HOW TO: Survive being creative – Step 9 and 10

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Step 9 – Keep yourself inspired and motivated

Creative people need constant inspiration and motivation. If you keep doing the same thing, you are likely to get bored and stuck in a rut.

Don’t be afraid to say yes to something you think you can’t do! Just say yes for fun – that will motivate you to work out how to do it.

If someone asks me to do something interesting which I haven’t done before, I am likely to say yes, because this keeps me fired up and gives me a new challenge. It motivates me to learn how to do something different. I will always try to do it in a different way. I will of course tell the person who asks me that it is not normally something I do, but I’d love to do it my way and see what happens!

There is no point in me competing with say, a top landscape photographer or a top architectural photographer, when I am primarily a people photographer – I just look at the project in a different way and do it in my own style; having suggested alternative ways to the client first. If they are up for something different then we can do it – if they want it done in a specific, traditional way and I can’t change their mind; I would turn down the job. It wouldn’t motivate me to copy someone else’s work, or do something I don’t feel proud of.

I was asked to do some shots of office buildings for a client a few years ago, which really inspired me, because their buildings were so fabulous. I normally took pictures of their staff and the buildings had always been photographed by architectural photographers who showed them from the outside, with straight lines and in perfect architectural form. I would not have been able to do this, because I am just not a technical photographer – and there would have been no point, because they already had those photos, so I looked at the job from a different perspective.

I wanted to show people how it would feel to work in those buildings; to show the little details that the designers had included – like the shapes of the taps, the light in the lifts – the way the sunshine came through the windows and made patterns on the floor of the lobby. It was hugely inspiring and creative, and resulted in shots which the client loved. (I didn’t charge for the first day – they gave me a list of buildings and I went out and enjoyed myself on the basis that if they liked them, I would charge to shoot the rest of their buildings, so they had nothing to lose.)

It's amazing what you can find when you look closely at the detail rather than the "reality". Left: Shadows on a reception floor Centre: Reflections in an office window Right: Lights in a metal elevator

It’s amazing what you can find when you look closely at the detail rather than the “reality”. Left: Shadows on a reception floor Centre: Reflections in an office window Right: Lights in a metal elevator

If you are given a brief to shoot which you think is boring, but it’s exactly what the client wants – offer to do more – take shots for yourself once you’ve taken the ones for the client – you will be amazed how many times the client loves yours too – and this will motivate and inspire you to take things one step further each time you shoot.

Not everything has to be beautiful to be photographed. You can create the most amazing pictures from the worst of subjects; old metal dustbins, peeling rust and paint. Everything is beautiful if you look at it in a different way. Just take time out to look at things differently and study things with new eyes.

Study the detail and you can create great pieces of art out of the strangest things! Just enhance the images to bring out the colours later.

Study the detail and you can create great pieces of art out of the strangest things! Just enhance the images to bring out the colours later.

You don’t have to wait til you get asked either! Set aside a day, or a couple of hours and give yourself a project. Decide for example, you will only shoot things that are red today! It will give you a focus and motivate you to find things. If you just set out with your camera, often it can be overwhelming – little projects make you think.

Tip: Try allowing yourself to take only 10 pictures of each mini project – don’t cheat and delete! So if you choose red – allow yourself only 10 shots of anything red, then change your theme to lines, say, or texture, shape, or blue and take another 10 shots of that theme. Look at everything from all sorts of different angles, zoom in and out and change your position.

This will really focus your mind on making sure that every time you press the shutter it will be a good picture – you will end up with 10 great shots, instead of 10 average shots that you have to pick the best one from – trust me, it really works!

A "red" day in Greece!

A “red” day in Greece!

Going out and playing like this will really motivate you. It will also teach you to look at detail, which will really make your pictures of people so much better too. Looking at detail trains your eye to see the important things in a photo, and also to spot things which you may want to move from your backgrounds when photographing people.

You don’t need to be in Greece – you can take great shots in a supermarket car park – honestly!

Decide you can work with anything, whatever the background and whatever the weather – and just make it happen.

Check out: 99 Photo Art Ideas, which shows you how to compose shots, get the most of out things you see around you, tweak your images and display your artwork.

Step 10 – Have the confidence to believe in yourself

The biggest single thing that holds creative people back is lack of confidence. I have met so many talented people throughout my career, and this is the thing that most of them have in common. Lack of confidence can be due to all sorts of things – but I believe that creative people are born with it! Secretly inside, we can look at our pictures and think they are really good, but then the worry kicks in and we start to think we can’t do it.

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How may times have you felt like this? On top of the world one minute, and down the next? Many things can knock our confidence; a stray comment from someone, a rainy day, camera failure, being tired and so on.

But you’ve got to believe in yourself to be successful at what you do, or at least pretend to be confident when it matters! That nagging feeling that we are not good enough is actually what makes us better. It makes us determined to keep up, learn more, get out there and improve.

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If you really think your pictures are not good enough, but you want to be a great photographer – then go out there and learn from the people you respect and admire. Chances are that your photos are really good, but you may need direction on how to take them further; which style to drop; which style to pursue – have the confidence to ask someone; send them an email – but remember – only ask people you really respect and who you think will understand you and be on your wavelength – otherwise you may not get the answer you want!

If people are constantly telling you that your photos are good – believe it – and allow your confidence to grow. Determination will fuel your confidence – be determined to be successful and you will be.  Confidence and determination will drive you forward. How good did it feel when you showed someone a picture of their child and they loved it? How did it feel when you sold your first picture? I can remember the first time someone spent a lot of money on my pictures – I couldn’t believe it – I’d only “pressed the shutter”, and someone thought the pictures were good enough to put on their walls! This gave me huge confidence, because I realised that it’s not just “pressing the shutter”, it’s WHEN you press it that counts. I thought, “if someone wants my pictures, then other people will want them”, and this gave me the confidence to develop my business.

Have the confidence to be YOU. You can do anything you want, if you are determined enough.

Creative people are different from other people – whenever you feel worried, or a “normal” person upsets you – read back through these 10 steps and realise it’s ok to feel like this!

That’s what I do, and these 10 steps are my way of telling you what I’ve learnt from experience over the last 25 years – that’s why I am able to feel happy and successful as a creative person (most days!!).

Revel in being creative – it’s a wonderful gift to have.

Annabel x


Check out this blog for more confidence building: Is your lack of confidence holding you back?

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