Creative Photo Ideas: Exercises to Stimulate the Imagination

Creative Photo Ideas: Exercises

Looking for some creative photo ideas, and ways to boost your photographic creativity? This page contains a handful of creative photography exercises to flex your creative muscle and stimulate your imagination. They’re not meant to be easy. They are meant to push you.

Creativity. It’s that elusive "something extra" that takes a photograph from "okay" to "wow!" You can master the technical aspects of photography, but without a creative spark, your images won’t get a second look. Creativity can’t be explicitly taught, but it can be encouraged and stimulated.

My Own Experience with Creativity

Many years ago, I was photographing a canola field with my friend. We were out there for a few hours. When I finally came up for air, I felt like I had taken every conceivable photograph of that canola field!

conventional canola
A rather conventional image of a canola field
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

I looked around. My friend was still "in the zone," and I didn’t want to disturb him. What to do? I really felt like I had exhausted all my photographic opportunities. "What the heck," I thought to myself, "I’ll just mess around and have some fun for a while…" Bing! (That’s the sound of a light bulb going off, as my attitude suddenly shifted from "work mode" to "play mode.") I took my camera off the tripod (can you hear another Bing!?) and started to wander around.

The next thing I knew, I had walked into the field a few rows, and was lying on my back shooting up into the sky, with some bits of canola so close to the lens, they weren’t in focus. Which photos do you think were my favorites of the day?

creative canola

“Creative” canola
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

That day, I learned that, at least for me, I often have to shoot my way through all the "expected" and conventional photographs first. When I’ve exhausted those, the trick is to push myself and keep shooting. After all, what’s left after you’ve taken "every" shot? That’s right! You have to get creative at that point to make any more images.

No matter how creative you think you are, if you keep shooting after you believe you’ve exhausted all the possibilities, then you have to be shooting something that’s new – at least to you!

So – my advice to you? When you think you’ve finished shooting, you’ve only just begun. Keep going! You might just surprise yourself with the results.

Here are a few creative photo ideas to get your juices flowing…

Restrict Your Options

Restrict yourself to 1 lens, and go out and shoot for a morning (or an afternoon, or some suitably long period of time). Pick the lens you like or use the least. This is supposed to take you out of your comfort zone, right?

For an added challenge, restrict yourself to a single aperture. If you like to shoot wide open, use f/22. If you are addicted to details, it’s f/2.8 for you!

The Hula Hoop Challenge

No, you don’t have to hold your camera steady while hula-hooping (is that a verb?)! The idea is to toss a hula hoop randomly outside your house.  Now make 20 images while standing within the hoop.

As a variation, try making 20 images of what’s inside the hula hoop (a macro lens may be helpful here!)

Unrelated Objects

Have a friend (not you!) choose 3 seemingly unrelated objects. You must then photograph them together. Push yourself! Make at least 5 different compositions, and get those creative photo ideas flowing!

Get into the Bathroom!

in the bathroom
In the bathroom
© Julie Waterhouse Photography

The bathroom? Yes! It’s one of the last places you’d think of to take your camera. So, get in there and start shooting! (Maybe wait until it’s unoccupied, first!) Shoot at least 10 images.


All too often, people shoot photographs of pets (and children, for that matter) from their own eye level. It’s much better to get down to the level of your subject to shoot a nice portrait.

In this exercise, we’ll try to spark some creative photo ideas by turning things around. Pretend that you are the pet. How would you see the world if you were a dog? A hamster? Shoot 20 images from the perspective of your pet’s eye level. (So sorry if you happen to have a pet snake! Better get down on your tummy! 🙂 )


Connecting with your viewer is all about conveying how you feel about your subject through the photograph. Try to shoot a series of 10 images that express a particular emotion: joy, sadness, hope, … Warning: this one is not easy! Think about how you will represent the emotion. Literally? Symbolically? Streeeeeeetch!

lilies in love
© Julie Waterhouse Photography


You might also be interested in these other creative photo ideas:

Creative Photo Ideas: Part I – Fun with Foil and Food Coloring

Creative Photo Ideas: Part III – Flowers Through Waterglass