Photographers: Ten Out-of-the-Box Ideas to Exercise Your Creative Muscles

Don Giannatti
5 min readNov 1, 2023

Actually, these ten ideas will work for nearly any visual artist.

(This article also appears on my Substack site.)

Dense Aspen trees, Ouray, CO. Photo by the author.

I love coming up with ideas to spur creativity.

And since this is November and I have committed to making at least one piece of art per day this month, I thought I would make a list of ideas and share them with you.

These are not necessarily ideas you will find other places, but I think they will spur some ideation within you, and that is never bad.

1. Identify your ‘Fans’ and create ‘Evangelists’.
Do you have anyone who is a super fan—those who love your work? Make a list of them. And then figure out how you can make them true evangelists for your photography. How can we turn fans into ‘raving fans’? Find out what they like about your work. Note what you can do to make more raving fans instead of ex-clients. It is so much easier to keep a client than to get a new one.

2. Take five of your images and do a critique of them.
Do it online if you want to be really brave. And remember that a critique is not simply what is wrong, it is also what is right. Do a thorough investigation of each of the images. What makes them work? What are their flaws? What could you have done to make it better if you had to do it again? Don’t do this in your head… write it down. In the process of writing or typing, it becomes more important in your mind.

3. Write a review of a fellow photographer.
There are plenty of places to find new photographers, whether online or off. If you don’t know someone, go to a gallery and see new work. Find photographers on Instagram, and visit their sites. If you have a list of shooters that inspire you, take a moment and write a review. Why do you like the work? What makes it special to you? How does the work engage you? You may find some ideas to help your own work. Be sure to link to their website. Be positive… negativity is petty and will not win you friends. If you don’t like them, leave them alone.

4. Do something silly with photography.
Shoot from the hip. Take an image every 15 minutes. Document your walk with the dog. Document the dog. Take the camera and shoot without looking through the viewfinder. Make images at night with a flashlight. Play. It’s OK to not be serious.

5. Send a note or email to a photographer you admire.
If there is a shooter you admire, even if they are totally famous and nearly a celebrity in themselves, send them a note and let them know. Not a “you rock, dude… cool shots and totally awesome babes” kinda thing, but a thoughtful, well-written note that tells them what you like and how it has inspired you. We aren’t doing this to get a reply… just for fun. And what you may learn about yourself while writing this can be very eye-opening as well.

6. Pick up one of those disposable cameras at the drugstore.
And use it to make incredible, outstanding images. Try a one-shot-per-shoot program. In other words, if you do a shot of something, pull the disposable out and make ONE image — and make it rock. So when you get that little stack of prints, each one looks like a million bucks — or at least as good as those little disposable cameras make. (No, digital P&S cameras don’t count. No chimping. It is about the fun of getting the shots back unforeseen.) Alternate: Take the camera and shoot whatever the image count is on a single outing — no DSLR taken — just this camera. Make every shot count.

7. Take a workshop in a different discipline.
Find a cool writing workshop and sign up. Do a pottery workshop or something on web design. If you have never done any kind of art, take a painting or watercolor class. Sculpting and welding could be fun. Well, the welding thing could be a little dangerous, but then so is chasing elephants with burning torches… I digress. Have fun… learn something else, and it will burn some incredible ideas into your brain.

8. Pull 1 or 3 images out of your portfolio and write a short story based on the content.
An image is a story… now tell it. What is going on in the picture? What was the story behind it? Not the BTS stuff, fiction. Fiction. Make up a story about what the image is about. Alternate: write a poem that the image could illustrate. Or a rap song… whatever. It is such fun to do… and can increase the ‘storytelling’ ability of your next photographs.

9. Do a video of you shooting.
Not a behind-the-scenes video… focus the camera on you from where the subject is. You can see what you look like when you are shooting. That is what the model/subject sees when you are shooting. Very enlightening, and it can help you develop your shooting persona. Optional: put a phone in a mount on your camera. The phone camera captures exactly what you are looking at and how you are seeing the world.

10. Reshoot the cover of your favorite CD/Album.
Take it as a self-assessment. You know the music intimately and probably a lot about the band/composer/singer who performs in it. Of course, shooting the artist may not be possible (Joni… “Hejira”… I am open anytime.) Take the lyrics, if available, and find an ‘image’ within them to help with the illustration. The energy that concentrates your mind on this assignment can kick some creative ass… ya know.

Ten out-of-the-box ideas for you to try.

Just for fun.

Because it is November.

I will be making one thing every day this month and sharing it with you all. Join me. Other people are writing novels; we are making art!

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Don Giannatti

Designer. Photographer. Author. Entrepreneur: Loving life at 100MPH. I love designing, making photographs and writing.