Photography is an approachable and fun hobby, but no matter how good you become in one area, there’s always more to explore. Whether you practice photography in your spare time or are a full-time professional photographer, you’ll want to stay sharp and improve your eyes. Giving yourself a personal challenge or new activity can do wonders for reigniting the creative flame and helping you improve your photography skills. That said, I’ve put together six creative photography ideas to keep you on the path to taking better pictures.
Six Creative Photography Ideas
- Create One Good Photo Every Day
- Limit Your Gear
- Focus on a Single Color or Shape
- Go on a Walk with Your Camera
- Try Something New
- Get Creative with Post-Processing
Creative Photography Ideas #1. Create One Good Photo Every Day
One way to grow your photography is to use a camera every day to create one good image. This method, referred to as the “365 challenge,” has been around since the early days of digital photography and is a great way to force yourself to create on a regular basis.
Many of us create at least one or two images regularly. For example, I might snap a cute photo of my dog doing something silly. These are what I call “memory photos.” They exist to make me happy and document something in my life I can look back on and smile. Creating art is different. It takes intent and purpose to photograph something that looks beautiful, but the photo doesn’t need to be of anything extraordinary.
Food for Thought
Let’s say you prepare a beautiful meal and want to photograph it for your photo a day challenge. Instead of snapping a quick shot of your dinner, consider the following creative photography ideas and take a few moments to place it in nice window light, clean up the plate a bit, be aware of your surroundings, and be deliberate with your composition. It’s easy to grab your phone and do a quick snapshot, but try to create something more. Take a photo you would be proud to share on social media or your website.
While you’ll want to do your best to get a good photo every day as part of the 365 challenge, it’s also important to not overthink it or put too much pressure on yourself. If you create photos every day, it’s practically a guarantee that you’ll create many beautiful images. For example, if you go out to photograph the sunset every single night, you probably won’t have fantastic clouds and gorgeous light every time. However, if you’re consistent, you’ll eventually catch those few spectacular sunsets.
Case Study: Mt. Hood
In my previous home in Portland, Oregon, I had a “peekaboo” view of Mount Hood through one of my windows, and I was fortunate to see the sun rising through that window as well. I made sure I always had my camera and telephoto lens on hand just in case the view was gorgeous. Because I was always on alert in the mornings, I ended up with some spectacular mountain sunrise images.
Idea #2. Limit Your Gear
Cameras, lenses, and other gear are important and necessary for photographers. However, sometimes, having too much choice can be a bad thing! When I pack for a trip or an outing, I always have to decide (often reluctantly) which lenses to leave behind. While there are certain tools that might work best for what’s in front of you (a macro lens for small objects, for example), if you have too many lenses to choose from, you might miss the shot altogether.
One (or Two) Lens Challenge
One of the creative photography ideas on this list that I practice regularly is to only take one or two lenses with me when I go out with my camera. In fact, if I limit myself to only one lens, it can be even more of a challenge! Sure, I might see some scenes that would be best for a different type of setup.
A New Perspective
For example, if I’m photographing a landscape but only brought a telephoto lens, I can’t capture the traditional scene. However, using only one lens requires me to think creatively and find a different angle. Oftentimes, this altered perspective makes for a better and more unique photograph. You can see how Pye Jirsa, a well-known photographer and educator, approaches this challenge with a 35mm prime lens.
You can also try using a different style of lens, such as a Lensbaby. Lensbaby lenses add a unique blur and come in a variety of focal lengths and blur qualities, and they’re fun to work with. They have a distinct look about them, and you can use them to get some photos you would never have thought of creating because you have such a unique viewpoint.
Creative Photography Ideas #3. Focus on a Single Color or Shape
One easy way to find interesting perspectives is to decide on the color or shape you want to photograph. For example, you can look for things that have blue in them. This can help fine-tune your eyes and make you search for something different. It’s likely you’ll come up with photographs you never would have considered without forcing yourself to look for one particular characteristic. For example, I found a gorgeous little macro scene with flowers on top of a blue trash can.
Searching for a specific shape or angle can also help you see creatively. For this reason, this might feel like one of the more challenging creative photography ideas on this list. It forces you to move around and position a scene to fit what you’re trying to find. You can also look specifically for angles that are compositionally pleasing, such as triangles or curves. Integrating this type of challenge into your photography can not only give you more beautiful photos, but also help you improve your composition.
Idea #4. Go on a Walk with Your Camera
When I’m in a rut creatively or unable to travel, I find that going on a walk with my camera is a nice way to break things up. It also gives me a photographic activity to pursue. When I lived in a neighborhood, I would walk along the sidewalks and search for tiny things to photograph. Now that I live in the country, I do the same thing, except I stay on my own property where there are mushrooms, bugs, and a vast assortment of plants and flowers.
Idea #5. Try Something New
One genre of photography I love is food, but I wasn’t always good at it. Food can be a difficult subject to master because photography is a two-dimensional medium: the texture, taste, and smell is all gone. One day, I decided I wanted to learn food photography. Although my photos weren’t great at first, I started creating delicious-looking food photographs through persistence and trial and error! And I’ve only improved since then. As it turns out, persistence is key in most of these creative photography ideas.
In addition to food photography, I’ve done this with other genres as well, including water drop photography and bird photography. While I tend to gravitate to food and nature images, I love all types of photography and have taken on a lot of different projects. There’s something about trying something new — even something within the realm of photography, such as a new genre or subject matter — that can get those creative juices flowing. Plus, it’s really fun when you see yourself improve at something you’ve never done before.
Idea #6. Get Creative with Post-Processing
As a professional photographer with over 10 years experience, I have a lot of photos from my early days that I edited with the tools we had available nearly a decade ago. Over time, one thing that has drastically improved is the accessibility and ease of post-processing, so every so often it’s fun to take out older photos and see what types of new photos I can create. Using LuminarAI, I’m able to do so many things to my photos quickly and easily. It’s fun to see what improvements I can make to my older photos with more advanced software.
One fun tool within LuminarAI is SkyAI. With SkyAI, I’m able to drop a brand-new sky into a photo that was originally quite boring. LuminarAI does all the grunt work for me, such as masking around the landscape. Then I get to do the creative parts, such as positioning the new sky so it works well with my photo and making sure the colors match well from the sky to the landscape.
If you enjoy stylizing your images, you can also add texture to your photos using LuminarAI with the Texture tool. Plus, you can make it a different type of challenge to find and photograph your own textures to use in your images. Adding textures in LuminarAI is easy, and it gives your photos your own personal touch. Whatever software you use, revisiting your early photos is one of the few creative photography ideas that can help you improve moving forward while simultaneously improving what you’ve already done.
If you’re interested in checking out the software I used for the images above, be sure to visit Skylum to get your own copy of LuminarAI and start making creative edits right away. You can use the following discount code and save $10 off the full purchase price: PHOTOARGUS.
About the author: Nicole S. Young is a professional photographer living in Oregon and the author of Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots. In addition to food photography, Nicole focuses on landscape and travel photography as well as photography education. You can learn more about Nicole and view her portfolio on her website Nicolesy.