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.