Breaking Down The Creative Process - Melissa Cowan

16 September 2015 10:57:09 AM AEST

When preparing for shoots, having a strong creative concept is essential, and being able to break that down and communicate your vision is crucial for yourself, your clients and your collaborators.

Before I pick up my camera, I research, experiment and hone my skills in order to plan and execute the ideal shoot.

How do we plan/break down ideas before a shoot?

As a photographer, creating concepts is critical to my image making, and the exploration of this before shooting is essential. I think every photographer differs in the way they plan their shoots, but over time, and as you start do more shoots, you’ll settle into a rhythm that suits you. With practice I have found the best approach for me is to break down the entire shoot into categories, and gather visual aids for each component, and plan my vision before picking up my camera and shooting.

Here are a few tips that help me plan my concepts

1: Research & investigate

Ongoing research enables you to broaden your horizons and develop your tastes. I have a folder on my laptop where I throw anything that catches my eye, whether it’s colour, style or composition, so that when I want to get started on a new concept I can look through this big scrapbook for inspiration. I spend hours stumbling around on the Internet to try and keep up with the latest creative news and designs. It can feel overwhelming when you’re at the beginning of the process and you’re exposed to so much content and so many completed ideas, but it can also give you that push to get stuck into a project and see what happens.

2: Experimentation

Experimentation is incredibly important. Tap into your inner child and play with and explore the first thing that pops into your head, moulding and shaping it until you’ve got something you’re happy with. Some of my best work has been a result of just messing around and letting my creativity flow.

3: Visual aids

Collecting reference shots helps me plan every aspect of the shoot and communicate my ideas as clearly as possible, allowing the people I’m collaborating with or my clients to see my vision how I see it. Visual representation is vital, as everyone’s perception of the project will be different, so I’ll use as many visual prompts as necessary to illustrate my points. Depending how you go about solidifying your concepts, these examples can simply act as a jump-off point, and once you get started and get your collaborators involved, things can evolve and develop in ways you hadn’t originally imagined.

4: Concepts

Concepts and ideas come from past experiences, new experiences, meeting new people or hanging out with old friends. Engaging with other creative people, whatever they’re into, gets you bouncing ideas off each other. The great thing is that the spark can come from random places and at random times, so you could be sharing a bottle of whisky with your mate at 3am and suddenly be inspired by an ashtray full of ciggie butts, or you could get that eureka moment while you’re sitting on the bus or lying in bed.

Ultimately, these are steps that help me communicate and break down my concepts, but this may differ between photographers. Once you settle into your groove, you’ll find what works for you. Creativity is the culmination of experience, ingenuity and originality, and is what sets us apart.

If you like Melissa's work, check out her portfolio and galleries here...

1 Comment

While I'm sympathetic I am a little wary of terms like 'concept" and 'originality' because I think that in too many cases people aren't very clear on what they are trying to say but want to use art-type terms and the terms become an end in themselves. I think the process begins at the other end :

1. Constant criticism of your own work by yourself and trusted judges - not necessarily photographers

2. Use simple terms - composition is a good one and often dismissed as something that everybody can do. Mostly people can't.

3. Get rid of 90% of your gear and work with one lens for a while.(not a telephoto)

4. Shoot only in black and white for three months.

5. Get rid of Photoshop. It's for graphic designers. Use Lightroom and then sparingly.
Comment by David Trembath - 23 April 2015 7:00:52 PM AEST

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