Creativity for Photographers

Jul 21, 2023 | Creativity

“Show Notes”

Today’s topic is creativity.

The 5 R’s of Creativity !

  1. Rules

« Learn them

  • Break them
  • Make your own

We take a classic “rule” – the Rule of Thirds.

Initially lean the rule inside out 50 you don’t have to think about it – its internalised.
Then you can move onto the next stage where you purposefully break the rule. In
this case placing objects of interest say in the centre or dividing the frame into


Then the final stage is where your own rule is incorporated into your style. Think

Hiroshi Sugimoto and his work entitled Seascapes. Where the horizon line is in the
centre and he has done this over and over again.

  1. Research

Though | take my lead from academia, research does not need to be “dry” ie dull
and tedious. Though good research is not done via the internet! Far better to go
took bookshops and go to the art department. The vast majority of established
artists and photographers work is not available via the internet it is found in
galleries and books.

Books are a more immersive experience – the touch, the smell, the weigh etc give a
deeper learning experience. We discuss the classic book Robert Robert-Frank-Les-Americains (1959)

Galleries are great places because you get to see the print up close and you can
see the subtleties of the tones.

When studying these greats think of not HOW yet have taken the photographs but
WHY- a far more interesting question! We go on to discuss movies as they can be a
great source of inspiration – Wenders, Hitchcock and Kubrick as well as good
quality documentaries.

3 Reflection

Give yourself time to really look at your work -what works well what doesn’t. Be
al (in a positive) Print your work out and that will help.

4 Repeat

Don’t be seduced into thinking you need to go to exotic locations to improve your
photography. You will make greater improvements by going back to the same place
over and over again. In this way you can build on your skills in a creative way.

5 Rest

This is different to reflection. It is about giving yourself time just to think and let the
creative juices flow. Sometimes the best ideas come when you least expect


https:/www.sugimotot com/seascapes:


The Genius of Photography – well worth a look,if you can find it!

“Show Transcription”

Marcus: Hi there, Sam. How are you doing?

Sam:  Very good, Marcus.  How about you?

Marcus: Yeah, I’m great, thanks for asking.

Sam:  Excellent. So today’s topic, we are going to be talking in this week’s podcast about creativity. And so, of course, we’re going to refer to Marcus’s expertise in photography, and he’s going to talk to us bit about creativity, a sort of really important topic but one that’s maybe sort of hidden under hidden a little bit and not always talked about so openly. So Marcus, do you want to make a start?

Marcus: I certainly will, Sam. Thank you. Thanks for the introduction. Yeah. So creativity. That’s right.  That’s what we’re going to be talking about. And this is based on a lecture that I used to give to my students at university. So hopefully it’s going to make a bit of sense. The rules of creativity, the five R’s of creativity. Or if you really want to look at it another way, you could say it’s, the five R’s of creativity. Upon there. I can hear groans across the nation.

Sam: Yes. Here we go. Let’s get the Marcus.

Marcus: Okay, so the first one is rules. So I break this up into rules that you need to learn. You then learn to break the rules and then you make your own rules. So what I mean by this is let’s take, for example, a classic rule of photography composition, the rule of thirds. We all know this, I’m sure. So you need to learn this inside out, practice it all the time with the camera taking photographs, using the rule of thirds. So you don’t even need to think about so it’s inert. So it’s innate. It’s basically just you look a scene and you can compose it in that way automatically. Then the next stage in the creative process is breaking the rules. You start maybe moving objects around in the frame so they don’t fit the rule of thirds. You might have a horizon line that might be a quarter way up instead of a third way up. So this is breaking rules. And then third stage in this process is making your own rules. This, of course, is where you become uber creative and you’re not following any guidelines. You’re doing it yourself. You’re coming up with your own style, as it were.

Sam: Okay. But you’ve almost got to go through the basics first and understand the basics so that you know them in the background. So even when you’re breaking the rules, they’re almost there in your head and you’re aware of them even if you’re not following them.

Marcus:  Exactly. Right, Sam. You’ve got to be aware of them. You got to build a foundation with your rules that’s going to give you the foundation for your creativity.

Sam: Yeah, makes sense. Like, I’ve been to a museum and you can see Picassos and they look like a very classical painting, looks like a perfect landscape because that’s what he was doing first, learning the rules before he broke them.

Marcus: That’s a great I’m glad you said Picasso, because obviously we all know one of the world’s most famous artists. But he’s a great person. You can follow his career, his trajectory. When he first started out, his father was an art teacher. He was painting landscapes, pigeons, and they were incredibly lifelike, really high skill. And then, of course, we know what happened next. He got into cubism and so on, and then really then took it onto his own rules and basically reinvented the way we see painting, abstract painting today.

Sam: Brilliant. So go on then, Mark. Number two.

Marcus: Yes. Number two on my list of ours is research. Research doesn’t need to be dry. I know it’s got an academic lean into it, but it doesn’t need to be dry. But what I will say is that the Internet Is not a good place to do research. It’s not deep learning with the Internet. It’s a one way process or being just being fed facts or information. It’s not a great way of really embedding it into your brain, as it were. Far better is to go for a deep dive in these places, which I’m going to go through. Now  First of all, a bookshop. Or if you’re lucky enough to buy books, you can afford it. Even better, photography books can be expensive, in depth research in one particular artist. Now, the reason why I mentioned books is because the way that the art market works, you will not see if you take a famous photographer like we talked about Gregory Martin, we talked about the last show, or Martin Parr. Yes. Basically, you will not see their work in depth on the internet because they make their money. Their market is for selling books, so they contain their work so it doesn’t go on the Internet. Their work is contained. So you need to go and invest in the books. Now, what the great thing about learning from books is that it’s a very deep way of learning. You’re touching the pages, you’re smelling the ink in the book. It’s a much more involved process. So I would argue it’s a much better way of learning and becoming more creative. So a deep dive in one particular artist. I’ll give you an example. Another example is Robert Frank, his very famous book, which came out in the 1950s, Les America. I hope I’m saying that correctly. This is a book that was intended to be read from page to page. Each photograph was a response to the photograph that worked before it and the photograph that would come after it. So it was like a poem. He called it a poem to America. You’re not going to get that kind of feeling just by looking at individual photographs on the internet? No, you have to go to the book, to a library, to a bookshop, and have a look at it and really dig deep into it. The next place to really start doing your studying is in the gallery. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a photography gallery in your neighborhood, even better. If you go to a gallery, you can see the prints as they’re meant to be. It’s not a reproduction on the Internet. It’s not a reproduction even in a book. It’s as they’re intended, as the artist intended. So you can really start to understand the subtleties in a person’s work by seeing it in a gallery hung on the wall. YouTube Documentaries now, I know I am going a little bit back on myself here, but I would say when you’re looking at photography on the YouTube, there are a lot of good, great documentary series out there. And I’ll leave some of the notes, some of the ones that I really have influenced me. But when you’re looking at photography on the Internet, think not how that photograph is being made, but why that photograph is being made. That’s a far more difficult question and a far more interesting question. Why did that photograph take that particular photograph? Another great place to find creativity and get ideas about composition and lighting is by going to see films. Going to see movies, of course, very enjoyable and something I would highly recommend. But choose your films carefully. Go for the more noteworthy directors. Maybe we could call it the More art house. The art house cinema. People like Wim Wenders, Hitchcock, of course, and my personal favorite, Stanley Kubrick, who was a photographer before he became a filmmaker. You look at their films and they are just food for the eyes. About composition. Beautifully framed, beautifully shot, beautifully lit. And in my fifth final one on research natural history programs, I really love the old David Attenborough and all those beautifully filmed shows. And you could just look at those and they just teach you so much about how to fill the frame, how to frame a competition.

Sam: So even though these people are kind of rushing around, they’ve been waiting six days in a swamp, they’ve got 3 seconds for this animal while it jumps out and does something. They’re still thinking about their rule of thirds and their composition, rather than just going, oh, Jesus, I need to capture this quick before it dives back down its hole for the next three days.

Marcus: Well, yes. Who knows what they’re thinking about? It’s great, isn’t it, when they have the end of these shows? How they make them, isn’t it? And you see the techniques involved. But yeah, natural history tends to be beautifully shot. Okay, my next R is reflect in the show we did a little while back about a degree, doing a degree, I talked about the advantage or university or an apprenticeship. Gives you time to reflect it gives you time to think about what you’re doing. Now, I know this comes up an obvious thing to do, but really giving yourself time to do this is really important. So a great time to reflect on your work is if you’re doing a personal project, for example, it’s just taking time to look at it and to think, what is this all about? How does one photograph connect with the rest? Really digging deep. It’s not easy, mind you, Sam, it’s not easy to be reflective on your work. You’ve got to be critical. By that I mean you got to think to yourself, how could I have done this better? Of course, don’t beat yourself up. But always thinking. I do find that I noticed that people really like to receive lots of love hearts on their posts and likes or whatever you call it. It’s great. But is the ego but is it really improving your photography? I don’t know. When I was a lecturer when I was a lecturer, as a student would come into a crit and they’d say to me, I really love my work. The alarm bells would start ringing for me because I knew, I always knew it would not be very good. Came up to me and they said.

Sam: well, they need that self criticism.

Marcus: Exactly. That self criticism.If they would have come to me and said, well, I could have done better. I sort of like what I’d done, but I think I need more work. I knew this was going to be a good .

Sam: I guess there’s always a balance there, isn’t there? Because some people are sort of never satisfied and never happy, and you do eventually have to get the shot and move on. There’s always a balance there, isn’t there?

Marcus: I think that’s a good balance to be. Sam always critical of my own work. I always think, if only I’d done this, if could do this next time. I’m never happy with my own work. You mentioned Martin Parr earlier. I went to a lecture of his, and he’s taken thousands and thousands of photographs, and the person that was interviewing him said, well, what’s your success rate? He says, well, in my lifetime, maybe about ten photographs I’m pleased with.

Sam: Wow. Yeah. Doesn’t it really?

Marcus: So when you’re doing reflection a little way, the little tip I can pass on is to print your work. Make little prints of it. Five by sevens, or whatever we call it. Mackettes little models. Lay them out in front of you, and that would really help you start evaluating your work instead of just seeing it on a screen. It gives you a different value. Okay, my next R is repeat. So you’re better off taking photographs in your neighborhood, your street weather, then going on a holiday. Why is this? Well, look, when you’re on a holiday, you can’t go back. Well, unless you’re very lucky, you can go back. There are a lot of time, but you can’t go back and repeat it. So it’s just you think, oh, it looks great, but what does that mean? You can’t go back and you can’t make it better. You can’t go a different time of day, whereas in your neighborhood, in your street, even though it’s familiar, you can go back and repeat and repeat and repeat. And that’s how you can improve your photography dramatically.

Sam: Okay, so it’s almost like you write, let’s get this one scene perfect. And you try it in the morning, you try it in an evening, you try it in the day, you try it on a cloudy day, you try it when you’re in a bad mood, all of those things. And eventually your kind of work out what works. But then that kind of all stores in your head. So when you’re say, doing your commercial work, you’re at a place, you’re instantly thinking about all of those things, and all of those possibilities are kinda coming in your head at once and going, right, this would work really well at 04:00 in the afternoon when the sun’s down. Maybe I can’t do that, so I’ll Use some lighting to get that right. But your sort of thinking about that experience you’ve gained from going again and again and again to the same place and getting in all sorts of different conditions, moods, different equipment, whatever it is.

Marcus: Exactly, Sam. Exactly. I’m a portrait, I photograph people and people’s faces, their expressions, their movements change constantly and so you don’t have time to think, oh, is that good, is that good? You’ve got to do it instinctively and the way you learn to do anything instinctively, muscle memory is by repeating PvP when I was a musician, is part of what your practice, or daily practice. You repeat things, scales repeat over again, maybe faster, maybe slower, but repetition is something that is often forgot about and it’s really, really important. My fifth topic is rest. I call it rest because I want to R word, but it’s about giving yourself time. This is thinking time, not like reflection but just general time, sitting back and letting ideas come to you. Sometimes you do this late at night just before you go to sleep. I’d sometimes get my best ideas then, but it’s very much in this day and age I notice there’s a lot of pressure on to put content out there, not to procrastinate, I see that we use all the time but I think procrastinating and thinking about things and allowing yourself time is so important.

Sam: Yeah, I think there’s a balance there, isn’t it? Because I know I work with clients and I’m asking them to get it might not be photography, but, like, creative work in terms of blogs out there and things and yes, there’s a balance, isn’t there, between giving your time yourself, time to reflect and to think about and come up with ideas and just putting it off until tomorrow. You’ve got to kind of yeah, I think you’re right, you need that time but you also have to not use it an excuse. It’s got to work both ways to some extent.

Marcus: Yes, time but time is a very valuable commodity and it’s a real gift to yourself. It’s a real gift,

Sam: yes.

Marcus: So use it. Don’t be thinking, oh, I’ve got to do something. It’s not about being busy to Sam, it’s about ideas and creativity.

Sam: and you can set that time apart, can’t you? Like maybe in your week go, right, I’m going to set 2 hours aside on a Friday to do this and then you just go right, I’m going to turn off my phone, I’m going to just sit and this is what I’m going to work on. And then I’ve set the time aside. Marcus Exactly. Okay. And talking about time, I think we’re almost getting to the end of the show. We are time and running out of. are you going to run as a quick go on the mark?

Marcus:  I am indeed. Okay, so the five R’s, we got rules, we got research, reflection, repetition and rest.

Sam: Excellent. Thank you Marcus, that has been really interesting and yeah, it’d be really interesting to delve maybe deeper into those topics in future shows that would be really interesting. But now it’s time for Stat of the day. WordPress websites account for 42.2% of all websites, so there’s lots of website builders out there, but Word Press is almost half of the entire web, which is interesting, which means there’s so many users that there’s vast amounts of really good resources for it. But it also means you do have to keep an eye on security because those hackers can presume that your website is WordPress and 50% of the time that’s up.

Marcus: That quite high figure. I’m quite surprised at that. So who owns WordPress? Is it owned by any company or is that their own company?

Sam: Nobody, no, there is a commercial arm, but largely It’s an open source platform. Yes, just like Linux and Unix and all of these things. It’s the cooperation of a lot of people around the world. There’s obviously fairly tight organized team, there’s a lot of planning and organization goes into it, but yes, it is open source, so it is not owned by anybody, it is a free to use platform.

Marcus:  Fantastic. Thanks Sam, that’s a good stat. Nice one.

Sam:  Excellent. Right, well, I will see you next week, Marcus.

Marcus: See you next week.