………….The Art & The Craft of Photography…………. _________Part 7 Creativity Conclusion________

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The secret sauce for extraordinary images

Has Creativity as its main ingredient

This is no surprise since the very definition of Creativity

Implies ideas & results that are – New & Original

New & Original are the antithesis of Ordinary

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The 7th in a series  on fine art photography

How to make images that are creative?


Channeling Monet (Previously – Monet Made Me Do It)

Shenandoah NP

Panning camera during long exposure through rain covered windshield

A little bit creative 😉


In the last post we looked at common definitions of creativity.

Creativity – some definitions

  1. A mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts
  2. Being able to “think outside of the box”; taking a new perspective
  3. Original or unique thought
  4. Combining old ideas in new ways
  5. Using things that are available for all to see but making something unique from them

Common definition themes – New, original ideas (not better tools)


How are the thoughts contained in these definitions translated to photography?

1st – Master your craft’s skills (camera and compositional skills)

There ARE NO SHORTCUTS – maybe 10,000 hours

Read this article for more – Masters Don’t Tweak

Thinking “outside” the box first requires knowing the boundaries of the box

2nd – Learn the “rules” for craftsmanship and composition

AND – recognize that there are NO RULES, just guidelines

A “new perspective” requires knowing the old as a start

3rd – Here’s the punch line – using your mastered skills & rules only leads to well crafted and composed ordinary images

Look at the creativity definitions again

How can you possibly apply the same “rules” that everyone else knows & uses and not make anything other than a competent but otherwise ordinary image??

This is the image where a judge remarks – “If I had a dollar for every time I saw that image, I’d be a millionaire.”

It took me a year of competing to understand

The world doesn’t need yet another mountain reflected in a pristine lake – even if you do for your wall.

There’s nothing wrong with that trophy image but recognize that the prize goes to the artist who

Makes an extraordinary image of an ordinary subject – and not vice versa

You need to apply new & original ideas to your image making

To make extraordinary images requires taking risks & breaking the rules – this is the first step toward creativity


The artist “feels” through creative vision how to use Craftsmanship and Composition in combination to strike an emotional chord

the rest of us stumble along applying “rote rules” like the rule of thirds and striving for “perfect” exposure, focus & color, etc.

The artist “feels” the exposure she wants – which may not be the one the camera’s meter “gives”

Craftsmanship mastery enters here – the artist knows how to “bend the camera to his will” – not vice versa

Correct exposure is the one you want & not necessarily the one the camera gives

The artist senses what should be in focus & what shouldn’t and makes it happen

Ditto camera mastery again

The artist knows the difference between artistic intent and “operator error” and

That when the captured image isn’t “perfect” knowledgeable viewers recognize the difference

When you “break a rule” really break it, don’t just bend it a little

This applies to both craftsmanship & composition

The artist can get to the “heart of the matter” through various craft & compositional techniques – working the subject as necessary for as long as it takes

The artist knows when not to take the shot – not just because of poor light, but because the subject just doesn’t “feel right”

Herein lies the unteachable magic – feeling & vision


Can creativity be taught?

Only to a degree

You can learn to be more creative (but that’s all relative to how creative you were to start)

A good way to start learning photographic creativity is to make at least one image every day

That breaks at least one “rule” of craftsmanship or composition

Example – we are taught to hold the camera steady

Make images with the camera in motion – maybe while jumping up & down

How do you think images like the following were “invented”?

Camera Vertical Pan

Camera Toss #477 by Matthew G. Schmidt

If you limit your image making to safe predictable techniques you won’t make any progress. I was surprised that an acquaintance was surprised that “many of Ed’s images are experiments and not attempts at finished captures”. You’ve got to experiment. Einstein’s definition of insanity was – Doing the same thing over & over and expecting the results to change. I may be insane but not by Albert’s definition. 😉

If you’re truly interested in creativity, there’s nothing more this dumb old engineer can tell you as it relates to art. Some of my most creative engineering ideas (some of which you now use daily in your internet lives; my work lives on ;-)) came to me in the shower. Relax and just let your mind wonder (and wander) and something interesting just might come.

Trying to focus on a single solution to a problem isn’t as effective trying to imagine multiple different approaches –

The old saying that There’s more than 1-way to skin a cat applies.

Or ask yourself – is there a better way to….?

Or simply – I want to do “x” differently, what are my options?

This is why “working a subject” is so important. Often it takes me 10-15 minutes just to “connect” with the subject. Past that point, you could set off a bomb nearby and not get my attention. When I’m really connected, it’s almost a “religious experience”.

Most of all – grab your camera and use it.


Part 1 – Overview

Part 2 – What is Craftsmanship & What is Art

Part 3 – Craftsmanship‘s role in Photography

Part 4 – Equipment quality and extraordinary images – related?

Part 5 – Lessons Learned plus the role of Composition

Part 6 – Communication & an Introduction to Creativity


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