Raise your hand if you’ve ever solved a problem during 5 o’clock traffic? While reading a book? Taking a shower? Running a marathon or what feels like one?
Last month, I did. I replaced my 9 to 5 with a photography course at Istituto Marangoni Miami. Call it a rut? A creative block? Whatever. I desperately needed three weeks to work through my love/hate relationship with the camera, an issue that’s plagued me since June, and take my mind off my day-to-day work to be completely immersed in creating something different every day. I started the course with a list of general questions I thought were key: “How should I edit my photos?” “What’s the best trick for this angle?” “Lighting?” Instead, I walked out with a changed perspective. One that actually fueled a new creative direction.
(Stay tuned for 2019)
Today I thought I’d share my top 5 takeaways from the course. Even if you’re not a photographer, I think anyone can take something from these next couple of lines.
- Surround yourself with similar people.
Surrounding myself with people who share the same visions as I do pushes me to be stronger, better, faster (ha) and above all, stretches my creative wings. “Like what, Steph?” Let’s say I want to experiment with a new editing style or maybe a completely different creative direction – having the right people in my corner makes all the difference. When you come up with a new idea, you are so so so vulnerable to outside opinions. The last thing you need is someone telling you your idea sucks + potentially derailing something that could be beautiful. Not every great idea is fully baked at inception, but you 100% need to at least try it out to see what works and doesn’t work. Sharing a class with an art photographer from Italy (ciao Fede!), a still life photographer (hola Luisa!) as well as countless individuals and teachers from around the world was incredibly inspiring for me.
- Do your homework.
As in – research! Let’s say you love an era or a subculture like the hippie culture, for example. Don’t be afraid to study the pop culture of that time, collect images, watch films from that era, learn more about what shaped that time period – truly diving head first into something other than Instagram for inspiration. I’ve spent years collecting images from the past and to see a commonality between them all was so eye opening for me. It brought so much more clarity to who I am and what I truly love. I love the 20s and 30s, I love all things feminine, I love being a woman, I love my Hispanic heritage, I love color, I love the tropics… hint*
- Presets are cool but they don’t define you.
Presets are awesome, trust me. They save you time and lots of headaches by making your photos look incredible in seconds. I use a few that Chelsae Anne created specifically for me as well as experiment with my own presets. But! It’s important to note that a preset does not define your work. Your sense of style, your eye, your point of view will say more than a preset. The same concept applies to iPhone vs. DSLR. It doesn’t matter – it’s about the subject in the photo. Creatives need room to experiment and breathe. They shouldn’t be tied down to one specific editing style or iPhone vs. DSLR. Instead, they should be open to trying lots of editing styles! Take lots of shot! (Those of you who have followed my content for years know this is a milestone for me. I’ve held on so tightly in the past.)
Which leads me to my next point – experiment! Don’t be afraid, let me repeat, don’t be afraid of trying something new! I get it. The pressure of impending deadlines, a cohesive IG feed and targets can force you to put this aside and focus on priorities like what pays the bills. But experimenting is integral to the creative process. Start a secret Pinterest board. Wear something different. Write your ideas in a journal. Rent a new lens for the weekend. Allow yourself to go there. Experimenting doesn’t add more work to your plate. It actually challenges you to be more efficient because you’ll arrive at your outcome faster if you allow yourself to let go and breathe a little, instead of rushing and creating something prematurely.
- Stop. Working. Just stop.
This one is my favorite point and probably the most important of them all.
If you want to be creative, you have to chill for a sec. Take time from your day-to-day work and do something completely different or go on a real vacation (sans scrolling iPhone). Give yourself time instead of rushing to mediocre results.
Every time I jet off to a new destination, I find myself re-inspired by every little thing around me. *Textures. Buildings. Everything! Then, the second I come home and hit up my inbox, I’m all fuzzy and disorganized again. Whether creative or not, taking time off moves our minds from being laser-focused to a more broadened perspective (for more creativity). Sleeping eight hours helps unlock even more creativity, especially when your brain just learned something brand new, so literally “sleep on it.” Pausing in the morning – i.e. not reaching for your iPhone the second you wake up – exercises your creative imagination. Taking a three-week photography course – could change everything for you. *another hint
How do you stay creative? Feel free to share your stories below!