Creativity, as photographers we hear that word often; but what exactly does it mean to create? According to Merriam Webster one of the definitions of create is: to produce through imaginative skill. So, how can we put our creativity and imagination into practice?
One of my favorite ways is to do a concept session. Concept sessions can be simple or elaborate. The heart of this method is to take an idea, a theme or even just a word and bring it to life. Working in a group can be really helpful. We, as artists, feed off each other’s ideas. Recently I realized a natural process has emerged when I am working on a creative project.
SELECT YOUR CONCEPT
Your idea can start as one word and transform into a multiset idea for a larger theme. Choose your word or theme, think of as many visual cues as you can for it and write them down. Let’s take the word circus as an example: spotlight, ring, big top, red, ringmaster, backstage, popcorn, … you get the idea. What overall imagery stands out to you? Choose a deadline for your project and write it down. We all work better with a deadline looming.
PLAN YOUR CONCEPT
Research, daydream and outline your overall look. As photographers we are visual people, so creating a mood board with colors and magazine tear outs helps us to hone in on a particular vision. Now is a good time to put your creative team together. Do you need a makeup artist and hairstylist? If you are working with a group, a Pinterest board allows everyone to share their ideas and inspiration. Just remember, you are not trying to copy your inspiration images, but to create your own spin on the theme. Draw out your ideas. Your drawings don’t have to be fantastic, I use stick people to transfer my ideas of posing and lighting onto paper.
TURN YOUR CONCEPT INTO REALITY
Time to buy props, attire and do a location scout. Your mood board is an excellent way to keep you focused. Scour online sites, thrift stores and retailers to find the right wardrobe and props. Simple ideas can be created in a space as small as a five-foot wall, but other ideas require more elaborate backdrops and possibly a location. If you are new to the creative process, I recommend starting with a simple set so you are able to work quickly and see your idea come to life.
REVIEW YOUR CONCEPT
The day before your creative session, double check everything, just as you would for a client session. Check your batteries, memory cards, lighting, lens choices and be sure you have the wardrobe and all the other items you need. I learned this the hard way. One time I was so focused on having the perfect wardrobe and jewelry loaded and ready to go, I drove an hour to a creative shoot with friends and completely forgot my camera! Thankfully one of my friends loaned me hers, but you can bet I now pack my camera bag the night before.
Finally, it is time for your creative session! Experiment and capture your subject from as many different angles as you can, use different poses and different lighting styles. Creative shoots are the perfect opportunity to have fun and try new things. Think about it as an adventure and see where your creativity takes you.
Melissa Vaughan is a natural light portrait photographer based out of Dallas, TX. Melissa Vaughn Photography specializes in Family, High School Seniors, and Fashion photography. She enjoys capturing true life moments that her clients will want to hold on to forever. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, crafting, and interior design.