The Proper Care and Feeding of Your Creativity

The Proper Care and Feeding of Your Creativity

“Great creativity is astonishingly, absurdly, rationally, irrationally powerful.” ~ Andy Hobsbawm

You’re in a rut. Your creativity is gone. You have no time. You’re feeling uninspired. It’s all been done before. You can’t do … whatever … for whatever reason.

If any of these sound familiar (and I bet at least one of them does), you’re likely in need of the creative equivalent to a Vitamin-B shot. Whether your photography is doing well or not, whether you believe you have time for it or not, whether your imagination is spinning its wheels or not – making the time to flex those creative muscles always yields results, even if it’s in ways that you just can’t see right now. Like your body, your creativity needs a little food, water and exercise to stay in shape.

Fun and Creative Photos Woods London ON
A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling a little ‘stale’. After months of nothing but commercial jobs, I knew that I had to take my creative side out for some fresh air. Not to create anything specific or specifically fantastic, just to get out there and “do”. Something, anything … whatever tickled my fancy at the time. So, I set up a day with a local model and we headed out into (what was then) the wonderfully, unseasonably warm outdoors.

I only had the most basic plan in mind: grab some lights and a variety of lenses, a last-minute location and some very general ideas about outfitting for Izzy (my willing test subject du jour). I knew that I wanted to play with the ‘invisible string’ idea (objects suspended with fishing line so they don’t show in the capture) and all I could find immediately handy was an old window frame … so I grabbed that. Add a step ladder and one able-bodied assistant – thanks, Terry! – and off we went to play.

Most of the time, my imagery has a goal: either telling a story or to document something. This time, however, the only goal was to have fun and shoot without any kind of purposeful, preconceived plan of action. We chatted and joked around, set up for the shot in about as random a location as possible and fired off a few frames. I didn’t even know how I wanted to ‘treat’ the images when I was done (and, to be honest, I didn’t care). The only thing on my mind was “hmmn … I wonder what would happen if I did …?” and that was all. It was all about taking the creativity out for a walk and a little fresh air.

Of course, March being what it is in Ontario, we ran out of daylight for the location – not to mention any warmth for poor Izzy – so we ended up setting another day to continue. That time, we went out earlier, drove around to a few locations until we found one that looked promising and carried on as before. We skipped the window in favour of some Easter eggs that Izzy and her sisters had made, traded the forest for a field and completely changed gears on outfitting (when Izzy asked what she should bring, I simply said “surprise me”). The entire set was wonderfully random, free flowing and completely stress-free. Without expectation or a set ‘mission’, we could do whatever, wherever. We even made use of a series of little melt pools on top of a grassy hill. They were there, so … why not?

Fashion Portrait Reflected in Water

And that’s the point of it all: do for the sake of doing, break the mind out of its mould.

“The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears.” ~ Dan Stevens

The take-away here is that ‘creativity’ is like a muscle: it’s only strong when it’s developed. You don’t need a purpose other than to ‘do’ and there’s no finish line to cross. Just head out with having some fun in mind and create whatever comes to mind at the time. Make some mistakes. Try something new. Test some techniques that you’ve seen recently. Give yourself permission to fail, repeatedly and happily. Just don’t make excuses about why you can’t do it and don’t set your expectations for achievement.

Flex those muscles and see what’s there.


Jay Terry

London-based commercial and portrait photographer, cat dad and 8th-generation Canadian. You can reach me during the day at 519-619-3237 or at Cheers!

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