How to Boost Your Photographic Creativity

Architecture can help you boost your photographic creativity

Street photography, can be daunting. I take an interest in the architecture as I walk. Buildings are like art, full of shapes, and tones, and colours.

Architecture can offer a lot of variety in composition, and give you the opportunity to experiment with different settings.

Many photographers get into street photography. It’s an easy access situation, a bit stressful, but offers all types of opportunities to practice your chops.

Group of people in a Hurry, Berlin 2021. Sean P. Durham, Berlin
Group in a Hurry

The problem is, on a bad day it can feel a bit flat.

There are various ways to overcome the bad days, those moments when you feel too tired to see anything interesting.

.When I look at architecture, I ask myself questions. ‘What did the architect want to do, and how were they hindered by the engineering process? What couldn’t they do, where are the compromises?’. Questions about what you’re looking at help you to lock in on various aspects of an object, visually.

Architecture is basically art with bricks. Some architects get a free hand at experimenting, so we can end up with some strange looking buildings. They’re great for photographers, maybe not so nice for people who live in the building across the street.

Days when the sun is shining, you can see the stark relief between shadows and brightness, which are more inspiring that those dull days when everything appears flat.

When the dullness of a day makes everything appear to be the same tone, and uninspiring, look upwards and focus more on what’s causing the problem; the clouds. You’ll probably find that there are some pretty interesting greys, and yellow tones along the skyline. It depends on the time of day, and year. The sky can be an interesting motif to photograph because it changes constantly.

If you want to stay home with your camera.

A fascinating thing is still life. It gives you the opportunity to practise everything about photography that is important. Colour, form, composition, or go full classical and create beautiful compositions of fruit.

Still-life can be anything. There are no rules, at all. You can make a composition of your mobile phone and a cup of coffee, and it’ll look great if you get the light, form and colour right — or black and white.

Saturday morning. Still Life Ironing Board and Iron. Copyright; Sean P. Durham, Berlin 2021,
Saturday morning. Still Life Ironing Board and Iron.

Try thinking in terms of small objects against larger objects for contrast in composition, balancing shapes against each other. Three grapes, an apple, then a curved object like a banana, a towel as a backdrop, and natural light coming through the window. You can create fantastic shots, and learn a ton of things about how versatile your camera is.

Black and white photography is also great fun. It’s about working with monochrome tones. It eliminates the problem of garish colours that get in the way of your flowing forms and shapes. The challenge is to balance the tones, so you are training your mind to recognise tone values.

Candid Moment at a Wedding, 2021. Lumentus Gmbr Photography, Berlin. Sean P. Durham
Candid Moment at a Wedding, 2021. Lumentus Gmbr Photography, Berlin.

Black and white photography also teaches you how to deal with colour. The tones are colours, so when you go back to photographing in colour, you’ll notice that you have a better appreciation of how various colours are set-off against each other. Contrasting, or harmonious, etc.

When you think about it, we take shots of people, and objects, but we have no control over which colours are on offer, so we do our best in post processing to tone them down. Black and white is a discipline all by itself.

There’s a never ending path to follow in photography. It only becomes boring when a person expects the camera to do all the work for them. Challenge yourself with an everyday object and try to make a great photograph out of an ironing board with a shirt hanging off it, or a steaming cup of coffee. Everything is interesting.

Enjoy, and be creative.

What is Creativity