Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Importance Of Play In Stock Photography

This unique image of a hand shake, symbolizing "sealing the deal", "Teamwork" and "Agreement", is a direct result of just "playing", shooting for the fun of it rather than with a goal in mind.

Letting Go Of Preconceptions
At least once a week, usually more often, I will take some time to experiment without any preconceived idea of where I am going to end up. This might entail grabbing my camera and heading out to the Marin Headlands, or walking alongside the bay in Sausalito.  It might mean setting the camera to "B" and spinning crazily around as I shoot city lights at night, or it might mean trying to shoot everything out of focus. It means letting go of preconceptions and just playing with my photography.

Playing With No Goal In Mind
My experimenting can also take the form of sitting down at my computer and perusing my files to see what might catch my eye. When an image does catch my eye I open it up and start playing with it. Playing with it by perhaps trying Photoshop filters, or finding other images to combine with it, or freaking out the curves. Just playing to see where it takes me, with no particular goal in mind.  As often as not it leads me to something interesting which, in turn, will trigger another idea, and the next thing you know, I have a new and fresh stock image or even series of images.

Playing Is Vital To Creativity
Sometimes, after several hours of "playing", but not getting anywhere, I will start feeling a sense of urgency, like I need to be succeeding.  When I catch myself feeling that I stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself that hey, I'm a stock shooter, I am earning money at that very moment, and I not only can afford to "play", “playing” is vital to my creativity; vital to my success as a stock photographer!

Routine, Spontaneity, Consistency And Novelty
In addition to "play time", I need routine and I need spontaneity, I need consistency and I need novelty. I need routine and consistency, self-discipline, to be productive, to turn my ideas in to photographic realities. Without routine, without self-discipline, it is far too easy to get caught up in all of those small tasks ranging from paying bills to surfing the net, that can consume our time so relentlessly. As part of my routine I reserve mornings for creating and submitting images, and afternoons for dealing with less “productive” tasks…and then reward myself for completion of those tasks by getting back to creating images. But I need to break my routines, to play and to explore with no pressure to achieve, in order to come up with fresh and interesting ideas.

Pushing Creative Boundaries
One of the things that makes stock photography so interesting for me, and in it’s highest form one of the most creative of endeavors, is that there is so much freedom to play and explore, unrestrained by the restrictions and limitations imposed by client and corporate needs. It is almost our duty as stock shooters to push the boundaries of creativity and to lead the commercial photography world to new and interesting places. It is certainly vital to our continued success as stock photographers to push those creative boundaries…and to do that we can’t forget play.

1 comment:

Smudge Chris said...

Great post John,

I've found I'm using my 365 project to drive my creativity and using that to pick out suitable stock photos from any shoot I'm doing.

For instance, a recent multiplicity shot of me playing poker with myself, I've taken alot of good stock shots of poker chips/tables/players.

By being able to test my creativity in my 365 project, I'm able to see stock photos where I perhaps wouldn't have otherwise looked.