Creativity in Photography

By Sheri Bélanger

Coordinator of the Creative Challenge Group

Toronto Camera Club

It never ceases to astonish me when photographers say that they are not creative. ‘Creativity’, a late 17th century concept we’ve adopted today, is the ability to make something new or unique that has value. Both ‘new’ and ‘value’ are, of course, subjective. But one thing is indisputable—the uniqueness of every photograph that is taken. No one else has your experiences, nuances, beliefs, and perspectives. Every time you pick up a camera to compose a shot, three factors work together in a synergy of events that create a uniqueness all your own.

The first factor, of course, is you. Everything about you influences the photographs you shoot. Your experiences, beliefs, confidence, perspective, and connection to the subject all come into play as you compose your photograph.

The second factor is your subject. Whether that subject is a person, a rock, or a sunset, you have a relationship with your subject—even if only briefly. How that relationship is portrayed depends on your connection.

The final factor is your audience. Who views the photograph, and when they do so, what are they bringing from their own perspective when they see what you create? It’s the last facet that determines the true creativeness of the photograph—confirms that something new and of value has been made. The individuals who view the photograph are as varied as the photographers. Keep in mind that you will most likely be the first to view your new creation. Judge it not by how others might see it, but by how it makes you feel. If you are not satisfied with it, instead of feeling that you are not creative (which I firmly believe is simply not the case), you might consider that you were not feeling inspired at that particular moment.

Learning to be more receptive to creativity and inspiration takes effort. The most important part of being creative, which you won’t discover in a book or a class, is knowing yourself. What makes you excited to try something new? Do you enjoy tight deadlines and strict rules? Does open-ended exploration bring you into that zone of inspiration? Do you imagine the photograph you want to take and fastidiously plan how to best make it into a reality? Is the moment best captured when you’re confronted with something novel? Are you aiming to photograph something for your own interest and self-satisfaction, or are you aiming to impress others with the image? Maybe a bit of both? No matter which way we find ourselves opening up to our creativity, so long as it gets us there, it is valid and exciting.

Consider the two images below. The first image, “Painted Lady” was very well thought out. From creating the headdress, hiring a makeup artist (Dorota Buczel), painting the background layer, creating Photoshop brushes out of ink splatters–I spent considerable time working on the image. I knew I would be entering this image into competitions.



The second image, “Running away from Home” I created in about ten minutes one day at the studio when I was bored and staring at my keyboard. It made me laugh. That was the motivation behind that image. Both were worthwhile endeavors, and better yet, they inspired me to try something different and new.


There are a variety of sources on line which have great advice on how to increase your creativity. Remember that what works for some may not work for you. Advice that works for me includes the following:

  1. Give yourself permission to play and make mistakes.
  2. Learn your camera the best you can so that when you are in the moment, there is just one less thing to think about.
  3. Do everything you can to explore other individuals work. The best is having the chance to meet other creative individuals, and talk about their art. However, the internet is a rich environment to see many different pieces.
  4. Find a subject you have strong feelings about and go out and photograph it. Your passion will show through.
  5. Talk to children. Listen to their stories. It is a fantastic way to see the world in a whole new light.

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” 
Roald Dahl

Online Resources:

Becoming a More Creative Photographer by Harold Davis

How many of these creative photography ideas can you use?

100 Ways to be a more creative photographer by Tanya Smith