls and run out of ideas is because they are self-taught. Most people that learn in a formal environment, like school, or on a set as an assistant usually have more ideas than they actually have the resources to shoot. Beware of the pitfalls of DIY photography education...There is a darkside and it can lead to lots of pain and frustration over time.

Are you kidding me?