Photographic Creativity

Photographic Creativity

All of us struggle to improve our creativity. Our special guest writer Barbara Bender, a professional freelance photographer and writer, brings us some welcome encouragement to help us fight our fears, and take some creative risks. Enjoy!

Do It Anyway

by Barbara Bender


photographic creativity
© Barbara Bender

In spite of the growing wealth of material to suggest ways to improve photographic creativity, some people have difficulties in this area. While they may be excellent technical photographers, they often claim that they just aren’t very creative.

All of us have the potential to be creative but for many, creativity can be hampered by the fear of disapproval or the fear of failure. Creativity can only flourish in an atmosphere of experimentation, risk taking, playfulness, curiosity and a sense of adventure. It is only possible when the excellence of the final product is irrelevant. Making our photographs in this way is almost impossible if we have these fears and allow them to get in our way.

Often we are unaware that we even have these fears. Becoming aware of them, and acknowledging them is the first step in working with them. Then, in spite of the fears, do it anyway. Take the risk.

A photograph is a visual expression of ourselves and how we feel about the things we see. What and how we photograph can say a lot about who we are. Exposing ourselves in such a way can make us feel vulnerable, and this can be scary. We fear feeling foolish or being perceived in a negative way.

Make the photograph you are inspired to make even if you feel intimidated by the judgments of others. It is difficult to freely play and indulge your curiosity if you feel self conscious and inhibited. Don’t let the fear of feeling foolish stop you from exploring a creative idea. Lie down on the busy sidewalk in order to get an unusual angle for photographing your subject. You might get looks from passersby, but you also might end up with a fabulous image with a different, creative point of view.

Shoot what interests and attracts you, even if you fear that others will disapprove. Don’t let this stop you from photographing items that are not considered traditionally photogenic. Instead, find interesting ways to photograph the really common, mundane things that most people never notice. Why restrict your still life subject matter to vases of flowers or bowls of fruit when the light falling on the roll of toilet paper in a captivating way beckons? Follow your own interests and instincts, even if they are very different than what others are doing. Your vision can be fresh and unique … creative.

photographic creativity
© Barbara Bender

Many of us are afraid to fail, and as a result, play it safe. We continue to “see” and capture our images in ways that have been successful in the past. We use the same techniques that we feel competent and comfortable with when we process our work. We often create excellent images, but after a while, these images no longer show photographic creativity, for us, even though others might praise them. Experimenting with new ideas and techniques when there is little or no certainty about the quality of the outcome can be very scary for some of us. The fear of failing holds us back.

Explore your photographic creativity…

"Make the photograph you are inspired to make even if you feel intimidated by the judgments of others."

Recognize this fear and do it anyway. Photograph subject matter you’ve never worked with before. Get out of your comfort zone. Even if you have no idea how to approach photographing the unknown, experiment with it anyway. Try different lenses and use camera motion techniques that you usually avoid because you don’t feel competent in their use. Play with different shutter speeds and apertures even if you think they may be inappropriate. Shoot in “bad” light and try to figure out how to work with it. Be curious about tools in Photoshop that you’ve never used, and play with them. Use familiar tools in the opposite way to what you normally do, or exaggerate their effects enormously.

photographic creativity
© Barbara Bender

Chances are you will make lots of mistakes and create some really horrid photographs. So what! You will learn, and chances are you may also make some really outstanding ones too. You will never have the opportunity to realize your potential for photographic creativity if your fear of failing and making a fool of yourself prevents you from trying.

You can’t be creative and cautious at the same time. So, feel the fear, and then do it anyway!


About Barbara Bender


Barbara Bender

Barbara Bender is a freelance professional photographer and writer who uses various creative techniques, emphasis on design, and simple, often graphic composition to make photographs which are frequently expressive in nature. Her photographs have been featured in such publications as Nature’s Best Awards Issue, Black and White Magazine, and Color Magazine. A series of articles on photographic Creativity and Playfulness was featured in PhotoLife Magazine in 2010. Over forty-five of her images have been used as book covers for Guernica Editions. As an active member of the Greater Toronto Council of Camera Clubs, she gives presentations and workshops on various photographic topics.


Next, you may want to explore your photographic creativity with some creative photography ideas.