How to Be a More Imaginative Photographer

Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject
Hanoi, 2016 #cindyproject

One thing I realize that we are lacking today is imagination.

We always think that we will be more creative if we buy a new camera, a new lens, or a new gadget.

But in reality, the limit of our creativity is our own imagination.

I wish I were a kid again

Do you remember when you were a kid, and how imaginative you were? You probably weren’t constantly distracted or entertained by an iPad. You probably were bored a lot, and had to create “imaginary friends” to keep you company.

You would sometimes daydream. You would lie on the grass with your friends, and look at the clouds. You would think about the future. You would imagine what you’d become when you grew up. You’d imagine the future technologies, and wondered whether we would have home robots like the Jetsons (unfortunately, the Roomba is the closest thing we got).

Where does imagination come from?

The problem in today’s world is that there isn’t enough imagination.

Why not?

My hypothesis: imagination requires boredom, as well as lack of external stimuli. However we are always being constantly distracted, and stimulated by our screens. By our iPads, our iPhones, our laptops, and devices. We are constantly scrolling through endless feeds on social media, and we have to check out email (even for 1 second) when waiting for the bathroom.

When is the last time you were bored? I know that personally, I hate being bored— and I cannot stand not doing anything. The only time I can really relax and come up with good ideas is when I’m walking (not listening to music), or taking a shower. These are the only times that I usually don’t have a device or a screen to my face.

Will the future be less imaginative?

I want to be a kid again, and imagine more. I am saddened to hear that most kids nowadays don’t have imaginary friends. They have YouTube friends. They have their iPads. They aren’t forced to rely on their own imagination to come up with fun.

How to imagine more as a photographer

Here are some things I’ve personally been trying to do in my life to be more imaginative:

1. Allowing myself to be bored

One of the things I fear is boredom. This is why I always have tons of ebooks, my laptop, and smartphone close at hand.

However by default, I’m trying to turn off my devices when I don’t really need them. I’m trying to learn how to embrace boredom.

Generally when I (have) been bored in the past, that is when I’m finally able to let my mind relax, and come up with new ideas. I remember the most imaginative things I did as a kid was from my lack of toys.

The refrigerator box turned into a space ship. I learned how to draw as a kid, just to entertain myself. I would role-play with my sister to pass the time.

Honestly, it sometimes sucks being an adult. I feel I was a bigger dreamer when I was younger, than I am now. I’m going to try to keep my phone off as much as possible, to help stimulate my imagination.

2. Look at less photos

I feel that it is a good idea to get inspiration from other photographers. Yet, when we are children — we don’t need “inspiration” from other artists to draw, paint, or photograph.

I feel that the real world is the best place for inspiration. So perhaps as an assignment, let us spend less time looking at other people’s photography, and spend more time coming up with our own imaginative ideas.

3. Eliminate “impossible” from your vocabulary

If you really want to be more imaginative, remove the word “impossible” from your vocabulary. If you set limitations on reality, you will never imagine truly great and wonderful things.

As kids, we have unlimited ambition. We want to be astronauts, presidents, and change the world.

Yet the older we get, the more jaded we become. We start to think more “rationally” rather than imaginatively.

Nothing is impossible. The only limit we have is our own minds, and imagination.

Child’s mind

Once again, let us try to become kids again— to become children. Let us un-lock the inner-child in ourselves, to re-spark our creativity.


Learn more: Creativity >