Becoming A More Creative Photographer

Tears for the Lost, La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina. An image of the Madonna shedding tears, with the ever encroaching urban sprawl in the background, at this beautiful and historic cemetery.

Here’s a fairly abstract photo I made at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Abstraction and Creativity

I’m sure you’ll agree that Tears For The Lost is a fairly abstract image. What I can assure you is that there’s no photoshop hocus pocus going on, and any smoke and mirrors used to create the photo was achieved in camera.

What Does it Take to be Creative

If you look at the photo it’s composed of several different elements, basically divided down the middle of the image. The representation of the Madonna exists on a stain glass window, while the buildings in the background are just outside the boundaries of the cemetery. To make the photo, as you see it here, I simply moved in really close to the stain glass window and moved, left and right, up and down, until I was able to achieve a desirable composition that contained the image of the Madonna and the image of the apartments, reflected in the glass, behind me.

I’m sure I could wax on lyrically about the nature of creativity and what separates an artist from a professional or  enthusiast photographer. (In reality, the demarcation between these three groups is often somewhat blurred). But let’s simplify things so as to make the practice of creativity possible.

Move Yourself, Move the Subject

Photography is a physical endeavor. So long as you’re moving you’re on the right track to making visually interesting images. As you move around your subject the relationship they have with their environment will change. In most cases that action will, from the camera’s point of view, result in them being lit from a different direction (e.g., front, side or back). These two factors can have a huge impact on the look and, therefore, the success of your photo.

What Story do You Want to Tell

The more physical your approach the more likely you’ll be rewarded. We limit our ability to telling a story by always bringing the camera up to our eye (e.g., 5 foot 3 inches), when in fact we’re often better bringing our eye up or down to where the camera needs to be to produce the desired result.

Worm’s Eye and Birdseye Viewpoint

Consider photographing your subject from either a low or high angle of view. A lower angle of view will help depict a stand of trees with the reverence and awe in which a child might view them. Conversely, photographing down onto a subject (e.g., child or animal) can portray them as cute or vulnerable.

Reality and the Photograph

The point is that there’s reality and then there’s how you respond to and choose to represent that reality.

Being alone in a forest could be a frightening experience for one person, and a liberating and/or deeply spiritual experience for another. The undeniable fact is that both individuals were present in the same forest. But it’s their perception of that forest that determines their experience and, as a result, their own, individual reality of that place and time.

Understanding this concept can help free you from the fear that exploring a more creative approach to your photography will remove the scene or subject in question from reality when, in fact, that’s the very purpose of art and the creative process.

Don't agree. Fine! Stop using wide-angle and telephoto focal lengths; polarizing filters and all manner of software applications. In fact put you camera down, whether it be digital or film based, because photography clearly is not for you.

Your Own Creative Journey

If you’re interested in what you’ve seen and read here I’d invite you to explore more of my photos from this series in my Argentina Photography Collection. It includes other photos from my visit to La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Inspiration and Information

To further you’re understanding of the creative process I strongly recommend my Photographing Cemeteries eBook. At under $10 it’s an amazing resource. Several years in the making this beautifully designed ebook showcases photos from Australia, India, France, Russia, Austria, Greenland, Iceland, South Georgia Island (including Ernest Shackleton’s grave) and Argentina.

In addition to stunning photography the ebook also contains a range of short essays covering the creative and technical decisions that underpin the making of these images. While the book is richly illustrated with photography from cemeteries from around the world, it’s ultimately a guide to the creative process designed to help you find your own path in life. That's right, I wrote it for you as much as I did for me.

There may well we more interesting, diverse and informative photography eBooks out there. But I’ve yet to find one. Why don’t you have a look and decide for yourself.


Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru