March 2020

Being Creative


Sometimes in my photography, and I’d generally say I’m a ‘Landscape Photographer’, I like to be a little more creative. By that I mean I look for patterns, abstract and often use Intentional Camera Movement – some would say that at my age it’s because I can’t hold the camera steady!

Accurately photographing a scene as it appears before us has never been easier today, you only have to look at the billions of photos taken each year on phones to agree with that.

But what if we want something that’s a bit different – abstract, creative or a bit more ‘arty’? So here are a few creative techniques that I try on odd occasions with my camera. Below are some thoughts I’ve pulled together from various sources on t’internet. So the credit is down to other folk in the main (except for the photos!!)

Reeds captured using ICM
Reeds using ICM

What is creative photography?
Creative photography is an extension of conventional photography into creative art. Its purpose is to stimulate creative thoughts and encourage experimentation with new ideas going beyond a simple photograph. There
should be a significant photographic content, and inclusion of mixed media of any kind (photocopy, paint, transfer, digital etc) is welcome. It can be a collage or a montage. The final result must be all the photographer’s own work including the original image.

There are a number of techniques available in the past I have used double/multiple exposure, ICM (Intentional Camera Movement), zoom-burst and creative close-up/depth of field.

Double and multiple exposure
A double exposure is a combination of two images into one where one image is overlaid onto another at less than full opacity. This is done with artistic intent (unless in the good old days you were shooting on film and forgot to wind it between shots.) This can be done in-camera or in post processing. In digital photography, double exposures can be made in-camera in some cases when it’s available as a creative effect in a body, in photoshop, or in apps like Snapseed designed specifically to make digital double exposures.

This is not a new technique to photography by any means but in the pre-digital age it was certainly a lot more difficult to achieve consistently well and was considered an advanced photography skill beyond the ability of most. Digital cameras equipped with this feature now make this much easier in practice. In basic terms, many people think of a double exposure as taking one image with the camera pointing at a subject and then moving the camera to another subject and seeing them combined. However, fascinating images can be made by simply taking two images of the same subject and slightly offsetting and de-focussing the second.

Double exposure of Kings Cross roof
Double exposure of Kings Cross roof

ICM (intentional camera movement) 
Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) is a technique in which the photographer deliberately moves the camera during the exposure causing the subject matter to become less distinct and very often completely out of focus. Some find this technique very liberating as it removes many of the rigours of traditional photography involving a tripod and calculating depth of field. Images are made much more quickly in quick succession and a more fluid and flowing approach is encouraged.

The type of movement can vary enormously limited only by your imagination, but some movements work better than others depending on the chosen subject matter. Up and down (vertical) or side to side (panning) movements are common but wavy or wobbling and rotational movements could be tried as should the speed and amount of movement.

Movement in red (ICM)
The leaves appear to circle using ICM

Zoom burst
A zoom-burst image is made by deliberately moving the zoom ring on the lens during the exposure. Therefore a telephoto lens with a zoom option is essential. Again, this is not a new photography technique. An exposure time long enough to comfortably move the zoom barrel is required and subject matter that offers contrast in tone and/or colour produces the most effective results. Colour and tones are rendered as diagonal lines radiating from the centre of the image to the corners and variations are made by varying the length of exposure, amount, speed and direction of zoom movement and how steady you keep the lens.

Candles in church, Madeira (ICM)
Candles using Zoom Burst

Creative close-up and depth of field
Creative close-up is not the same as macro photography but there are many similarities. The aim is not to produce a record shot reproducing exactly what is before us and achieving front to back sharpness – indeed it is quite the opposite! This technique very much relies on us deliberately choosing the zone of sharpness or bokeh (soft focus) , if you have a lens which has a very wide aperture such as 1.2 or 1.8 so much the better. Ideally we need to find a single important focus point, ensuring that is sharp whilst everything else fades into a delicious soft bokeh. Whether the focus point is at the front, in the centre or towards the back does not matter. It is crucial, however that your chosen main subject is pin-sharp where you intend.

It is imperative to be able to focus close with your camera and chosen lens for this kind of work. Most standard kit lenses will not permit you to focus close enough but there are other options. The best, but most expensive, is to use a dedicated macro lens. If just starting out or your budget doesn’t stretch that far then you can try circular close-up filters or extension tubes. Each of these latter options have their pros and cons. of creating great results.

Railings at Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Railings using creative depth of field

Why not give it a go?
The whole genre of creative photography is fast gathering momentum with many skilled and contemporary practitioners providing inspiration in their beautiful work. However, it is also a much more subjective genre and one which is surprisingly easy to attempt but also surprisingly difficult to master. As with many endeavours, success comes first with learning and then practice.

Many of these techniques can be deployed in conditions which would be unfavourable for ‘traditional’ photography and even when out and about with the family or on holiday as they don’t all require your companions to hang around while you set up your shot and wait for the light! Furthermore, once the initial frustration hurdle is overcome, it becomes great fun and many discover their ‘inner artist’.

So, as you can see creative photography offers a heady mix of fun, experimentation, learning, frustration and delight. If approached correctly it will stretch you as a photographer, using skills and camera settings previously untried or even thought of. You will become more familiar with your camera and more of its features and perhaps most crucially of all, your images will be totally unique. Neither anyone else, or even yourself, will be able to replicate them exactly.

The main source for the information in this blog was from an article written by Andy Page. All copyright is acknowledged.

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