Constrained to Create
There is a common misconception that tells us the more lenses we have, the better spec’d our cameras, the more software we own, the faster our computers, the less constraints we will have and the more our creativity will flourish. “Just think,” we tell ourselves, our spouses, our loan manager, “with this new gear I could really create! I could finally serve my vision! “
Rubbish. If you’re lucky someone will call your bluff. This is where the Artist and the Geek need to sit down, shut up, and get some serious counseling.
Creativity does not flourish in the absence of constraints, it flounders. Constraints not only aid creativity, they are essential to it. Consider Frank Lloyd Wright, no slouch when it comes to creativity, who said, “Man built most nobly when limitations were at their greatest.”
As photographers we begin with the constraint of the frame, and the limits of our technology, but the forces that limit our choices, and therefore force creativity, are numerous. The more you see them as a catalyst to creativity and not a problem to be overcome, the more creative you will become and the less fruitless trips to the camera store you might make. If you’re feeling your creativity stagnating and wishing for a return to that feeling of flourishing creative photography, try getting counter-intuitive and start playing with your constraints. This kind of thinking is rampant on sites like David Hobby’s Strobist – where shoestring budgets force the hand of creativity and remarkable solutions emerge.
Looking to strong-arm your muse back into action? Here’s a couple suggestions.
Pick a focal length and stick with it. Not one lens, but one focal length. Anyone caught using the 28-200mm will be disqualified. Now go shoot.
Determine ahead of time not to use Photoshop. Or determine to use only black and white or your sepia presets in Lightroom.
Shoot faster. Give yourself an assignment and go fast. I mean really fast. Ludicrously fast. The faster you go the more you short-circuit the logical/analytical and force your intuitive side to kick in.
Pick a theme and shoot it. Green. Round. Wet. Texture. Horizon. Sign. Anchored. Free. I don’t know, make something up. The point is not the the theme itself but the constraint it forces upon you, helping you to find new ways to see, prohibiting you from looking in other ways. It focuses you.
Shoot out of focus for a day to help you concentrate on general shapes, light, and colour, rather than specific subjects.
Spend a day shooting anything but the Rule of Thirds.
For every image you make, turn around, 180 degrees, and make another one. Introduce the constraint of serendipity.
Come up with another one all by yourself and share it in the comments. Share the love.