Being a “creative” in the true sense of the word requires us to do 2 things. Staying focused and inspired to produce fresh, new work and (and this is the important bit) CREATING art that not only hasn’t been done before but also reflects our unique, individual characters.
The challenge most of us face is that “everything has been done before”, correct?
But how can it? If your art reflects you, your passions and emotions and everything that makes you unique… how can it have been done before?
The key to truly creating is to step away from re-creating. Using brainstorming and mood boarding techniques to tap into the core of what it is that drives you. And using those findings to create images that are truly your own.
Brainstorming is often used by organisations to create group scenarios that encourage their participants to produce new ideas. Techniques such as word association, S.W.O.T. analysis, storyboarding, and numerous others aim to get our brains juiced up in order to solve a company’s problem.
As individuals, we often fail to identify the problem, which leads us to skipping the brainstorming process. The problem being “create new, unique art”. We skip the thinking part and resort to “I like this image, therefore it’s ME and I will recreate it.
Just like creative teams rummage their brains for ideas, we can do the same thing for ourselves. Here’s where to start, how to brainstorm, and how to make a photography mood board.
Before you can flesh out ideas you need to come up with them! So your first and most important subject to research is yourself.
Many years ago I was asked to dig deep and write down what makes me, well… ME. I sat for days, maybe weeks, and wrote down anything from hobbies, things I collect, childhood memories, fears, and passions. The moment I put the pen down my photography work changed forever and I challenge you to do the same before shooting another image!
Live your life with your eyes truly OPEN. Walk around aware of your surroundings. And ask yourself WHY you are drawn to some things more than others.
So you like flowers in images? Why? Because they are pretty? Well, join the other 90% of the population that would agree with that statement. Dig deeper. Is it just “pretty” you’re attracted to or is there more? Maybe it’s colour? Or perhaps, as I learned during my self-exploration, it’s the incredibly intricate patterns created by nature even under minimal conditions! Which isn’t always pretty... And once I realised this I was able to dig deeper and find the same fascination for less obvious things such as fungus and mold. And there is your realisation! It’s not pretty that drives you, you’re so much more complex than that!
...spending hour researching mold!
...creating my mold inspired personal project.
Despite not being in the classic group setup when brainstorming by yourself, there’s pointers that will apply to us as individuals too!
No idea is a bad idea. In order to fully think outside “the box”, the box labelled “crap ideas” has to be non-existent. Have no mental restraints, let your mind run wild without criticism. You think it’s irrelevant that you used to love singing to Madonna wearing your mother’s wedding dress? Write that stuff down…
The more the merrier. Brainstorming is not about quality. Jot down as many ideas as possible, one lame idea might lead you to 3 great ones!
Find patterns. Not every idea is a winner but after a while, you will be able to identify similarities. These help you get a better roadmap toward a great concept!
Although I often do this exercise by myself, there’s opportunities to get other brains involved.
For shoot concepts, I will take rough brainwaves to my prospective team members and invite them to join in. That way an idea gets fleshed out in more than just a photography sense. Makeup artists, clothing, hair and nail stylists can take your initial concept and add their professional input to it.
These were my original thoughts on how to interpret mold into a shoot and here is the makeup artist translating it to her profession:
During your self-exploring brainstorm, ask friends and family for their views, you might make surprising discoveries!
Once your personal themes emerge you move on step 2:
A mood board is an incredibly powerful tool not only to visualise your own ideas but also to communicate them with team members and clients.
Mood boards are a visual representation of ideas and concepts of your shoots. Working in an industry that revolves around images, communicating our thoughts is a lot easier done in a visual, rather than a verbal manner.
While creative teams use these to gather ideas, in a client environment they are used to gain approval and clarity on the direction of a shoot.
A mood board ensures that everyone involved is on the same page, both before as well as during production. This helps to stay on track. Especially with clients that struggle to communicate, I suggest creating a few options to make it easier for them to choose and pick a concept they are passionate about.
As mentioned earlier, I pay attention to my surroundings. Each time something inspires me I store it. Grown-up scrapbooking so to say. On platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram, I have gathered vast amounts of little boards, ready to inspire me in the future.
Often I don’t yet care about “why” something inspires me. This will come to me later. For now, I only know that it does and therefore it gets saved. This can be as precise as “Autumn/ Winter Trends 2020” or as vague as “Facial Expressions”, “Neon” or “90s”.
Being aware of what excites you and constantly gathering and saving the things that inspire you creates a base for future ideas that are unique to you and your photography.
Understanding what you like and why is the key to truly creating your OWN art. Stop getting inspired SOLELY by other photographers and their work, because those images are not “you” and they’ve been done. Find a balance between inspiring images and the things in your life that drive you, regardless of how obscure they are!
I’d love to know what unique things drive you and inspire your work, feel free to share your thoughts with me on @tina_eisen.
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