Why creative photography is the best form of photography

Mar 16, 2022
Creative Photo Folk
Why creative photography is the best form of photography

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Many photographers use the label creative photography as a broad term to describe the act of making a creative decision when taking a photo. Now as far as I’m concerned every photographer should be making creative decisions. You should always be thinking about framing – what to include and what to crop out, what angle gives the most interesting perspective and applying compositional techniques to direct the eye. Photography is a creative pursuit after all so adding the word ‘creative’ to it seems a bit redundant. And yet I see photographers across many genres referring to themselves as creative photographers. And sure, it sounds fancy, but ultimately it’s a meaningless label because all photographers should be creative. Unless you’re merely snapping memories with your mobile phone.

So what is creative photography really?

Well creative photography is a genre of photography devoted to experimentation. It’s about using interesting techniques to turn your photographs into works of art. And certainly these creative techniques can be used by any type of photographer be it landscape, portrait or any other field but there are also photographers who work in this field exclusively.

So while a regular photographer may spot a pretty flower and take a photo of it, a creative photographer will be thinking – can I add some fairy lights in the background to create interesting bokeh, can I use a prism to refract some rainbow light around, can I spray the flower with water and capture the glistening drops?

Creative photographs capture attention because they’re unique. They’re the photos that stop people scrolling and make them say wow, how’d they do that? They’re the photos that sell because they tell stories and are conceptually different from everything else. And they’re the most fun photos to take because they activate our curiosity. If you want to turn photography into a lifelong passion, creative photography is where it’s at because you’ll never be bored and will always be energised by possibility.

And that’s what lights me up. When I look at a subject I instinctively want to improve it. There’s no challenge in capturing a regular flower. And so when I started learning photography I became obsessed with learning all the creative techniques, be they in camera or Photoshop, because I never wanted to take ordinary photos. And so now I have a library of creative techniques ideas in my head to call on whenever I’m taking photos. I’m not a photographer who points and clicks. I’m an artist who uses photography as my medium. And that ultimately is what makes a creative photographer. We look at a subject and think ‘what if?’

Aspects of creative photography used to be called ‘trick photography’ but that term seemed to fall out of favour some years back with the rise of photo editing. I’m not exactly sure why but I suspect the term ‘trick photography’ implies a level of deception, and as Photoshop composites became more and more convincing, people started to look negatively on being deceived by photography. So while Photoshop composites are accepted within the photography community, that acceptance can quickly turn to anger if you’re trying to pass it off as something that it’s not.

Real or a composite?


So why is creative photography the best genre?

It's really fun to do.

Creative photography is kind of like a science experiment for creatives. It requires the photographer to make, not take by actively improving a scene with props or creative techniques rather than passively photographing whatever is in front of us. And this is a fantastic habit for a photographer to develop because we’re learning how to take photos that uniquely display our subjects in new ways that aren’t easily replicated. There’s also a real sense of pride in knowing you created something, rather than just capturing it.

It’s really fun to learn.

There’s so many dull technical aspects of photography that can drain the joy away. I personally couldn’t care less about the latest and greatest photography gear or gloating about how my lens is bigger than yours. It’s what you do with the gear that matters. When you focus on the technical side you’re operating out of your well-trained logical brain which is not a great place to create images from, whereas taking a creative approach activates our playfulness and curiosity, which is the basis of creation.

And with creative photography there’s always something new to learn. Photography is so endlessly fascinating to me because there’s limitless ways to photograph and edit creatively. It’s a never ending quest for new techniques to try. Every day I see images and think wow, that’s amazing! I wonder if that’s something I could do. And I take the bones of that idea and create something that looks entirely different because while we’ve used the same technique, the subject and conditions are never the same. The possibilities truly are endless.

It guarantees better results.

Thirty minutes is better spent creating one unique photo of a subject instead of spending thirty minutes shooting subjects at random. If a painter spends 30 minutes on one piece as opposed to spending 30 minutes on 15 pieces, which option do you think gives them the best results? This immersion means you’re really learning and perfecting a technique. And not only that, there’s much more enjoyment out of posting one well-crafted photo on socials instead of 30 average photos that don’t really stand out. Plus it’s a LOT less editing.

Having said that, it’s important not to get too obsessed with creating perfect photos every time. Experimentation is a learning process so the more techniques you’re able to attempt, the more you’ll grow and the faster you’ll improve. A study was conducted by a professor at the University of Florida where he told one group of photographers they’d be graded on the quality of the work, and a second group that they’d be graded on the quantity of their work. Can you guess which group produced the best photos? It was the quantity group because they were always experimenting, learning and making mistakes in their quest to produce the most photos. But the key here is that they were trying lots of different things, which creative photography is perfect for. So yes, 30 minutes of mindful creation might be seen as perfectionism, but creative photography encourages you to do that with a vast variety of techniques so every weekend you can be trying something new, instead of mindlessly capturing the same old boring subjects in your local area with no specific purpose.

It can be done anywhere with anything.

So many of us put off photography because the occasion or weather isn’t right but what I love most about creative photography is it can transform even the most ordinary subject into something interesting. I could take any subject in my house right now and with a little thought find ways to shoot it creatively, so there’s possibility everywhere and no chance for excuses.

It makes creativity a habit.

I spent most of my life believing I had no creative inclination. But all of us are creative, whether we draw colourful pictures or creatively problem-solve technical situations. Photography is an interesting hobby because it often attracts more technically minded people who have no natural skills in manual arts such as drawing or painting, which can leave them feeling creatively challenged. So creative photography is such a great way to make creativity a habit, and can easily be approached from a technical standpoint. Once you’ve memorised a few go-to techniques which in nature, are step by step and quite procedural, you’ll look at every subject and wonder how it can be improved, which is absolutely the key to creativity.

It makes us better storytellers.

When you’re assessing a scene and considering how to make it more creative you’re instinctively thinking about what story you want to tell – whether it’s showing us an interesting texture in a macro subject, or placing an object in a landscape to direct the eye and create context. Story is what makes the world go round so learning this powerful skill helps us express our unique vision and makes our images more relatable.

Creative photography is popular and it sells.

A creative technique well executed shows us the world in unique ways and as humans we all crave wonder, so if you show someone something in a way they’ve never seen it before they’re likely to feel awe-struck. This makes creative photography a great choice for prints, book covers and stock photos. And not only that, overall they’re just more popularly received. And when your photographs are interesting to other people, you’re going to feel excited about creating more.

Within creative photography there are limitless genres to make your own.

I know of a landscape photographer who has found his fame by specialising entirely in focus stacking. And a conceptual photographer who solely creates portraits using depth to tell a story. And a portrait photographer who only shoot models with gels. All three of those photographers are household names in the photography industry and if you dig deeper you’ll find many more. You can take any one of the vast variety of creative techniques and turn it into a specialist career.

I’m a logical person but I wouldn’t say I’m technically minded and I love being immersed in the arts but I wouldn’t say I’m overly creative. What I do love though, is variety because repetitive tasks dull my spirit. And that’s ultimately why creative photography lights me up. And it’s why I built my creative photography membership, Creative Photo Folk. I wanted to create a library of all the creative techniques I could think of so at any time, regardless of what I’m shooting, I can quickly pull up a list of techniques for inspiration and give myself a quick refresher on everything I need to know. It’s incredibly useful and I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it for photographers.

So if any of this resonates and you feel like a library of creative techniques would be a helpful thing to have, pop by Creative Photo Folk and see if it’s the place for you.

Learn photography and editing
to transform your hobby into an exciting adventure and your photos into art that sells.

Find out how!