Creative vs Technical: The Making of a Photograph

Creative vs Technical is a good battle when it comes to the image making process. If I had to choose I would say I'm more technical than creative. This is an area that can be improved in my photography. I would like to become more instinctually creative and let my technical tendencies be less important in the process. What exactly am I talking about? When I first started photography, my images sucked. The subject of the image, along with the horizon line, was dead center. The image was made at eye level. The exposure was mostly unintentionally "incorrect". I could go on and on. The Technical side of photography is something every beginning photog struggles with. Seasoned photographers struggle as well but I will get into that a little later. To help beginners break bad habits, such as the ones previously mentioned, rules were formed. The rule of thirds for example. Ansel Adams developed the zone system to help perfect exposure. So on and so on. Once you learn these rules your images do improve, but sometimes at the cost of being creative.

This is where the veterans of photography get stuck. We learn all the rules and our images get better. Then the rules become the standard and we forget to break them when the image would actually benefit from the broken rule. Certain images are more powerful if the subject is dead center, horizon line in the middle, or the image is overexposed. Veterans often won't listen to their creative conscience and instinctively follow the rules at the expense of a more creative/powerful image.

My advice and a drill I try to do in the field, is try a few different compositions for each and every image. First I will make the image following my initial instinct. Then I will make an image breaking the rules. Dead center subject/horizon line. I might under or over expose. Often these images won't ever see the public eye, but it does a couple things. My eye will become trained into seeing the more creative aspects of the photograph. Overtime I will learn what images work in what situations. Reflections for example work really well with the horizon line in the middle.

It's easy to develop instinct in photography. Beginners tend to shoot without any technical rules and veterans tend to shoot with too many rules. The balance is somewhere in the middle. I'm sure by now you've heard the term, "you have to know the rules before you can break them". Well go break them! Repeatedly on every photograph you make, and eventually you'll have a creative and technical balance in your imagery.