Look Beyond Photography: Episode 5 “Creating Creativity”

“I’m just not that creative.”  “I wish I were more creative.”  “I have trouble coming up with new ideas.”  Do these phrases feel familiar?

One of most common questions I get asked is, “Where do you get your creativity?”  My honest answer…I really don’t think I am very creative.  It’s something I struggle with as much as anyone else.  In today’s online avalanche of incredible photography and artwork, it’s so easy to look around at what everyone else is doing and then making those comparisons of “I’ll never have their creative eye” or “I could never see the world the way they do.”  But, if you’ve read the last few posts, that’s exactly the point!  We were not created to do what someone else is doing or to see things the way that they see them.  We were created to be individually unique with our own sense of creative freedom!  We have to get out of our jealous and comparative mindsets and start realizing our own creative potentials!

Elemental - Joshua Hanna Photography
Elemental – Joshua Hanna Photography

That doesn’t mean that it’s just the flip of a switch and then before you know it we’re out painting purple dinosaurs riding unicycles in a galactic sea of marbles (which is my off-the-cuff idea of a creative painting).  What it does mean though is that, through creative freedom, we’re enabled to explore our own identity as creatives.  But be prepared, however, because I believe that finding our creative identity is a life-long pursuit.  A true creative is never satisfied with their current state of existence, but is always longing for their next state of “creative enlightenment”.  This is something that non-creatives typically do not understand.  For us, it’s a calling.  It’s a desire that God has placed deep inside…and even more than desire, it’s necessity.  A constant struggle of the mind to create, push forward, create, push forward, and create again.  For most of us, there is no happy medium because the desire to create is always there…even when we’re enjoying the day with family, even when we’re too busy to focus on anything else, even when the ideas are lacking…we desire the creative process.

What do we do when we’re having trouble being creative or coming up with ideas?  How do we push forward when it feels like we’re stuck in a rut?  I try to remind myself of a simple philosophy to live by: “Creativity breeds more creativity.”  What I mean by this is that the act of simple creativity leads to being even more creative.  If you don’t believe that, I challenge you to try it.  In fact, here are a couple of small exercises to try.  First, photograph a common household item.  This could be a lamp on a desk or a banana on the kitchen table…whatever you want.  Now force yourself to photograph that same object in uncommon scenarios.  You may find that coming up with the first two or three ideas is a little tricky, but after the third I would bet that you can easily come up with several more.

I decided to take a break and go through the process again myself.  Just using my cell phone, I took a shot of the remote on the table.  Then looking to put it in an uncommon place, I searched around for a few minutes then decided to put it on top of the lamp and shoot down into the light.  At that point of seeing the light and balancing the remote on the lamp, as I turned toward the kitchen I had the thought of the remote floating over the stove as if it was being “beamed up” by the range hood.  I don’t know why.  It doesn’t make any sense…but it does prove my point!  There’s nothing fancy about these photos or about my crappy five minute Photoshop job, but I did end up with an original idea that I’ve never had before (and all within three photos!)  …and it all started with the first simple act of creativity by looking for an alternate way to photograph something.  Skill, gear, nor experience had anything to do with it.

First shot: Remote on table
First shot: Remote on table
Second shot: Remote out of place on top of lamp
Second shot: Remote out of place on top of lamp
Third shot: Remote beamed up by range hood
Third shot: Remote beamed up by range hood

The second exercise you can try doing to breed creativity is also really simple.  Start with any word (literally any word at all).  Then create a list of ten words where each consecutive word begins with the last letter of the previous word.  Use whatever words first come to mind and don’t duplicate.  For example, I’ll start with the word “rice”:


Now that you have a list, put ideas together to create concepts.  My initial thought after my list would be to create an image of someone with a Polaroid camera attached to a telescope, taking snap shots of enormous starships.  I can honestly say that I’ve never seen an image like that done and I’ve never had that idea before.  It was a spark of creativity that came about as a result of a simple creative exercise.  I would also note how my personality and interests play a role in the concept that I pulled from this list.  There’s several other words there that could be used to influence a host of various ideas, but being the sci-fi geek that I am, I gravitated towards that aspect.  Who we are influences our creative impact.

It’s time to get out of your own head!  Stop psyching yourself out and feeling like you’re out of creative options.  You have been gifted with an incredible mind that is capable of incredible things!  You are unique and have a perspective on things that no one else has.  Practice being creative today, then look for ways to incorporate your unique perspective into your work.  Remember to keep it simple!  Let small acts of creativity build into larger ones.

Lastly, I want to leave you to ponder over this thought:  When considering that “Creativity breeds more creativity”, what if we were to live by this philosophy in other areas of our life?  What if we replaced the word “Creativity” with “Positivity“?  How about “Generosity“?  What about “Kindness“?  “Curiosity“?  What if you replaced it with “Faith“?

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