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4 Simple Ideas to Expand Your Creativity

Creativity ebbs and flows.

But, as Maya Angelou said, the more creativity you use, the more you have. Whether inspiration is proving to be elusive, or you are looking for a new approach to your creative practice, these four simple photographic techniques can help spawn ideas to expand your creativity further.

ideas to expand creativity infrared post processing
An example of a false-color infrared effect made in Photoshop. Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | 1/80 sec | f/4.0 | ISO 250

1. Infrared photography and effects

In infrared photography (technically known as near-infrared photography), film or digital sensors record renderings of otherworldly scenery in wavelengths beyond the bounds of the human eye.

There are a few ways to achieve digital infrared photography. One method is to purchase an infrared filter like the Hoya R72 or the Kenko Infrared R72. These filters block visible wavelengths and permit a small amount of infrared light to reach the sensor.

Another way to achieve infrared photography is with an infrared camera conversion. Camera conversions involve removing a sensor’s hot mirror, a device that reflects infrared wavelengths of light. The hot mirror is then replaced with an infrared filter that blocks visible light instead. Infrared camera conversions can be done DIY style, or by sending the camera off to a conversion company.

ideas to expand creativity
An example of a false-color infrared effect made in Photoshop. Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 24-105 mm f/4L IS USM | 1/60 sec | f/4.0 | ISO 125

If you can’t get your hands on infrared photography equipment, you can also add infrared effects to images in post-production. By making adjustments in editors like Photoshop, imitation infrared effects can alter an image for eye-catching results.

2. Intentional camera movement

In terms of generating ideas to expand your creativity, intentional camera movement is a simple and refreshing technique. Intentional camera movement, or ICM, involves deliberately moving the camera during the length of your exposure for creative effect.

ideas to expand creativity
Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II with extension tubes | 1/320 sec | f/1.8 | ISO 500

The process is simple:

Set your camera to a longer exposure, depress the shutter button, physically alter the camera’s orientation, and review the results. ICM images are rarely exactly the same, which makes the technique a captivating process that emphasizes the physicality and painterly quality of the photographic medium.

3. Creating a photogram effect

Sometimes, a complete change in artistic direction can be a welcome adjustment. Making a photogram is a simple yet valuable insight into the photographic process, and is often one of the first introductions to photography in art class.

The photogram is a cameraless form of photography which usually involves the placement of objects onto a light-sensitive medium like photographic paper. The arrangement is then exposed to light, creating a negative rendering of the objects on the developed paper.

ideas to expand creativity
Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | 1/10 sec | f/4.0 | ISO 1000

Not everyone has access to the materials required to make a photogram. There is, however, a digital process that can be a great way to create a photogram effect.

Collect a handful of objects of different transparencies, arrange them on a flat light source, photograph the arrangement, and make a few adjustments in Photoshop. The project makes for an evocative take on the popular darkroom process.

4. Abstract light trail photography

Abstract photography is a genre that is full of ideas to expand your creativity.

Like ICM, abstract light trail photography encourages the physical movement of the camera by the photographer. By combining the use of a slow shutter speed with camera movement and isolated light sources, luminously-engaging abstracted images can be made.

ideas to expand creativity
Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II | 1 sec | f/2.5 | ISO 100

Wait until it gets dark, grab your camera, and head out to locate streetlights, traffic lights, headlights, neon displays, LEDs, sparklers; anything that emits points of light.

Set a slow shutter speed, focus on a light source, depress the shutter button, and proceed to swing, angle, zoom, rotate, or (gently) shake your camera during the exposure. The process creates intricate light paintings that trace the path of the camera during the exposure.

Conclusion

New photographic techniques almost always stimulate ideas to expand your creativity.

Whether you’re making ICM photography, abstract light tails, infrared techniques and effects, or a simulated photogram series, new challenges and perspectives will help cultivate fresh ideas and hone your photographic skills.