Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

A lot of my work is very conceptual, meaning it is constructing an entire scene and not just taking a picture.

Where do I come up with these ideas? Everywhere is the simple answer, but that isn’t really what most people want to hear. Instead, I want to talk about what to do with the ideas you have.

I’m reading the book The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and she talks about this a great deal. If you really want to explore where ideas come from and how to develop them, I recommend you get this book.

Start With One Idea and Turn It on Its Head.

I’ve discovered that part of my creative style – which is part of my photographic style, but not defined completely by it – is contrast. I like my images to have a strong contrast. Almost every image I shoot gets a significant boost to contrast. I like very directional light, which creates dark shadows – a large contrast between the light and the dark.

This extends into more metaphoric areas.

I like to put together things that don’t normally go together. Like goth girls and swimsuits. Most of the models I shot for that calendar literally did not own a swimsuit. When you think of swimsuit model, you don’t think pale, but that’s what my swimsuit calendar was. Nor do you think zombies, or graveyards.

Develop a Theme.

Recently I got an idea when I was at the Houston Symphony. I saw in my head an image of a female violinist, with the body of a dancer, in a open grassy field. She was nude playing the violin and it was lit by overpowering the sun to creating a dark sky.

I was able later to sum it up as “Fine art nude and fine art music”.

But I still haven’t been able to find the right model, or location to create this image. But I have explored the theme. You’ll see some images I shot of Roxy Vandriver this week exploring the theme of violin in unusual places.

Sometimes the theme can be interpreted in different ways than your original concept.

It Takes Two Ideas To Make One Great Idea

Twyla talks about this in her book. You may have one idea and it might be interesting, but it often becomes a great idea when you combine it with another idea.

Goth swimsuit is a classic example of this. I’ve shot lots of goth models. I always wanted to do a swimsuit calendar, but they are pretty stereotypical. Now combine the two and you’ve a great and “original” idea.

If you say you’ve got lots of ideas, but none of them are great, try combining a couple and see what you get.

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