Jan 14, 2021
3 mins read
OK, there are some rules that you should definitely follow (like not driving down the wrong side of the road or stealing your friend's dessert after you said you don't want to order any). But, when it comes to creativity my advice is to learn the rules, at least the most basic ones, and then put them in the back of your head. Forget about them. (All this is in reference to personal photography. Commercial creative world is a whole other discussion.)
Don't consciously think about them or feel like you must keep referring to a written code of conduct in order to allow yourself be creative. I have seen so many people who have been taught to do things a certain way and they feel so uncomfortable to break out of it; I've seen people take their indoctrination and turn it into a habit they religiously follow when in reality all it does is quash any attempt at experimentation and spontaneity.
There are certain rules that you should learn, for example, how to use and look after your equipment if you are a photographer, but the majority of creative rules, such as, the actual "rule of thirds", will generally follow what your creative eye would naturally settle on anyway. It's useful to learn about them but don't let it stop you or turn you into someone who keeps interrupting their own flow just to keep things in check. Trust your instincts a little bit more. However, the only way to keep decreasing the margin of error is not to carry a rulebook around with you but simply focus on practice, practice, and more practice. Shoot, shoot, shoot, edit, more edit, review, and repeat.
The more you engage in your creative endeavours, the quicker you'll stop thinking about rules and you will rely more on your own ability to create things that align with your vision. We can watch a million YouTube videos on how to create a perfect street silhouette image but if you don't go out and practice, the chances are you'll never capture it. What you need more so than rules is the actual time to put into developing your creativity. It sucks, yes, but if you want to get better you actually need to put in the hours as with any other activity, such as, exercising, DIY skills, cooking.
You need to be there, in the moment, looking around, creating compositions with your eyes, waiting for it or searching for it... but it can't be done in the comfort of your home with an instructions list printed out next to your keyboard. You need to be out there, even if it's just at your own home, and you need to keep doing it, make errors, learn, repeat, and grow. Take advice from others (like myself, hehe) but the advice will be no good if you don't push yourself to actually go and do it.
All boils down to this recipe:
Understand the ground rules
Review whether you already include this in your work naturally because it's likely that you mostly do
Break the rules because it suits and appeals to you at that moment and time but also understand why you choose to break them
I know majority of my images aren't technically perfect nor will they ever be but that's okay because when it comes to personal photography, I shoot for myself. I prefer reacting to moments and going with the flow because to me photography is not a technical exercise, it's a creative one.
Don't let the equipment or rules RULE you—instead, allow yourself to be more playful. Trust me, it's fun and it can surprise you. Sure, you may end up with 100 shit images but at times, there will be that one that you just could not plan, that one that you could no anticipate or describe.
Enjoy creativity because it's freeing; we already have enough of pressures in the outside world, we don't need that to seep into our safe space, whether you enjoy photography, film making, drawing, poetry or anything else.