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Lost creativity.

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by rjbell, Feb 22, 2012.

  1. rjbell

    rjbell Well-Known Member

    I joined a camera club registered for this forum and subscribed to magazines all in the quest to improve my photography. Has it worked? I'm not sure it has. I've been looking through my old photo's of New York having only had my first camera a few months, and yes there are lots of mistakes i wouldn't make now, but there are lots of rather good ideas, arguable more creative ideas than more recent years. Have i got too bogged down with rules of composition etc... and stifled my creativity? Back then i didn't have or know any rules. Technically i'm more accomplished, but a better photographer? I don't think so.
  2. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    rules are made to be broken
  3. rjbell

    rjbell Well-Known Member

    Yes your right, but it's nothing like the freedom of not knowing them at all.
  4. LargeFormat

    LargeFormat Well-Known Member

    How true. Many the time one sees comments such as "It isn't on a third".
  5. beejaybee

    beejaybee Marvin

    A common experience ... don't worry about what other people say about composition, if you like the picture it's a success. If other people like it too, so much the better.

    Just applying the formula doesn't work ... knowing the formula might help you improve.

    The trend that really bugs me at the moment is doing the composition in post editing i.e. taking an over wide shot & cropping it in an effort to get a nice composition, instead of thinking about the composition before shoving the button. If you find yourself making major crops, either you were using the wrong lens or your brain was in neutral when you were shooting.
  6. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    This is why some people are going back to film...no second chances-although of course even film can be scanned and pp'd-but at least it's an effort to get it right first time on location. Doesn't always work though....
    There are those who will argue that this is why digital is popular/better as it allows more freedom at the processing stage but some old timers continually bang on about getting it right first time:)
  7. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    It's this sort of meaningless cliché that gets my goat.

    No-one in my experience has ever said that you have to slavishly follow the 'rules'. Firstly they are not rules - they are guidelines. They are guidelines that have stood artists of all types in good stead for centuries - far longer than photography. A picture usually looks better if there's a path for the eye to follow; if there's nothing to lead the eye out of the picture; if the main subject isn't dead centre. That's just a fact. Notice that I said usually and not always.

    Stretching an example (probably past it's limit) would you allow your child to drive a high performance car if he/she didn't know the basic 'rules' of driving. of course you wouldn't.

    Yes there are folk who have a natural eye for harmonious composition and don't need to explicitly learn the 'rules'. For them it's innate. They don't have to think about it and they can probably break every 'rule' in the book and still produce something that works.

    Unfortunately for us lesser mortals (in the artistic eye sense) we do need to be guided and we do need to learn how to do it. Otherwise we just produce a child that only a mother could love. :D:D

    Come on folks. It's always better to learn to ski before we go off piste.

  8. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    good I'm glad it gets your goat.
    Because ...well I like an argument...no not really:)
    What it proves is that no matter what others think there are two ways of looking at any photograph...one is with regard to technical aspects and the other is content.
    Far too many people ignore one at the cost of another...or so it is said. A photograph that catches a moment in time say a childs first step doesn't have to be composed to the highest technical degree, however I agree there are shots that require more thought. At the end of the day it is down to you as the photographer to satisfy yourself that you have achieved what you want to achieve.
    As for the "break/ignore the rules"...sometimes just sometimes.....:)
  9. spinno

    spinno Well-Known Member

    btw isn't this a "meaningless cliche".....as well:p:)
  10. MickLL

    MickLL Well-Known Member

    I don't think that you will really be surprised if I agree with pretty well everything you wrote.

    I just get a bit cross with those who argue with deadly seriousness that nothing matters if the author 'likes it'.

    While that's true in a sense it's only true in limited circumstances. Once you take the photo out of the privacy of your family and begin to show it to the world (or at least this forum) then different standards apply.

    You should at least give your audience the courtesy of arranging things to make it easy for them. Using a different analogy - if you wrote a letter or a story you are hardly likely to present the first draft manuscript to your audience. Most self respecting authors would make a fair copy and correct obvious errors. Why would anyone argue that presenting a photo to an audience is in any way different.

    Now to pick up your example. It's patently obvious that some photos stand beyond criticism whatever their faults. Concorde on fire in the air - that sort of thing.

    Continuing with your specific example. Yes it's true that baby's first steps make a precious image. One that Mum would treasure for ever and technical issues don't come into the equation. Or do they? Imagine two images both of baby's first steps. Imagine one has lovely soft window light, the background is nicely diffused giving just a hint of the playpen and the home. Baby is sharp and recognisable except for that one leg that's moving a little during that first step. Nice eh?

    The other though has babies face burned out, the background is a shocking mess with dirty nappies, drying washing, baby is blurred because he's out of focus and there's a very dark shadow from the flash. Yes I'm sure that Mum loves it - but which one would you want to see offered on the forum?

  11. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Interesting discussion.

    I'm inclined to think that I AM a better photographer now than I was six months ago when I embarked on my HNC in photography.

    I think there are two different types of photographer (which is not to say that they don't overlap, but I think there are two sort of base-types) - artistic and technical. I'd say I fall into the first category. I find inspiration in all sorts of things, tend to see in pictures, have a strong sense of composition, like playing with my camera to see what it can do. The college course has forced me to slow down and consider more thoroughly the technical side of things. It has helped me learn to plan a shot and to consider how I could improve it. I haven't lost the arty side though, but where I might have gone out and had great fun experimenting with shutter speeds and apertures and the like, now I understand how they work and what the relationships are and can choose to manipulate things the way I want to instead of it happening by chance. I was always able to look at a shot and know if it worked or not. I could tell you why it worked. Now I can tell you how it worked and choose to do it again if I wanted to.

    I think the argument about whether or not shooting in film rather than digital makes you a better photographer is a little bogus to be honest. Not being able to see what you've shot forces you to think more about what you're doing before you press the shutter. Some people could think all day and still not take a good photograph. And just because digital makes it easy to take fifty photos and hope that one is half-decent doesn't mean you have to. You can choose to slow down, take the time and the care and consider your options and set things up right with a digital camera just as you would have to with film.

    As for whether rules stifle creativity - I don't think so. People often talk about how "free" and "expressionistic" the art is that children produce before they learn about the rules and how they clam up and become afraid to try once you tell them that they cant just make splodges and call it art. Well not everyone clams up - we call them artists. And the fact is, not everyone can be an artist, even though anyone can pick up a paintbrush. The same is true with the written word. Children learning to write stories might have the most amazing imagination ever and come up with a zillion and three ideas for poems and stories and song lyrics and the like. But if you're going to effectively communicate your ideas to other people you need to be able to use language and for that you need an understanding of grammar and syntax. Some people won't ever get it. Some will get it but never write another poem again, and novelists and poets will work with it and create something new and magnificent.

    I'm not suggesting that anyone feeling constrained by all the rules should immediately consider themselves a talentless snapper and give up - far from it. I think the opposite is true. It's perhaps a sign that you're ready to move on to the next stage and start making the rules work for you instead of hte other way around.
  12. LesleySM

    LesleySM Well-Known Member

    I know I am (Okay looking at my contributions to the appraisal gallery you may beg to differ) whereas before I could just think "It looks okay so press the shutter" and am now thinking about where I am standing (Get closer or stand back? Get higher? Lower? Go more to the right? What about the left? What's in the foreground? The background?)
  13. Done_rundleCams

    Done_rundleCams AP Forum Ambassador to Canada

    Re: Lost creativity. I'm lucky .....

    I'm never had creativity to lose ... I've always gotten lucky when
    I've pushed the shutter ........ and, of course, having the camera
    on Continous Drive has always helped me :)

    Whilst this may seem like me being 'self-depreciating'..... it's really the


  14. khmerxbxboi

    khmerxbxboi Member

    what pay the bills. pay the bills. same boat bro... I been doing alot of gigs and small contract work.. losing my creative side ;( but is ok business first.. dont wanna be broke
  15. Yebisu

    Yebisu Well-Known Member

    Re: Lost creativity. I'm lucky .....

    Me, too. ;)

    I find getting an interesting composition quite difficult whether I use rules or not. So I fire away until at a variety of angles until I've got something I'm happy with. It's the beauty of digital I guess!

    And if I feel I've lost the urge to take photos, I travel somewhere new and explore that area for a couple of hours with my camera. It doesn't have to be far, just a train station I've always gone through but never got off at before. Actually one reason why your New York photos might look good is because they were taken in an exciting new environment so you felt inspired to try lots of different approaches.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2012
  16. Done_rundleCams

    Done_rundleCams AP Forum Ambassador to Canada

    Re: Lost creativity. I'm lucky .....

    Hi Yebisu,

    I agree with you (100%) regarding the rules or lack of. Sometimes, I'll spend time
    working on composition, take the shot and be suitably unimpressed ... then, sometimes, I'll take a quick grab shot and it will be... WOW, that's amazing.
    No rhyme or reason to what's going to make a picture work :confused:

    I, also, love (and live) your line about "getting off at a train station that you
    gone through numerous times but never stopped at" ... absolutely brilliant. I
    did that a few years ago and got a truly magical (for me) shot of Vancouver (where
    I live) and the mountains. That is a great idea which I am going pass on to some
    of my customers (I work in a camera shop) who are open to new ideas about photography and shooting :)

    Also, I love your *slurp* and *waiting* shots -- simple, yet, speaks volumes
    and I love your *Fuji reflection* shot .... well spotted and captured.

    Your *slurp* shot reminds me of the following shot I did a few years back in
    a local Chinese restaurant:



  17. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    My first response is - How did you want to improve your photography? Was your original aim achieved? If it was to learn about accepted norms of what a good photographer produces, then by learning that, you may have stifled your creativity.

    What you need now is curiosity, a challenge (either self-set or given) and a time limit.
    Curiosity can come with setting yourself a project to achieve. Whether that's photographing all the houses in your street, emulating a famous photographer's work or photographing all the shopkeepers you can persuade to comply - it doesn't matter, as long as it is something you have to do within a set time period. This may take you out of your comfort zone, but should be worth it.
    The other thing which could work is to do something completely different. Paint that bedroom, dig that pond, go to metal working classes - anything to kick start your creativity in another direction.
    It's boring to hear, I know, that I have been there too. In fact I'm going through a similar patch now. It's why I came in here to take a stab at APOY. Don't laugh! I know when I look back on my own stuff, I am sometimed pleasantly surprised. Hopefully I'll get there again.
    Hopefully you'll get there again too. But don't be too hard on yourself in the meantime.
  18. Yebisu

    Yebisu Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the kind words Jack.

    I actually followed my own advice yesterday. I had a free afternoon so I went to part of town I've never been to before I and just wandered about with my camera. Didn't get many interesting shots but I did get invited into stranger's house for a cup of coffee and a cake. I don't think they get many visitors (especially not foreigner visitors) in that part of town.

    Agree with this. I'm a member of the Guardian Camera Club and do most of their monthly assignments. I enjoy the challenge and it forces me to try my hand at types of photography I wouldn't normally consider.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2012
  19. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    That's great and it was so nice to get that invitation!
    However, I do think your greatest creativity will now come when you set yourself your own project. It's surprising how difficult it is to think of a project, but just sitting down and thinking about it, then starting it, is so very satisfying.
    You play your own tune, not someone else's. :)
  20. gollum

    gollum Well-Known Member

    Rules are guide lines put there to help beginners through the pit falls of photography and they serve their purpose well in that respect. Sounds to me like you are at the cross-roads of moving forward with your work, let go of the rules and think and make photography regardless, if you have learnt the rules they will be instinctive anyway without having to think about them. ;)

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