I will be honest and admit that the photos in today’s post aren’t my favorites. They are my favorite from this particular shoot, but overall the feeling it gives me is an overall sense of blah. It’s not what I want my work to look like, and so much of it doesn’t carry the essence of my creative voice.
So why post these pictures? Because they were an experiment, and there is some good in these shots. I’ve mentioned before how important experimenting is, but today I want to give a few reasons why you should be experimenting if you want your creativity to grow.
And what better way to learn than to look at someone’s experimental work?
You Refine Your Skills and Craft
Let’s start with this first image, which I really love, just for it unique edits. Despite not having the energy to shoot new looks and photos of myself recently, I used the time to edit old favorite images. At times this felt a little agonizing (I had no real new work to produce and show), this practice was very helpful for a few reasons.
First, the images were already pieces I liked, so I could focus exclusively on the editing and stylizing. I discovered some fantastic new ways to execute certain stylistic features that I previously had no clue how to create. Though this process resulted in 40 presets I will never use, I came out with 10 very customizable presets that allowed me to edit photos more closely to what I’ve been attempting for the last year or so.
Second, I began to edit more deliberately. Understanding Lightroom and Photoshop more allowed me to execute ideas more quickly, and move in on a particular look.
This image is an excellent example of these practices. For one, the initial edit of the image had the tinting, contrast, and coloring I loved that I previously thought I couldn’t pull off. The textures and other elements were all added strategically for this look. You can easily slap on textures, but I knew how I wanted to layer all the items. I darkened certain features and even added that dark leak to the left-hand side through various layering techniques. None of this would have happened if I didn’t take the time to experiment.
You Learn What Your Style Is Not
Ah yes, the reason why I spent so long debating if I should post these pictures.
I really love styling outfits, and in the future I’m hoping to do it more. At the time of this shoot I thought that I could do some unique style layering, inspired by some other bloggers who have a really eclectic style. I love their creativity and decided to take a chance. So I layered this dress over jeans, didn’t wear any neutrals and went out to shoot in the middle of the day (which is a challenging time to shoot).
I told myself “This is an experiment, Mary. You aren’t here to get a great photo shoot, you are trying to learn.”
What did I learn?
I realized how, despite it not looking terrible, the outfit was something I felt reflected my style. It was creative like I envisioned, but I realized that I like more minimal outfits and a heavy dose of neutrals with my color.
On the photography end I recognized that, though I love blue skies, I generally like darker pictures and shooting in the middle of the day was not going to give me the look I wanted at all.
The one perk is I tried some unique poses, and that was the one element I did like. I did some standard poses too, but I really didn’t care for the images at all.
Although this whole shoot is nothing I want in a portfolio, I know what not to do the next time I shoot.
You Practice Bringing Ideas to Life
One of my greatest inspirations on Instagram is Elle-May’s photography. While not what I envision my style in the same way, her style has so many elements of what I want to capture. (I’m also heavily inspired by Hideaki Hamada, which is the opposite side of the spectrum. If you follow my photography Instagram you’ll notice more of his style influence.)
Anyway, Elle-May does a lot of experimental work not only in editing, but in her initial shots. My focus has been primarily capturing some sort of image (as opposed to puttering out of energy with no images at all), but I want to experiment with the way I shoot, like Elle-May does.
I’m not sure where the idea came from, to have a slightly out-of-focus shot of me running away (I wanted a blur, but that was impossible in the light), but I decided to try it. There were several shots that didn’t work, but then there was this one. When shooting photos of myself I often use the self-time and multiple image option on the camera, which is what I did here. For some reason, this time I understood what to do exactly. I knew the pace to run, how to move, and how far to be from the camera to get a decent out-of-focus blur.
This shoot might have been an experiment, but all the past experimentation with focus began to show fruit in this shoot. It was one of the first times I’ve been able to execute a specific idea into reality.
You Discover How to Move Forward
Perhaps the best part about experimenting is that it helps you to move forward. Rather than being stuck in a cycle of the same actions, experimenting can give you an idea of the goals to reach for next.
This picture, off the bat, came across as the most “my style” image from the entire shoot. It still has some technical issues that made the editing a bit difficult (and the textures may or may not feel appropriate for the image), but the fact that I recognize that is something good. In the past this may have sufficed my creative appetite, but now I recognize how it can be improved.
These were a few of my next steps, guided by this shoot:
- Shoot in shadows and lower light situations.
- Keep outfits minimal.
- Capture moods and motion, making it feel natural and organic.
- Capture more of the atmosphere in the image so the textural edits don’t feel as necessary and will not be as visible within the work.
How will you experiment, or are you experimenting now? Let me know in the comments below. Whatever your medium (photography, personal style, landscaping, decor, drawing, etc.) I’d love to hear what you’re up to and what you have learned recently.