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Six Strategies to Help Creative Photographers

Six Strategies to Help Creative Photographers

I have a question for you: do you ever struggle with new ideas in your photography? Want to be more creative and productive? Maybe it's time to change how you think about ideas and creativity.

I don't know about you, but when I'm working on several important projects at once my brain often feels like a computer running Windows ME without nearly enough RAM. Just like the beloved operating system of old, it is to be expected that there will be a few hiccups along the way. The problem with any system being pushed to near capacity is that quite often compromises have to be made in terms of performance, reliability, or longevity. While these downsides may be tolerated in many other areas of our lives, one place you can't really make these concessions is when it comes to generating ideas and being creative. Your ideas are literally the starting point for everything you do as a photographer and as such should be looked after and nurtured in the same way you care for everything else in your photographic arsenal.

I would hope that most of you are looking after your precious images with a 3-2-1 backup strategy, but do you have something similar in place to help you make the most of the ideas you are regularly having? If you currently only store those thoughts in your head, these ideas really do have the danger of becoming forgotten. If this wasn't bad enough, by not offloading these thoughts from time to time you really do risk stifling your future creativity as your brain grinds to a halt under all the information it is trying to remember. For this reason, if idea creation is something you have been struggling with, maybe it's time to outsource some of that important data storage to a third party. Not only will this free up your brain to generate even more ideas, but being able to see your thoughts all neatly organized in one place will actually help you to make better sense and use of them.

So with that said, if your current strategy for idea management is lacking or maybe you're just looking to change things up a bit, here are a few tactics worth considering.

1. Journaling and Note-Taking

Having a notebook of some kind is still a great way to help organize and document your ideas. If you often draw lighting diagrams or collect pictures you like out of magazines, this is a great option. The only downside of having a physical home for your ideas is that there is always the risk that they could get lost or damaged. If you're still keen to store things on paper then maybe think about digitizing the pages as you go along. This might sound a little excessive but you wouldn't have just one copy of your most treasured photographs backed up, and your ideas should not be treated any differently.

2. Text and Email

Sending yourself a quick email or text message is a good way to stop you forgetting that idea when inspiration strikes. Personally, I'd go for email in this instance as the data can theoretically be accessed from any device. If you want to improve the searchability of these emails I'd suggest you use the same subject line each time. I also think it would be a great idea to incorporate IFTTT into the mix which would allow you to automatically generate a Google spreadsheet of those emails you send.  

3. Cloud-Based Apps

There are millions of apps out there to help with the documenting and sorting of your ideas so you really need to find one that works for you. The main thing is that you're storing your ideas in the cloud so you can access them anywhere. Personally, my favorite for doing this is cross-platform note-taking app Evernote. The app allows you to do just about everything you'd need to document your ideas. Basic notes, audio recordings, attaching photos, and even handwritten doodles can all be used to get your thoughts down quickly. Like everything on this list, make sure you don't rely on just one place of storage for your ideas as even cloud-based apps are susceptible to data loss.

4. Voice Memos

For those who may be too busy to type, why not create voice memos for yourself? I do this from time to time when I get an idea while driving. From there I'll just email or WhatsApp the file to myself for organizing later on. I have music friends who make use of this idea all the time. Again, just make sure you have them backed up somewhere other than just your phone.

5. Folders on Your Desktop

This might sound crazy, but I actually have empty folders on my desktop to help me visualize the ideas I'm working on. Personally, I like to be able to see the various projects I plan on shooting soon. Having a digital representation of this on screen helps me to prioritize which ideas need doing first. For example, just before we moved into the wetter months of the year I made sure all my outdoor shoots were completed long before the weather changed.

Those empty folders soon fill up and become home to the various random pieces of inspiration I find which are related to the particular shoot. If you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, what better place to have your ideas organized then on the screen you look at every single day.

6. Private Tweets

Creating a private Twitter account dedicated to just your ideas is a great way to help get your thoughts out of your head quickly and securely. I have been doing this for the last eight years to great effect and find it a useful place to visit when I'm in need of inspiration. I personally use a third-party Twitter app called Birdshot which allows me to quickly send a tweet to myself in seconds without the need of venturing into the app itself. What I love about using Twitter as a private home for my ideas is that I can access them from anywhere and it involves an app I was already using daily.   

I truly hope one of these suggestions for organizing and storing your ideas appeals to you in some shape or form. I appreciate the suggestions are rather digital based, but as the vast majority of us use technology and having a backup of your thoughts is a wise plan of action, it's no surprise the list favors these digital options.

The best way to document your ideas is in a way which you will actually use. So choose something that you can fit easily into your daily life. The main thing I wanted to get across is the concept of getting your ideas out of your head so you can make better sense of them. Like everything important, having a backup is a good idea too as even the brain can be prone to the odd crash from time to time. Once you start freeing up head space you may be surprised how a simple habit such as sending a tweet to yourself can dramatically improve your creativity.

How do you keep on top of the ideas you have? Do you use any of the tactics above? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Lead image by KlausHausmann from Pixabay.

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Dr Peter Howell's picture

Thanks for reminding me of Windows ME! It was testing to say the least!


Paul Parker's picture

haha, I'd rather have the millennium bug instead...

Dr Peter Howell's picture

WOW! time sure has flown by.

Great ideas Paul. Many moons ago I used to have a dictaphone for that very thing.


Ralph Hightower's picture

Voice memos work. I've thought of solutions, or ideas, on the commute home, in the shower, or staring up at the ceiling trying to go to sleep, and I've left messages for myself on voice mail.

Paul Parker's picture

Great to hear voice memos are working for you, Ralph. A genius idea to leave yourself a voicemail.

Definitely gonna start doing that when I'm driving.

Thanks for the idea : )

Dave DeBaeremaeker's picture

I keep a folder of images that inspire me.

I also keep a list of ideas in a Google Spreadsheet, which is accessible via my phone, workstation, or laptop. Very handy thing, that.

Paul Parker's picture

Thats great to hear Dave, you thought about using There are loads of ways of integrating Google Spreadsheets with it automatically.

I have a few "cool pics" folders too. Used to have them synced up to dropbox...

Robert Bell's picture

Just set up a private twitter account as a digital notebook. thanks

Paul Parker's picture

That's great to hear Robert! I have been using one for 8 years now and its the best thing I ever did...