Being observant is helpful in landscape photography, especially to be a creative photographer. It’s a skill that I work on consistently. After spending countless hours with photographers at various skill levels, I found it interesting that there is one word that runs rampant in some photographers’ vocabularies. What’s even more interesting is this same word is very rarely uttered by many well-regarded and creative photographers.
The “Should” Effect: Empowering Beginners in Landscape Photography
That word my friends is “should”. The word “should” implies adherence to rules or following prescribed notions taught by mentors, professors, or dare I say it, YouTube tutorials. For instance, “I should include a foreground element here” or “I should check my histogram.” Initially, this directive is helpful, keeping you on the path to mastering foundational skills. But eventually, it can inhibit your growth as an artist.
For example, mastering the exposure triangle, understanding composition’s hierarchical elements, and immersing yourself in iconic images from the history of landscape photography should (ha, see what I did there) be essential stops on your photographic journey. That is a pivotal segment of your development as an artist. During this beginning stage, the word “should” keeps you focused on creating technically solid images. It helps you learn the building blocks required to effectively create a photograph from what you envision in your mind.
However, once you reach a level where much of the technical process is on autopilot, that’s the opportunity to jump to a new level. When operating the camera becomes second nature, it leaves more mental bandwidth for connecting with the landscape or element of nature in front of the camera lens. If you continue to use that “should” self-talk mindset at this point, then it becomes a barrier to creativity, limiting your ability to craft truly unique images. There is a path to becoming a queen or king of conventional.
The Evolution of a Creative Photographer: Moving Beyond “Should”
At this technical autopilot juncture in your artistic journey, I advocate for a shift from “should” to “could.” It’s an exhilarating mental exercise. Altering your internal dialogue from “should” to “could” grants your own creative license to experiment with your camera.
- “I should have a foreground element” shifts to “I could introduce a foreground element”.
- “I should exclude the sky” shifts to “I could omit the sky”.
- “I should simplify the composition” shifts to “I could keep exploring new angles to tell this story of chaos in the forest”.
A simple shift of the initial letters of “should” to “could” transforms your entire thought process and outlook. It opens the door to be a more creative photographer. Now, you’re affording yourself the choice to follow established rules or venture into uncharted territories. More importantly, you’re taking creative control and following the part of the scene that captivated you.
This shift in mindset pairs nicely with my previous article “The Three Most Important Words to Transform Your Photography“. It’s about forging a connection with nature, embracing curiosity, and using your camera as the conduit to explore that inquisitiveness.
My aspiration, both for myself and for you, is that this way of thinking propels you towards a happier photography experience and becoming a more creative photographer. Happier in all its facets—exploring your surroundings, photographing in the field, and post-processing your images.