HOW TO: Survive being creative – Step 3 and 4

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Step 3 – Associate yourself with like-minded people

Need some creative input? Want to discuss ideas or be inspired by others? In order to stay creative and upbeat, it helps if you associate yourself with people who think like you.

This way you will bounce ideas off each other, and share thoughts and experiences. Try to work with other creative people – perhaps hire an assistant for your weddings – try your local photography colleges – there are always people wanting work experience. Talk to graphic designers about your website, etc. – I find just walking into my graphic designer’s studio motivates and inspires me, because there is so much creative energy in there.

Offer to assist on a wedding with a photographer you admire – you will be inspired and motivated just working with someone else who loves photography.

If you love photographing children – organise a day out with a friend who also likes taking pictures, and photograph each other’s children. Plan locations, clothes and a picnic and tell the children they are going to be models for a day!

Bump into people in arty places! I hardly ever work in an office now; I take my “office” to a creative place! I take my laptop and do my emails in a cafe where I know I will bump into other creative people. I hate the solitude of working in an office – it’s so boring! And when I get bored with one place, I can move onto another. I am working at the moment in a trendy wine bar/cafe near my home, where I can meet arty people at the same time! It’s great for networking, and you never know who will pop in; I get lots of ideas just being there. In December I was working in Key West and often sat in an Internet cafe watching the world go by as I worked. I took a photo of the view from my chair and have kept it as the wallpaper on my laptop, to remind me on a cold day, of working in the sunshine! Amazing how relaxed it makes me feel when I see it.

View from one of my "desks"!

View from one of my “desks”!

Try working in an inspiring place – maybe an art gallery, or the lobby of a hotel you would love to do weddings in; provided you are buying coffee and lunch on a regular basis then there should be no problem! Eventually you may even get the opportunity to chat to someone about your work. As you are there often, they are more likely to be interested in you, rather than if you just turn up with your business cards, out of the blue. And you’re a client, so they’re unlikely to ignore you!

Go on an inspiring seminar – it’s a great way to meet people just like you. It doesn’t have to be about photography; it can be any creative subject. I went on a ceramics course last year – my pottery wasn’t brilliant, but being with creative people gave me all sorts of ideas for my photography!

Share your ideas with other creative people – they’ll all interpret them in different ways – and this might even help you improve on your idea, and take you to a different place. Invite a graphic designer friend for a “creative coffee break” – just to chat about ideas – they will probably value it as much as you will.

Above all, don’t be afraid to talk to people! Strike up a conversation with someone in the cafe – if they are a creative person they will probably welcome the distraction! Be aware that they may be focused on something and need to get it finished, but make contact, so that next time you meet in the cafe you can allow yourselves a 10-minute break for creative conversation!

Step 4 – Choose the advice you want to listen to

Creative people are often keen to hear what other people think of their work; obviously because we like feedback, and we like knowing that others think our work is good. However, there is a downside to this – and that is taking criticism, if it is given! Be careful what you ask for, and more to the point WHO you ask!

If someone says something negative about your work – don’t feel you have to give up! Ask yourself whether you rate that person’s opinion? If it is another photographer – what is their work like? Do you admire and respect it? Do they have a point, or do you actually prefer the shot as it is – it’s up to you to decide. Sometimes constructive criticism can help us and make us a better photographer, but you need to recognise that sometimes it is just the personal opinion of the individual looking at your work – they may have a totally different view point.

I’ll never forget the very first seminar I ever went on – where I spent a week with photographers and got totally fired up and motivated by what I learnt, only to have my picture completely slated in a print critique at the end of the week. I decided on the spot that I was useless and would give up photography (despite having had the most inspiring week of my life). Fortunately, I was approached by one of the other lecturers who said, “by the way, that is a fantastic picture”. He taught me to realise that different people have different opinions, and that the guy doing the print critique actually wasn’t my type of photographer at all, so why would he like what I was doing?

Now if someone tells me I could have done something different – I take another look at the picture and decide if their suggestion would have improved it – sometimes I decide it would, and other times I think – no – I prefer it the way it is. Remember, you’re the artist – the final decision lies with you.

Don’t get confused by conflicting opinions on how to shoot pictures – break the rules! Dare to be different – you don’t have to conform! YOU can do what YOU like.

Some people say, "why have you chopped her head in half?" But others say "wow - that's a really different composition!" Experiment and make your own decision about whether or not you like the results.

Some people say, “why have you chopped her head in half?” But others say “wow – that’s a really different composition!” Experiment and make your own decision about whether or not you like the results.

Enjoy trying different things. Don’t worry too much about what other people think! There will always be different opinions – some people will love what you do, and others won’t – that’s human nature. Just believe in what you do, and listen to your intuition (remember Step 1?). Take advice from people you respect, but at the end of the day, make your own decisions about it.

Annabel x


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