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Becoming a More Creative Photographer

Column by Harold Davis, April 2009 (updated November 2009)

Have you ever had the experience of photographing a subject that many other photographers have tackled? Well, duh, you say, many of us photograph flowers or landscapes or kids or beautiful bodies or even specific sporting events. But the interesting thing is that when the subject is the same, a few photographers usually come away with amazing images, while the rest, even if they are “good” photographers, produce solid B+ images: technically competent, but definitely missing that “secret sauce.”

I think of the secret sauce issue as the photographer’s edge. Every photographer needs an edge. For me, my most important edge is being able to approach subjects and situations with creativity. Sure, understanding equipment is necessary, and having an eye for exposure, color, and composition helps, but without my creative edge I’d just be another photographer in the crowd.

In this monthly series of articles I will show you some of the techniques I use to work creatively. Don’t worry: this is not “woo-woo” stuff. The context for my creativity in photography is generally a specific piece of equipment, technique, lighting, or subject matter. Each article will provide a case study of how I “turned-on” my creative juice in a specific photographic situation—and how you can too. Besides illustrating my own techniques for pumping up creativity, each article will also provide an exercise or assignment, so you’ll know where to start in cooking up your own style of creative secret sauce.

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About the Author

Harold Davis is a photographer and author. His photographs have been widely published, exhibited, and collected. Many of his fine art photography posters are well known. Harold’s images have won a Silver Award in the International Aperture Awards 2008 competition, and inclusion in the 2009 North American Nature Photography Association Expressions Showcase. Harold is the author of The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing (Focal), Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O’Reilly Digital Media) and other books. Harold gives frequent digital photography workshops, many under the auspices of the Point Reyes National Seashore Association. More »

Text ©2009 Harold Davis.

Article revised November 2009.