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thedonkeylasher asked:
Zack, I'm the sort of person who, if you gave me some crayons, a blank piece of paper and said "Be creative", I'd think really hard, come up with nothing then make a paper plane and eat the crayons. Did creativity come natural to you or did you have to work on it? If so, what do you recommend? Cheers

"Creativity" has never come easy for me. It still doesn’t. I’m prone to say I’m a good technical photographer but not that much of a creative photographer. People say I’m creative but then I can point them to 100 other photographers who I feel are truly "creative". Part of this is I’m my own worst critic and I can too easily compare myself to others and feel I’m at the low end of that comparison. We all do this.

Creativity can be learned. It can be nurtured. It has to be this way or there’s no hope for people like you and me. Some are naturals. They are just naturally creative and conceptual. My experience says these are the folks who have the hardest time with the technical aspects of photography so they have to work on that or hire people who can light for them.

Others are more technical. F-stops, reciprocals, lighting, and the like come easier to them. I’m more in this camp. The technical aspect of photography just makes sense to me. I need help with the concepts and I try to bounce ideas off creative people around me to help grow as a creative person.

I like your answer to the paper and crayons though. Take the expected and flip it. That’s always a good exercise to do. As for other things to do to grow your creativity I suggest studying other creative disciplines. Listen to talks by designers, painters, writers, musicians, etc. Those folks typically have to make something out of absolutely nothing. You can learn a lot from the other creative industries.

If you are into the technical aspects of photography don’t hang out so much on the gear and tech blogs. Look for folks who might not be able to light their way out of a wet paper bag but have great ideas. Study how these folks think. Not how they shoot.

Lastly, there’s nothing that ever replaces experience. This is the answer everyone hates because experience takes time. The hard part is to be able to keep going long enough to actually build experience. You do that by doing what you do now and you grow step by step. You can’t take a helicopter to the top of Everest. You have to climb up the damn thing to get there.


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deadl asked:
Hi Zack, I've gotten into band photography over the last year, but frankly the guys are not very interesting in front of the camera. While my images are well lit and nicely composed, the subjects don't seem to be doing very much. I've tried to get shots of them hanging from goalposts with one arm, fighting with water pistols, etc., but they all are a bit precious of their image - they just want to look moody against a wall. Any ideas on how to get more exciting images out of people?

I’m all about the standing around moody photos. I don’t do very well getting bands doing whacky things like water gun fights. Mainly because I just don’t come up with ideas like that. The master at that stuff is Dave Jackson

What I do deal with is the lack of character or personality from a lot of band members. People think musicians are extroverts and “turn it on” anytime a camera is pointing to them. That’s so not the case. Get a band on a stage at 11pm on a Friday with a few drinks in them and they come alive. They are well crawled into their shells on a photoshoot at 3pm on a Wednesday. It’s our job to get them out of that shell and to connect with the camera and that is a lot harder to do then to light them well.

You have to be a director more than a photographer at some point. Do all your photographer things like finding the location, setting the lights, getting your settings dialed in, etc. Get all of that done and locked down. Then when the band shows up in front of your camera you are now the director. You have to guide them, coach them, pull them into the process. Sometimes you pull them in kicking and screaming but if you are going to get any sort of good photo of them you have to pull it out of them. They most likely will not be able to just “turn it on” for you. 

If you aren’t a good director they are just going to stand there and look bored and moody. No matter how well you light them you will have photos of bored people who don’t know what they are doing. You’ll have photographic evidence of your lack of direction. It sticks out like a sore thumb when you learn to read it in photos.

To get more exciting YOU have to be more exciting. You have to be into it. You have to draw them in. You have to push them. Not screaming and yelling kind of pushing them but you have to be persuasive and confident in what you are doing.

If you are shy and timid you’re going to have the hardest F@#$% time in the world making this happen.