Creative Limits or How to Inspire Yourself

As an artists, we sometimes get into our comfortable rut of how we always do things.  We use the same lenses or we shoot the same way. We do this because it works and since it “works” we do not need to worry about the outcome. But, this leads to stagnation and boredom.

[blockquote_with_author author=”Orson Welles“] The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.[/blockquote_with_author]

Orson Welles’s quote is one that I have taken to heart. Often times, what I do is to limit myself with the camera , a certain lens or just a certain location that normally would not be a good place to shoot. I will intentional use environmental limitations such as shooting at high noon in the sun. I will  pick something that will push me out of my comfort zone and into someplace where I need to learn something.

I’ll do this with any camera I have at the ready ranging from my iPhone to my D700. I find that with the iPhone my composition becomes very critical since the iPhone is lacking many of the technical tools for adjusting the image when I take it. With my D700 I’ll pick one lens but tell myself that is the ONLY lens I can use. Or I’ll cover up the video screen and tell myself I have only 36 images in an homage to my film days. This kind of shooting really makes me think hard about my images. It makes me slow down and examine the world around me carefully and this is  a very good thing. I learn new things, I learn new skills for myself and for my clients to make better pictures.

Here is a set of images that show the set up  and then my final image using my iPhone.  Normally, the weeds by my house do not draw my attention but in this case, working the angles and using the limitation of shooting into bright light with the iPhone adds to the creativity.  I have drama,  powerful lines and you can  not see the light poles and condos as they are hidden behind the weeds.

Sky scene pull back and final dramatic iPhone shot

Who knew that weeds could be so much fun in photography!  In the second image, I went to Disneyland which is a favorite place of mine to shoot for practice. But, I limited myself to my 16mm fisheye lens. The normal convention is that a fisheye is a limited use lens. A funky lens where you take one or two shots to mix it up a bit.  I really, really like my fish eye because it makes me think and I can get really creative with it as you can see in this shot. I’m using framing of my subject and I’m using the frame to push the eye towards my subject. This shot would have been impossible without the wide angle of the fisheye lens.

Fisheye view of Star Tours at Disneyland
I have taken some of my best pictures while wearing the shackles of artistic limitations. Try it yourself the next time you are at lunch or waiting to pick up the kids at school. Take your camera phone and find something to shoot like the bricks in the wall or the plant behind you. Work the angles and the exposure for drama or details. You will find that you get into a zone and might forget the kids are waiting! I speak from experience on this one 🙂 Take your DSLR and pull out the weird lens you bought in a fit of being the artist and actually use it! If you shoot with zooms, borrow or rent a prime and use that only for a day. Use your flash ON the camera at high noon. Push your limits and you will find yourself pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

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One Comment

  1. marilyn December 29, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    Love this article!
    Ill have to remember this good advice in the years to come (right now my photo eyes are open with curiosity).

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