My success revolves greatly on how well I’m able to deliver upon my promises. When potential clients see my work, they expect at least the same level of work on a continual basis. That’s my promise. The bar is to be always be raised creatively, technically, and emotionally on every shoot I do. That’s what separates the good from the great – the professional from the hobbyist. Anyone can take an awe inspiring image, but not everyone can do it every single time they pick up a camera.
How do you stay creative? Where can you pull inspiration from? How can we all push ourselves to deliver upon our unspoken promises to the rest of the world?
Here’s what I find helps me stay creative and inspired:
10. Surround yourself with creative people
Simple concept. Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Mingle with other creatives and reap all of the benefits.
9. Engage in personal work
I see so many other photographers who burn themselves out by not doing the work they would like to do – rather the work that pays the bills. I understand you need to put food on the table, but when you start to shoot things because you want to, not because you have too, it opens up your eyes. Deadlines, clients, and stress are thrown off the table. Eventually clients will pick up on your vision and actually pay you to shoot the type of work you’d shoot for yourself. It’s a win-win situation.
8. Draw, doodle, and bullshit
Stick figures will do. I try to storyboard all of my controlled shoots. It allows me time to become inspired before the date of the actual shoot. Nothing sucks more then showing up to shoot for a client and not having a clue on what you’re going to do. You can only take so many shots of a couple smiling at the camera before even they start to get bored (and they aren’t the ones out shooting every weekend). Save your sanity and try to storyboard!
7. Laugh at your mistakes
Humor does wonders for your creativity. Don’t get bummed out if you don’t nail every shoot at first. Every famous artist has produced downright terrible pieces of work. It takes a lot of time and effort to be able to consistently shoot at the highest levels. Instead relinquish that negative energy and turn it into something positive. What if you missed focus on something critical? Cut something important out of the frame? No worries. Laugh it off, remain positive, and continually push yourself to artistic betterment.
6. Stay current
Blogstalking, tweeting, facebook lurking, and forum hopping are all great ways of staying current in the industry. The internet is an amazing tool for remaining inspired. With a few clicks of my mouse I’m able to follow up on both my friends and competitors. Check out what others are doing and branch off of it. Like someones style? Reverse engineer it. Check the EXIF data, look at the posing, the light, the location – ask yourself questions. Try to recreate something that has inspired you and make it your own.
5. Set reasonable goals
Short term. Long term. It doesn’t matter. Set reasonable expectations for anything and attain them. It doesn’t even have to relate to photography. Maybe you wanted to wash your car this weekend but couldn’t find the time? Find time. Maybe you wanted to go out for dinner? Get dressed up and go out on the town. The simple fact of the matter is that attaining something after you said you would gives you that added confidence. So go get your swagger on!Confidence is a major gateway to creativity. Walking into a shoot with all of the confidence in the world will put your mind in the right place to come out with exceptional work. Confidence in yourself is as important as confidence in your work. Clients can feel it, you can feel it, and everyone else will too.
4. Study the masters
The “masters” have been coined masters for a reason. Avedon, Ansel Adams, Robert Capa, whomever. Lines. Symmetry. Composition. Moments. Light. Apply the conceptual ideas and ideologies you’ve learned and make them applicable to the modern photographic marketplace.
3. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Remove any boundaries and walls that may cloud your creativity. Throw caution to the wind and don’t be afraid to experiment. Once you nail the “safe” shots, go wild. Your client will be thrilled when they see your final creative vision executed properly!
2. You only live once
Take opportunities as they present themselves. Do something you normally wouldn’t. Have fun! Go on vacation and drive with the wind in your hair! New experience opens the mind for newer and more creative output.
1. Be yourself
Your work is only as interesting as the person creating it! And that’s you! Remember to let down your guard and always be yourself. Remain professional, yet casual. Take a client or potential client out for dinner and pick up the tab. It’s much less formal and allows you to just focus on being yourself. As a creative professional, your clients hire you to be yourself. Don’t lie to them!
I took that photograph a few weeks ago while engaging in a series of personal photographs I took while in the city of Philadelphia.