Creativity Kickstart

I know, it’s been a long time. There’s a lot that I’d like to share but I’m still trying to figure out what and how. And as I have the luxury at the moment to not follow any kind of schedule, I’ll do it whenever the time is right. For now, I ‘d thought I’d share some images that I did recently while helping a group of photographers to kickstart their creativity.

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The number one condition to allow creativity is to feel safe to experiment. I always create a license to experiment and screw up by starting each shoot with some safe portraits. Easy light, a slightly longer lens (the XF56mm 1.2 in this case), a relatively close crop (so the pose isn’t that important). This safe portrait is well within my comfort zone but it creates thrust between the model and myself. By knowing I already have something reasonable, I feel a lot more creative and less afraid to try something that might not work.

All the pictures in this post were shot with the Fujifilm X-T3. The shots above were made with the 56mm 1.2 because it’s an "easy” portrait lens. It gives me just the right distance from the model to create a connection without stepping into her personal space. I usually want to end up within this personal space, but it’s something that you need to earn. Therefor I start out with a slightly longer lens. All the rest of the pictures in this post were shot with the good old XF35mm 1.4, still my all time favorite Fujinon lens. It allows me to get closer and work in tight spaces.

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As a first exercise we started playing around to see what we could do with the office hallway overhead lights as a background element. I always stress the importance of just getting started with something. A lot of photographers are afraid to make a bad picture. But it’s often the bad or not so good pictures that lead to better ones.

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I asked the other photographers to choose the spot with the worst light in the area and try to work with it. We found this absolutely ugly part of hallway where overhead blueish fluorescent lights and some window light got mixed with a tungsten spot light on the ceiling. But with some careful positioning of the model and the right exposure and white balance, the ugly spot suddenly got turned into a bit of a fashion studio.

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In black and white, the same “ugly” setup became this old Hollywood glamour light.

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And with a bit of tweaking in Capture One, the set turned into the popular teal and orange look.

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When you think you squeezed everything out of a setup, it’s always a good plan to try to shoot within the same setup from different angles.

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Having access to a lot of gear is great but it doesn’t mean you need to use it all. It doesn’t even mean you have to bring it all. I feel a lot more creative when I keep my camera bag light, small and simple. Less gear choices means you get to spend more energy on the actual picture and the subject. When I use these kind of shoots, I usually bring just a camera, one or two lenses and a flash. I usually don’t bring light stands or modifiers. But just a flash and a trigger give you so much extra options.

When I get stuck creatively, I often resort to the in-camera double exposure setting of my Fujis. It doesn’t always lead to great results but it gives you a break and often makes you find some new interesting angles.

The picture above is an in-camera double exposure. I first took a black and white picture of the model. For the second picture I switched the camera to color and manual focus to overlay an out of focus frame of an area with different colors.

The picture above is an in-camera double exposure. I first took a black and white picture of the model. For the second picture I switched the camera to color and manual focus to overlay an out of focus frame of an area with different colors.

You can change basically all your settings between the first and the second frame. The options and combinations are virtually unlimited. Photography becomes playing and that’s always a good thing to boost creativity.

I ended the shoot the way I started, by shooting some simple safe portraits. Because of the whole plan for this event, our model ended up with mostly weird pictures from a group of creative photographers. As a thank you for her patience with us, I made some additional “nice” portraits for her.

This post may seem a bit random in the whole rediscovery/sabbatical thing, I’ve been sharing with you. I’ve done workshops, videos, articles, lectures on this topic before. It’s not something new. But I’m not just trying to figure what new things that I need to do and what ballast I need to throw overboard. I’m also figuring out what I need to keep on board. Creativity and helping others develop it are definitely something that will stay.