64% of American adults own a smartphone according to Pew Research Center. Most of these devices have built-in cameras. Most of us want to take better pictures. We can all improve our photo images when we follow a three-step approach to creativity:
Before, During, and After
Vision starts before the work of photography. Vision in photography and other creative work is preparation, ideas, or the result to be achieved.
Composition in photography may be thought of as during image creation. Composition is the process the photographer uses to translate her vision. Vision and composition are the domains of the photographer. Think of composition in other aspects of creative work as development, testing, and application of your idea.
Production may be defined as after vision and composition. Production is your output, the final phase of the creative process. Production is the domain of the viewer in photography, and customer, client, or market for other creative work.
Let’s start with what is required to take better pictures and conclude with how to apply these steps for creative work elsewhere.
Make Better Photographs
Smartphones with built-in cameras have created a cadre of instant photographers. Similar to Polaroid cameras of the 1970s, instant photography is available for everyone with a smartphone. As the ranks of photographers swell and more photographs surround us, many photographers ask, “How do I take better pictures?”
The answer is contained in the question. When we take pictures, we photograph what is seen without interpretation. We accept what is given. When we seek to improve our images, we change from being a neutral observer of an event, to an active participant. We understand photography as an interactive process to make images with meaning. To make photographs with meaning, the photographer begins with vision.
Photography has potential to inspire. To create an inspirational photograph requires vision. A visionary photographer is proactive because she includes meaning in her images. A photographer who takes a picture or snapshot, on the other hand, is reactive, because she only documents facts displayed in the viewfinder. A photographer with vision, therefore, interprets facts and reveals truth about an image. When truth is presented, a photograph provides meaning for a viewer. A viewer is able to apply the truth of the image to the circumstances of his life. Inspiration is the result.
Vision represents the photographer’s ideas, values, beliefs, and is an expression of who the photographer is. Vision is the essence of the photographer and the art of photography.
Harmony of elements in a photograph is composition. The primary element is the subject of a photograph. Everything else is background. Background complements the subject. If the subject is removed, background must stand on it’s own.
The subject is the focus of the photographer’s vision. He is the main character of a story depicted in the image. When a photographer presents subject and story, she provides context and therefore, relevance for viewers of the image.
Composition represents choices the photographer makes to communicate her vision. Composition translates the essence of a photograph. Where vision is the art of photography, composition is the science.
Manifestation of vision and composition for the viewer is production. The photographer produces her creation by hanging her image in a gallery, publishing a book, or by any means to reach her audience.
Where vision is the essence of the photographer and composition is the essence of the photograph, production is centered in the viewer. Unless you are creating photographs to merely please yourself, the final test of creativity is usefulness by others. The photographer asks, “How will my image be produced to translate my vision and composition for the benefit of the viewer?
Production is the photographer’s interpretation of what the viewer of the image wants and needs. The viewer of the image, the customer, or client of the photographer, defines production.
Create New Outcomes in Other Areas of Your Life
When we prepare photographs with vision, composition, and production, we create inspirational images. The lessons of inspirational photography are applicable for other creative endeavors.
What is Your Vision?
Before we create solutions to problems, or innovate to capture opportunities, we start with vision. Begin with your assumptions. Do you take the facts of the situation and react? Or, do you proactively seek alternatives? Edward de Bono describes the creative search for alternatives as “lateral thinking.” We invoke lateral thinking through provocation. When we provoke, we think at right angles to linear thought by asking, “What if this particular something were something else?” For example, if we are looking for creative solutions to downtown parking, de Bono might ask, “What if automobiles didn’t have wheels?”
Does your vision represent the essence of who you are? Is the vision you advocate yours? Is what you see your authentic vision? Does your vision embody who you are and who you desire to be?
What Do You Compose?
During creative work, we ask, “What is the impact of my vision on others?” We examine the context of our vision. We look at our idea as the subject of our composition and background as facts. We ask, “Are elements of my composition (subject and background), balanced and harmonious? How will the truth of my vision benefit others? How will I communicate this truth?”
For example, let’s assume you’re a writer. When writers seek truth, we take facts and make answers to benefit our readers. We ask, “What is the meaning of the story before me? Will the truth of my novel, poetry, or training manual provide help for my readers?”
What is Your Production?
After the diligent work of vision and composition, production is the final test of creativity. A measure of successful production is market acceptance. An example of disappointment in production of a creative vision and compelling composition is the Segway personal transportation device. Segway’s sponsors promised to change lives and revolutionize transportation. Unfortunately, the market for their idea was limited and the product has yet to deliver on its projected goals.
As you look at production of your vision and composition, ask, “Will my idea provide value and be accepted?” If your answer is less than a resounding “yes,” reexamine your vision and composition. Then, make any necessary adjustments and move forward with production.
Grab a smartphone. Take a selfie. Let the picture represent your reactive vision. Are you pleased with what you see? Could you make a different photograph to represent your essence?
What would you have to do to compose your vision for production? Next, proactively create another selfie with the vision, composition, and production you desire. How could you make this happen? Accept the challenge. It’s up to you!
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.