Creative Photo Ideas

by sheilamarie

Looking for some creative photo ideas? Here are some tips for inspiring your creative juices. Find a few ideas to give your photos a little more punch.

Those of us who express ourselves visually often take to photography as a medium with which to explore our world. Taking photos has become so convenient with all the digital gadgets available. More and more people are being bitten by the photography bug.

But all of us can sometimes feel at a loss for how to make a photo that really stands out. We all could use a few tips to keep us focused and to inspire us to create that special photo.

How do you use your camera to express yourself? Here are a few of my tips to keep you exploring with your camera.

Who Influences Your Vision?

How What We See Can Be Molded by What We Feel We Are Supposed to See

In trying to be creative with taking photos, many people try to recreate images they have seen elsewhere. This motive is often subconscious. One sees a really striking photo and then looks for situations or opportunities to take a photo that looks similar.

Being influenced by another photographer's fine work is actually a good thing. Seeing something we admire and trying to do the same thing is how we learn to see better. When Ansel Adams became well known in the 70's, many of my fellow photography students became Ansel Adams wanna-bees.


Developing One's Own Vision

Rather than Copying Another's Vision

Although trying to emulate someone as accomplished as Ansel Adams may have improved the work of many other nature-loving photographers, simple imitation doesn't lead to very original work. In fact, "types" of photographs can often become cliches, just the same way that written repetitions of others' descriptions and metaphors become cliches over time.

What makes a cliche is not the description per se, but the mediation of an image seen through another's eyes. Sometimes one person imitates another who is imitating yet another's vision until what the viewer actually sees is layer upon layer of mediation to the point where the original vision is lost.

What will make a description meaningful and fresh -- whether that image is in words or in a photograph -- is its freshness of vision.

Trying to see something in a new way can be daunting. After all, we are immersed in second and third hand images of the world from the time we first open our eyes. We live in a web of interwoven influences and interpretations of the world, and so we cannot unravel our influences, nor should we. They form the fabric that makes us who we are, after all.

On the other hand, no one has ever seen the world in exactly the same way you do. You are the one who inhabits your body and sees things from your own eyes. Why not make the most of your own perspective and share it with the world? 

How Can I Find My Own Vision?

Learning How to See

If you want to find your own way of seeing, you need to start from where you are right now. Don't wait until you have the perfect equipment. Take what you have available and start using it.

Begin at breakfast. What is on the table before you? Who are you sitting with? What can you see outside the window?

Spend a day walking around with your camera and documenting the most mundane elements of your life. Now that we have digital cameras, you can do this without holding back.

When I first started photographing seriously, I had to consider every frame, composing carefully and selectively, because film was so expensive and developing was so time consuming.

Today, though it's still important to learn to take time to compose your shot carefully, you can also snap more freely and weed out the less successful attempts later on. This gives you the freedom to take chances and to experiment a little.

You may find yourself using your camera more expressively.


Migrant Mother

by Dorothea Lang
Migrant Mother, 1936.
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Do You Enjoy Taking Photographs?

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Yes, I'm snap happy!
PeggyHazelwood on 05/21/2013

I do. I'm not very good at it, but it's fun to capture everyday life in photos.

dustytoes on 10/23/2012

At certain times I can accumulate bunches of photos.

Ragtimelil on 10/22/2012

Love the ease of digital!

Try Unusual Angles

Surprise Yourself with Your Camera

When you are approaching a new subject, or a subject you have taken lots of photo of in the past, for that matter, try to see it in new ways. For example, if you are photographing autumn leaves, you can take the same picture you have already taken a hundred times, or you can try a new approach. Try to think of how those brilliant orange leaves would look to a squirrel or maybe to a caterpillar or even to a bird. 

I live near a lake, which is beautiful when photographed straight on. It is surrounded by mountains. Sometimes they are snow capped. Sometimes the clouds hang low, creating a dreamy, fairyland. On the same day, the lake can look radically different from morning to afternoon to night.

Still, if I take photos of the lake every day for a week, it can be difficult to keep interested if what I do is to stand in the same place or the same area each time. Even walking along the lake and photographing from the bank from different locales can lose its appeal. Here are some cards from my Zazzle store of photos I took from a boat out in the middle of the lake.

What Type of Camera Do You Use?

  Display results
My *NEW* camera is a Canon MarkII 5D. I love it!

History of Photography Links

What a Woman Can Do with a Camera
Article from 1897 Ladies Home Journal giving advice to women photographers.

Canon Cameras Are Top Notch

Take the Plunge -- Takes Great Movies, Too!
Canon EOS 5D Mark II 21.1MP Full Fram...Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Fr...

But I Don't Have Anything Interesting to Photograph!

Finding your own vision for taking photos takes time and lots and lots of practice. You may want to spend days experimenting with angles and lighting without expecting any results, but rather giving yourself permission to just "fool around" with the camera as a way to explore your own vision.

Because of where you live and your ability to take time to use your camera, your way of seeing will be different from everyone else's and so your results will be different, too. Don't fall into the trap of thinking "if only I lived in a more beautiful place" or "if only I had all day to take pictures," because that is self-defeating and will not lead you to a positive experience, never mind photos that will be worth sharing.  

The truth is, just because someone lives in a paradise, it doesn't follow that her photos will be any better than the photos of someone who lives in a ghetto. In fact, wherever you find yourself, there will be a story to tell with your images and there will be things to interpret and to work with. If what you enjoy photographing is people, this will especially be the case. 

But, returning to your breakfast table again, you can photograph any number of things that can make worthwhile images just there where you sit every day. How many ways can you make a photo of your coffee cup, for example? Or what about that sliced orange or the cereal grains in your bowl?

An egg can be a beautiful thing, before and after you cook it.

Your breakfast companion may not appreciate your taking a dozen pictures of her messy hair, but if she doesn't object too much, you could come up with an interesting mesh of locks. 

Photographing the Neighborhood

Close-up of a Basketball Net
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Tips for Photographing Ordinary Things

When you have experimented for a while on your own, try again using these pointers:

  1. Eliminate distracting background.
  2. Get up close to your subject and try to see the lines in a new way.
  3. Experiment using different light -- lighting from the back will put the item in silhouette; from the side may create a shadow.
  4. For a softer light, the best time for photographing outdoors is early in the morning and just around dusk.
  5. Take more than one shot -- if you are manually adjusting the speed and f-stop, take frame shots, i.e. an exposure with more light than you think you need and one with less light than you think you need. This will ensure that you will capture what you are trying to capture.

Good luck with your explorations. Please leave a note below. I love to get feedback.

Updated: 04/15/2013, sheilamarie
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sheilamarie on 05/21/2013

Knowing your camera is key and using it to its best advantage. I suppose you could stand back just a bit from your subject and then crop your photo if what you want is a close-up.

PeggyHazelwood on 05/21/2013

I love trying to get good close up shots but feel sort of limited with my point and shoot camera.

sheilamarie on 02/19/2013

That sounds like the children's story "Make Way for Ducklings." We have some very tame ducks in the town near where I live. I love watching them!

HollieT on 02/19/2013

These are great tips, Sheliamarie. I'm also like Ragtimelil and forget to take my camera. Yesterday I drove to the petrol station to fill up my tank, and low an behold there were four ducks (they'd come to the road from the canal) crossing the road. I mean, they were actually using the crossing and walking amongst the other pedestrians. That would have been a great shot but I didn't have my camera with me. I was kicking myself!

sheilamarie on 10/23/2012

Thanks, koffeeklatchgals. I often do the same, to tell the truth. We need to put a sign up or stick the camera in the handbag we always carry around. People who have cameras on their phones don't have that problem -- unless they forget to take their phones along!

sheilamarie on 10/23/2012

But when you do take it along, you make great photos!

Ragtimelil on 10/22/2012

Good suggestions. My worst habit is forgetting to take my camera!

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