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7 Helpful Ideas to Break Out of a Creative Rut

7 Helpful Ideas to Break Out of a Creative Rut

Creative ruts are something we all go through at one time or another, and they can be frustrating if you are a hobbyist and downright dangerous if you are a professional whose income relies upon your ability to come up with interesting and effective ideas and content. So, what can you do when the creative juices stop flowing? This excellent video tutorial will give you seven ideas to help you get back on track. 

Coming to you from First Man Photography, this awesome video tutorial will give you seven helpful ideas to help you break out of a creative rut. The thing that has always helped me has been placing arbitrary limitations on my workflow. This can be something as simple as only shooting at f/11 for the day or only using square crops in post. The idea is not that these will somehow be a magic key to great photos, but rather that you are forcing your brain to solve the problems created by those restrictions, and in doing so, you reinvigorate your creativity and discover ideas or techniques that you can take back to your normal workflow when you lift whatever rules you have placed on yourself. Check out the video above for lots of helpful tips.

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Use Toys to Push Your Creative Photo Editing

Use Toys to Push Your Creative Photo Editing

As a photojournalist, I often have subconscious blocks against excessive editing that seep even into other genres of photography. That’s why I often try my hand at toy photography when I want to flex my editing muscles.

Toys are literally designed for fun, whether that’s playing with them or photographing them, and so that helps me break free of the limits of photojournalism because they’re not really there to start with. Just check out this guy here who makes art out of LEGO figurines.

Cooperative Subjects

Like the LEGO photographer above says, toys are very cooperative subjects. They’re always there, they don’t move, and generally do what they’re told. That allows for the creative flexibility to try out different lighting setups, camera settings, or lenses. The photo of the famed Enterprise NX-01 from the unfortunately short-lived Star Trek: Enterprise television series started life as a garden-variety Eaglemoss model that looked like this:

Obviously, as a model, it doesn’t do much in the way of lighting up, and it’s clearly set up on a stand. The fact that it doesn’t move though allowed me to focus-stack many photos so that it’s sharp front to back, and then, when I realized that the stand was visible near one of the nacelles, I was able to go back and re-photograph that area with the stand removed. Add a glow to the nacelles and deflector dish plus a night sky photo I had taken a few years earlier, and I have a decently convincing photo of this iconic ship that maybe doesn’t look like a toy on a passing glance. I’d never added these effects in journalism, but it’s fun to cut loose once in a while.

Focus stacking is key to a lot of this photography involving toys. While something like a Nikon D850 can make the photo-taking process that a bit easier with automation, the real magic comes in the software, and for that, I find that Affinity Photo easily beats Adobe Photoshop when it comes to that chore.

A Fun Way To Get the Kids Involved

I have two kids that I’ve been dying to get involved in my photography projects. While day-to-day shooting is not really their thing, when you offer to make art of their toys, then they’re all in. I’ve often turned their toys into passion projects for myself so that I can make them some creative gifts.

I end up shooting most of their toys with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens hooked up via Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R to an EOS R. That said, most macro lenses will work, but I strongly recommend at least that tool to get up close and personal with your subjects. It can make an ordinary dinosaur action figure look like something very menacing if that’s what you’re going for:

And yes, I had some fun with toning and bi-color filters. I was also able to let the kids experiment with a lot of different types of lighting using a Yongnuo YN360 II LED Light Wand that allowed for lots of color and intensity options.

Share Your Photos

Have you made some impressive art from ordinary toys? Share your photos and thoughts in the comments below.

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3 Basic But Essential Tips On Using Creative Apertures For Portraiture

3 Basic But Essential Tips On Using Creative Apertures For Portraiture

Here are some top tips for using apertures to create great portraits indoors and out at any time during the year.

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Creative

Portrait

Photo by Joshua Waller

 

Aperture is very important when it comes to portraiture as it controls how much of the background and foreground is in focus, which has an effect on how much of the focus is on the subject of your portrait. 

 

1. Depth-Of-Field

There is an amount of front and back sharpness in front of and behind the main focus point of your image and this is referred to as the depth-of-field.

The amount of depth-of-field within an image depends on several factors:

  • The distance between the camera and the subject – The closer the subject the more shallow the depth-of-field. With distant scenes, therefore, there is plenty of depth-of-field.
  • Choice of lens aperture – The wider the lens aperture (ie /2.8, f/4) the shallower the depth-of-field, and the smaller the aperture (f/16, f/22) the greater the depth-of-field.
  • Focal length – Contrary to popular belief a wide-angle lens does not give greater depth-of-field than a telephoto lens if the subject magnification is the same. You can test this for yourself. Take a frame-filling headshot with a wide-angle lens (you will have to get close to the subject, so warn them!) and then do the same frame-filling shot with a telephoto – this means backing away from the subject. Use the same aperture for both and you will see that the depth-of-field is the same.

Some cameras come equipped with a depth-of-field preview button, letting you see how much depth-of-field you have before taking the shot, but you can just experiment with depth-of-field and preview the shots on-screen to see what works best if your camera doesn’t have this particular function. 

 

Portrait

Photo by Joshua Waller

2. Photographing People

In terms of portraits, especially outdoors, wider lens apertures are often best because they throw the background nicely out of focus. How effective this is depends on the scene and focal length as well as aperture choice. If your subject is standing quite close to a distracting background even shooting at f/2.8 or f/4 will not throw the background out of focus but bringing the subject forward a couple of metres should work nicely.

If you do use a wide aperture for your portraits, do make doubly sure that the subject’s eyes are in focus. With the shallow depth-of-field created by wide apertures, even a small error can mean unsharp eyes and you do not want that in your portraits.

 

Portrait

Photo by Joshua Waller

3. Bokeh Backgrounds

How the background is thrown out of focus depends on the lens. Bokeh is the term used to describe the pictorial quality of the out of focus blur. Lens design and aperture shape play a large part in how effective its bokeh is, so do try it with your own optics. A good test is shooting a close-up portrait outside against a background with some bright pinpoints of light, ie sun glinting off water, car lights, streetlamps etc.

Of course, you might prefer greater sharpness in your backgrounds and that is when small apertures are used. The important thing is to keep your eye on the background and if it looks messy or cluttered use wide apertures rather than small ones.

 

Portrait

Photo by Joshua Waller

 

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Watch Omega’s Extraordinarily Creative Olympics Ad

Watch Omega’s Extraordinarily Creative Olympics Ad


Watch Omega’s Extraordinarily Creative Olympics Ad 1

Whether or not you’re planning to dive into the festival of sport that is the Tokyo Olympics, do take a moment to enjoy Omega’s wonderfully creative ad, titled Timekeeping and tradition: Omega meets Japan.

The exquisite 60-second sequence (below) uses Imagine Dragons’ 2015 song Dream for the soundtrack cleverly combines elements of Japanese culture with stylish shots of Olympic sports and Omega timepieces to produce something really rather special.

In its own words, the esteemed Swiss watchmaker describes the ad as “a split-screen celebration of split-second precision and enduring Japanese customs.”

The impressive piece of work, which has racked up more than 12 million views in a matter of days, has understandably wowed those who’ve watched it. One person wrote in the comments, “I would call this video perfection. What a beautiful idea about the use of imagery,” while another wrote, “This is an incredibly beautiful commercial. A masterpiece indeed.” Another said it was simply “one of the most incredible advertisements I’ve ever seen.”

Digital Trends contacted Omega to find out which creative agency is behind the ad but at the time of publication we hadn’t heard back.

Including the current event in Japan, whose opening ceremony on Friday, July 23 included several surprises for gaming fans, Omega has served as the official timekeeper at 29 Olympic Games since 1932. Across the decades the company has developed a slew of cutting-edge sports timekeeping technologies, among them the electronic starting gun, touch pads for swimming, and the Scan’O’Vision Myria — a photo finish camera that can take up to 10,000 digital images per second.

To find out more about how Omega has come to lead the field in sports timekeeping, and what it’s been doing to stay at the top of its game, check out  this Digital Trends article that includes comments from Alain Zobrist, CEO of Omega Timing.

Editors’ Recommendations




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How Boredom Can Spark Creative Ideas

How Boredom Can Spark Creative Ideas

There are few more frustrating feelings than boredom, particularly if you need to be creative for a living. However, if you can harness that and make it work for you, boredom can be the catalyst for outlandish creativity you might not have otherwise thought of.

We have all experience mini-ruts. Those times where you just cannot bring yourself to do anything, and everything you would typically do bores you. If you work in any sort of creative industry, these mental blocks can be a real nightmare. There is little said on the topic of how difficult being creative can be when you are expected to consistently churn it out, and incidentally, I’m writing an article on that at the moment. It can be an irritant at first, then it can become all-consuming frustration, and then it can potentially be dangerous if you need to be creative to earn a crust.

Over the years I have developed a number of ways that will help me turn my jaded state into a creative and inspired one, which is the source of the aforementioned coming article. To give one away, however, I will go for a walk or a run and listen to a podcast or audiobook. Music rarely brings about ideas on command for me — though I understand it probably does for most people — but listening to fiction and non-fiction does.

How do you convert your boredom into creativity?

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Why You Shouldn’t Photograph Kittens: Another Creative Excercise in Finding Your Style

Why You Shouldn't Photograph Kittens: Another Creative Excercise in Finding Your Style

Having a photographic style is something you discover through creating a lot of work. It’s retrospective! To be honest, I’m still figuring out my own personal style, even though I’ve been shooting for over a decade now. There are some small tricks to nudge the process along though, but photographing kittens is not one of them.

Kittens

I, for the life of me, can’t seem to find the exact quote. I know Jubal Hershaw says it, and it’s from “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert A Heinlein; anyway, the gist of it is it’s really not conducive to create pictures of puppies or kittens. They’re naturally photogenic and cute, and sure, you’ll end up with cute pictures of baby animals, but they’ll lack narrative. Broadly speaking, of course. I mean, Petrina Hicks has some great images of cats in her series Bleached Gothic, but that’s more an exception than the rule.

Flowers

What we can do instead, is photograph botanicals. So many photographers photograph flowers and plants to great effect, and each one of these artists does so in a way that is uniquely them.

Nick Knight’s roses are the perfect blend of romantic fantasy. Dale M. Reid’s mushrooms are transformational, harkening life and rebirth. In contrast, Robert Mapplethorpe’s flowers are clearly from New York; they’re gritty, rough, and sexual. Whereas Tina Modotti’s calla lilies speak to a certain collectivism. Isamu Sawa’s frail botanicals are detailed and masterfully lit. I could go on and on, but you get the point.

So, why not kittens but flowers? The biggest difference, of course, is that flowers are unanimated — that is to say, they don’t move. So, you can project whatever narrative you want onto them. Images of flowers become less about what they are or what they look like, but how they feel.

The Exercise

What do you do exactly? Well, for starters, get some flowers. And then photograph them. And then think about what you’ve done.

Of course, do it in a way where you have intention and care. Select which flowers or plants to work with. What species speaks most to you? How to light them? How to crop the image? Color or black and white? You can kind of do whatever you want. This exercise is about working with an intuitive intention. That’s a tricky balance to find really; you want to think about what you’re doing and why, but you also want to work in a way that is free-flowing.

Why You Shouldn't Photograph Kittens: Another Creative Excercise in Finding Your Style 2

Why You Shouldn't Photograph Kittens: Another Creative Excercise in Finding Your Style 3
Why You Shouldn't Photograph Kittens: Another Creative Excercise in Finding Your Style 4

Why You Shouldn't Photograph Kittens: Another Creative Excercise in Finding Your Style 5

After photographing your botanicals, though, leave the images for a bit, say a few days or a week or so. When you come back to them, figure out how they relate to the remainder of your portfolio. Do they sit nicely with the other work you usually create? Is there a unique and unified voice between the flower images and the remainder of your portfolio?

Conclusion

Having a style or an aesthetic takes time to figure out. Absolutely do not stress about figuring it out quickly. Doing exercises such as this helps to flex some of those creative muscles to figure out what type of images you create. It’s less about doing one thing or another but rather questioning your creativity. I wish I could impart some grand wisdom here, but this really isn’t about that; instead, use this as a meditation for getting more in tune with yourself perhaps? That’s why this article was more questions than anything; they aren’t things necessary for you to write or answer but rather think about.

As an example, my images above are simple, detailed, and have a certain sadness to them. The plants I created separately from each of the portraits, but retrospectively, you can easily tell that the same person likely authored all of them. I don’t ever set out to make this particular style of photographs; they’re done intuitively. They’re very much an extension of how I view the world.

If you were to succinctly describe your flower images in two or three words, what would those words be? And would you use the same words to describe your broader body of work?  

Title image by Emma Wilkinson. Used with Permission.

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My Secret Weapon for Creative Sliding Shots

My Secret Weapon for Creative Sliding Shots

If you are looking for a compact and travel-friendly motorized camera slider to add some creative and stable shots to your videos, then you need to check out the Zeapon Micro 2 Plus motorized camera slider.

With its small size and double the travel distance, the Zeapon Micro 2 Plus opens the door to a new world of versatility, especially when used with a tripod. It offers up to 4.5 kg or 9.9 lbs load capacity in horizontal, vertical, or inclined modes, which pushes the limit of consumer motorized camera sliders. The Zeapon Micro 2 Plus also offers three different speeds and a handy phone app for setting waypoints, making zooming in and zooming out super simple.

My Secret Weapon for Creative Sliding Shots 6

You can use it without the optional motor attachment, but I highly recommend that you add the Zeapon Motor Module Micro 2 Slider. In real-world use, I found it pretty easy to operate and quite stable. The size and weight are perfect for travel, and the range is better than I have experienced with some larger sliders.

I only have one small gripe: to get the most out of the slider, you will need a tripod head mount like the Manfrotto Ball Head or a Manfrotto Fluid Video Head and Tripod to take advantage of incline or vertical shots.

To see some footage of the Zeapon Micro 2 Plus in action, check out the video above.

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You can Save £120 On An Adobe Creative Cloud All App Subscription

You can Save £120 On An Adobe Creative Cloud All App Subscription

For a limited time, Adobe is giving you the opportunity to save £10 per month, £120 a year, on a Creative Cloud subscription which features Photoshop and other photo editing apps.

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Adobe Photoshop CC in Offers

You can Save £120 On An Adobe Creative Cloud All App Subscription 7
 

Adobe is running a sale on its popular Creative Cloud (CC) plan where you can get access to the full line-up of creative apps for £39.95 per month – a saving of £120 a year (usually priced at £49.94 per month). 

The subscription includes Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom along with other apps for design, video and web. In fact, there are over 20 apps included for desktop, mobile and iPad but Adobe Elements doesn’t feature – you’ll have to purchase this as a standalone product from online stores such as Amazon where it’s available for just under £40. 

The CC offer ends on 13 July so there are only a few days left to save yourself quite a substantial amount of cash. 

 

 

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Give Your City Shots A Creative Twist With These 6 Top Tips

Give Your City Shots A Creative Twist With These 6 Top Tips

Thanks to high rise buildings, there are plenty of reflections offering us an alternative view to capture with our cameras in towns and cities up and down the country.

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Architecture

Sky reflected in windows

 

Thanks to modern architecture that favours glass and steel over bricks and mortar cities are full of reflections which give us an alternative way to photograph the places we live in.

 

1. Take A Walk 

You probably already know where you can find buildings with good reflective qualities in your town, but it’s still worth having a walk around at different times of the day to find out when it’s the best time to shoot.

 

2. Time Of The Day 

Surprisingly, with modern buildings bright sunlight can work really well so don’t think your hunt for reflections is only limited to early and late parts of the day. However, weekend mornings are a good time if you don’t want people in your shots but if there are people around, which may include security guards, and they ask you what you’re doing just polity tell them as it’s easier than having an argument and then them calling the police.

If you get a particularly spectacular sunset it’s worth hanging back as the colours look really good when reflected in modern glass. The same goes for blue skies and white fluffy clouds. In fact, if you have a building that stands away from the rest of the high risers you can almost lose it in the sky.

 

3. Make The Ordinary Look Fab

Reflections are a great way of making the ordinary look extraordinary too and items we see every day such as trees, colourful signs and lamp posts suddenly turn into an abstract image of wavy lines, shapes and colour. They also give you the opportunity to photograph a well-known building in a different way.

 

Pizza Shop

 

4. Where To Stand

You can photograph the building almost straight on to produce a simple reflection or see if there’s the opportunity to line up a shot where the real building meets the reflection so you can create a whole building from the two halves. The contrast of old vs new is something that’s always worked well and it’s not something that should be ignored here. A big, glass skyscraper reflecting an old, battered, slightly wonky pub can look really great.

 

5. Converging Vertical Issues

Don’t get too hung up about converging verticals as with some modern buildings they can create an interesting composition. It may distort your reflection though so it’s best to just experiment and see.

 

6. Go Wide & Add Detail 

If you do opt for using wides try giving your image a little foreground detail to fill what can be a big empty space and if you find you have a problem with glare at any time, just adjust your position until it’s no longer in the shot.

 

You’ve read the technique now share your related photos for the chance to win prizes: Daily Forum Competition

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Creative Portrait Lighting Tips and Ideas

Creative Portrait Lighting Tips and Ideas

Once you have the basics of using artificial lighting down, you can start to really explore your creativity and develop a recognizable personal style by exploring more unique ways of using lighting. This quick and to-the-point video tutorial will give a few helpful tips and ideas for creative lighting for portraits. 

Coming to you from Manny Ortiz, this awesome video tutorial discusses some tips and ideas for using creative lighting for portraits. We usually talk about lighting in terms of how to use it to create a correct exposure and to illuminate the subject in a flattering or interesting way, but I think we do not explore how to use lighting to create interesting stylistic effects as much as we could, such as the leaves silhouette Ortiz makes in this video. Once you are comfortable with the basics of lighting your subjects, don’t be afraid to branch out into more creative scenarios like these. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Ortiz. 

And if you really want to learn about lighting for portrait photography, be sure to check out “Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley,” which is currently on sale for 20% off, along with the rest of the Fstoppers store

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