Welcome back to my first blog series all about unlocking your creativity to become a better photographer. In my last post, I talked about one simple exercise you can do to improve your photos without ever picking up a camera. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can begin to uncover your creative voice. No camera required!
Your creative voice is a combination of your experiences and your style.
It is unique to you. Using your creative voice allows you to express yourself in a way that words can’t capture. That’s why I think photography is such a powerful medium.
Sometimes the hardest part about being creative is being comfortable with yourself and what you create. I am always second guessing myself. Thinking that I’m not good enough. That what I am creating is crap. But I put it out there anyway. Why? Because I am always trying to get better. To develop a style that is uniquely me. And that’s what I want for you.
Being open to sharing a part of yourself that has been hidden away can be scary. But it’s an important step in uncovering your creative voice. So don’t be afraid!
So where do we begin?
An easy way to start developing your own voice is to look to others for inspiration.
The first page in one of my favorite books reads like this.
“Every artist gets asked the question. Where do you get your ideas?
The honest artist answers, I steal them.”
Author Austin Kleon writes in his book, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things nobody Told You About Being Creative,” that there are no original ideas and that if you come to terms with that idea then it can free you from the burden of trying to make something out of nothing. This was mind blowing for me!
Think about it – when you want to learn how to do something what do you do? Take a class? Search You Tube? Read a book? However you gather the information you’re looking to someone else to teach you.
When I wanted to learn how to use my camera, I went online and did tons of research. I would find tutorials and practice like crazy. The way that I practiced was copying everyone else. I had a binder filled with pictures from magazines because I wanted to try and recreate them one day (there was no Pinterest then). I also collected photography books and dog eared the pages that had images I loved. I used other people’s photos as inspiration to create my own art.
But there was always this feeling of guilt that someday I’d be found out. And that I’d be called out as a fake or phony. I STILL feel that way sometimes, but reading “Steal Like an Artist,” gave me permission to continue my thievery.
But how the heck can stealing someone else’s ideas help me create my own voice?
So glad you asked. Think about when you were little. How did you learn to walk or talk or sing the alphabet? By copying someone else. You’re not born with your own creative voice. You develop it by learning from others.
In the book there’s a quote from Francis Ford Coppola that sums this up well.
“We want you to take from us. We want you, at first, to steal from us, because you can’t steal. You will take what we give you and you will put it in your own voice and you that’s how you will find your own voice. And that’s how you begin. And then one day someone will steal from you.”
The thing is you’re a unique individual. Even if you tried to replicate something step by step, it’s almost impossible to make a perfect copy. Why? Because you are like no one else. You have your own tastes, experiences, and preferences.
So now that you have permission to be a copycat, who are you going to steal from? Who inspires you? That’s where I come in. I want you to create a Pinterest board. If you’re not on Pinterest, you can also use Instagram as a way to collect ideas. The idea is to create a collection of images that inspire you. Pictures that you’re drawn to and would like to copy one day. Remember, it’s not going to be an exact copy. You’re going to bring your own unique voice to it.
If you’re not on Pinterest, here’s a quick tutorial on how to set up an account. Go to www.pinterest.com, enter your information, and select Sign Up. You can sign up with your email address or an existing Facebook account. Then you’ll be asked to create your first board. Come up with a name that describes what it is. Mine is called Photographers Who Inspire Me. Since this is your first board, Pinterest is going to suggest a few categories for you. You can go ahead and create boards based on what they suggest or choose something else. Now you’re ready to start pinning images.
There are two ways to pin images. You can go to a website and look for a Pin It button on pictures you love. Or you can use Pinterest as a search engine. Enter keywords like ‘family photography’ or ‘candid family photos’ and you’ll be bombarded with tons of eye candy.
Now fill your board with images that excite you.
Make sure you are saving a description to each pin too. Explain why you are saving it. What do you like about it? What are you drawn to? Do you like the way it’s edited? Do you like the pose? Is it the light? Be as descriptive as possible.
Once you’ve filled up your board, take a look at what you’ve pinned. Are there any similarities? What do the images have in common? Once you start to see similarities, you can use that as inspiration.
If you notice that you are drawn to darker, more moody images, light is going to play a big role in your photography. You’ll probably enjoy shooting in your home and searching out pockets of light or experimenting with shadows. If you are drawn to brighter, more cheerful images you may enjoy shooting outdoors more.
One thing to keep in mind.
Developing your creative voice does not happen overnight. And it can change over time. It takes a lot of practice, experimenting, figuring out your strengths and analyzing what works.
“You yourself are unique – you have ways of seeing your world that are unlike those of anyone else – so find ways to more faithfully express that, and your style will emerge.”
When you’ve created your Pinterest board, leave a comment with a link. I’d love to see it!