No matter how great a photographer is, they had to start at some point. Ansel Adams, at some point in his life, was fumbling around with his first camera, learning the tricks of the trade, identifying how to control his camera settings, and learning how to compose creative and dynamic photos.
You have to start somewhere as well, and working on your creative eye is a great place to begin.
But often, it’s not the creativity aspect that’s difficult for new photographers, it’s simply figuring out how to use their creativity to develop their photographer’s eye. In this article, we offer a few quick and easy tips that will help refine your creative eye such that you make more interesting photos.
Practice – A Lot
It’s a cliche bit of advice, but it’s probably the most impactful advice you can get. Like any artistic pursuit, getting better at photography simply takes time. Snapping a few photos every Saturday won’t cut it. Instead, you need to commit a bit of time every single day to interact with your camera, learn the ins and outs of exposure, experiment with lighting, and exploring your surroundings. In other words, even if it’s for just 10-15 minutes a day, immerse yourself in the creative pursuits of photography. Only then will you begin to expand your creative possibilities.
Quick tip: Get into the habit of practicing your photography skills by taking part in a photography challenge. For example, you might strive to create a different type of photo every day for 30 days or come up with a different photography subject for each week of the year.
Look at Other People’s Photos
Developing your creative eye can even be done while you’re at home sitting on the couch. Buy a few photography books, subscribe to a photography magazine, or go online and view images. Pore over them. Break them down and identify what you like and what you don’t like. Then, determine why you like what you like. Look at technique. Explore things that you might have done differently. Then, as you go through your daily routine, you’ll find that you start to look at scenes with this same critical eye. You’ll soon find that this results in improved photos because you can take what you’ve learned from others and apply it to your own artistic pursuits.
Quick tip: Don’t be afraid to share your images with others so you can get some feedback. No two people view a photograph in the exact same way, so getting an outside perspective on the images you create will only help you grow as a photographer.
Develop a Personal Artistic Style
One of the benefits of getting a lot of practice and examining the work of others is that you’ll begin to identify your personal style. You’ll begin to see patterns in the types of images that are on your memory card. You’ll also note that many of the photos you enjoy viewing by other photographers share certain characteristics. Perhaps it’s the way light is used. Maybe it’s the manner in which the subject is framed in the shot. It could be something as broad as the subject matter – black & white or architectural photography, for example. The point is that once you identify your personal photography style, you’ll find that you’ll be more apt to find creative ways of expressing that style.
Learn – and Break – The Rules
Part of learning how to develop your creative eye is being willing to break convention and create images that don’t adhere to the standard photography rules of thumb. An ideal example of this is the Rule of Thirds. On many occasions – perhaps the vast majority of times – the Rule of Thirds helps you create images that are more organized, balanced, and compelling. But sometimes, as seen in the image above, going against the rule can result in a beautiful image nonetheless.
With that in mind, it’s important to learn the rules, but perhaps even more important to break them. Create a portrait with a background that’s in focus. Don’t include leading lines in a landscape shot. Use a telephoto lens for street photography. Doing so will force you to use your creativity to find new subjects and learn unique ways of framing shots that will help you create more interesting images.
Quick tip: Don’t just break the rules for the sake of breaking them. Instead, be purposeful in the way you compose your shots, that way, even if you break the rules, your image won’t look like it was simply a mistake.
Go Easy When Deleting
Every photographer takes a few moments to cull their photos, and in the process delete all the ones that didn’t live up to their expectations. But in the process of doing so, there often isn’t much time spent examining the photos, but instead, just a few split seconds to determine if they are keepers or not. The danger in doing that is that you might overlook something that might not be that fantastic at the moment, but with some post-processing might turn into a very nice image. In this regard, you’re developing your creative eye on the back-end; you’ve already taken the photo so there’s nothing more to do compositionally, but you can learn how to look at an image and see improvements you can make with some editing.
Quick tip: Sometimes, all that’s needed to transform an image is a bit of cropping. If you come across a photo you think isn’t that great, see how cropping the image might make it more eye-catching.
Learn Manual Controls
Nothing will hold back your creativity more than shooting in full auto mode. Though it can be comforting to know that the camera is making all the decisions for you, the results will never be as good as if you take the reins and make decisions about things like exposure all on your own. Manual mode is scary, to be sure, but as noted above, practice makes perfect, and if you never take control of your camera, you’ll never be able to fully develop your photographer’s eye.
To start, try shooting in aperture priority or shutter priority mode. Experiment with different settings so that you develop an understanding of how adjustments to aperture or another camera setting changes the look and feel of your image. As you shoot, note what changes you make, then inspect the image to see exactly how those changes translate into the visual you create. In doing so, you’ll not only develop a more robust creative eye, but you’ll also gain a good deal of technical knowledge as well.