The Laws of Creativity govern the creation of still photography and the criteria for how we judge and appreciate the art we create together: the Laws are all the components involved in the construction of art. The science and craft of commissioned artists like ourselves – creative design for sets, lighting, tool selection (camera and lenses) – all contribute to the emotional content and atmosphere for you the client. Science and craft describe a significant portion of the Laws of Creativity, but not all of them. The science and craft are the “easy” items when it comes to photography. This does not mean they are simple: they are not simple. We mean you can work to master these elements without the human, emotional element. Adding in a person, subject, or muse adds a different layer of complexity.
Early in our careers, we focused a lot on the craft and science skills because they are necessary to create photographic art. A painter who does not understand her tools – their limitations, their applications, their purpose – will struggle to translate vision to canvas. The same is true for the photographic and digital artists who does not understand the camera, the lens, lighting, post-processing, and printing.
These pieces of the Laws of Creativity, however, are not sufficient for portrait photography. They are necessary yet they require a complement. Furthermore, given a choice, we would choose to compromise on the science if it meant the complement got the right attention. Connection, experience, and emotion are our pre-eminent Laws of Creativity. They constitute the additional layer of complexity we intentionally seek with our clients.
Laws of Creativity: Connection as Objective
Getting in front of the camera can be a foreign activity. The uncertainty, ambiguity, and unfamiliarity can translate to awkward emotions. It is one of the core reasons we mention in all of our Session Experience Guides, “Let go. Let us work.” Just because we say “let go” does not automatically mean you’re able to let go! So let’s talk about what we mean by “Let go. Let us work.”
Let’s get some acknowledgements out of the way first. Posing can be awkward. Being in front of the lens can make us feel self-conscious. Trying to remember too many things at once (where should my hands be, am I pointing my toes, is my chin forward and down, etc.) can cause us to get “too much in our own head.”
We get caught up in our head because we’re trying to be for something or someone. We lose focus on who we are and the spontaneous ways we convey who we are every day. Thoughts and emotions are critical to build an accurate portrait of who we are. So how do we convey thoughts and emotions in an image without words? Unlike theatre, movies and music, the still image relies exclusively on gestures, poses, glances, and expression.
Following the Laws of Creativity as a checklist like “place your hands here, tilt or turn your head this way, now smile!” is a formulaic, stilted approach that misses the fundamental purpose that each of those instructions must serve: every gesture must genuine and understood as a connection with who you are!
Connecting with who you are is most important. Not connecting with the lens or with us. Not connecting with an abstract audience. It’s connecting with your emotions, your experiences that give you a unique perspective on the world.
Connection & Experience
We’ve seen this in the most foundational ways. There is a difference between capturing an image when you have been asked to laugh and when you have spontaneously laughed. Our bodies express what we are thinking and experiencing before we are aware of it. It’s why we are so good at recognizing authentic and genuine reactions. Coaching and posing for authenticity is low-success approach for connected, authentic art. It comes down to the experience.
This is why we focus so much on and continue to strive for greater and more authentic experience. It is why we structure our pricing the way we do: we want to eliminate the pressure to perform. We want a shift from the utilitarian approach of “let’s make a picture” to “let’s live and connect with the best parts of ourselves.” When we do that, we have no doubt exceptional, emotion-filled, connected art will follow.
The Laws of Creativity in Practice: Creating Connection
“What would I do if I were to…” If carries us into imaginary circumstances.
We use if so you can engage your emotions, foster inner experiences, and create spontaneous, genuine, and authentic connection. The first time we provide a prompt like, “What would you do if your boss just asked you to come in on a weekend?” we get a mix of attempts at scowling followed by giggles. You feel silly. But we ask you not to focus on your emotions, what you’re feeling, as much as you focus on the actions that convey your experience. A look of incredulity. A stare that demands, “Are you kidding me?” We work for it. We watch for you to connect with the emotion you would feel if you were in that situation. And when you break out laughing because you feel silly, we keep taking pictures, because spontaneous laughter reveals an authentic reaction, a glimpse into what life would be like at your side.
The venue can help the spontaneity and authenticity as well. It is natural and easier to imagine yourself expressing, emoting, and connecting in your own environment. Our In Her Space sessions yield some of the most authentic expressions for this reason. Sessions in the studio, a hotel room, or an AirBnB provide variety, yet it does take extra effort to overcome the unfamiliarity of the environment and connect with who you are (though very possible to do!).
What gets in the way of creating a connection with your own experiences and emotions, is a myth that you are working for us, trying to give us “the look.” You are not. We’re working for you. You are working for yourself. When you find your experience, your emotion, your connection, you will discover your look. And we’ll be there to capture it.