Food for Thought: 95 Imaginative Ways to Take Your Next Photograph

I recently found a sheet full of awesome photo ideas inside my old college camera bag. The 5-paged document was handed out by my own college professor but they were written by Ray Spicer, a photography professor from the University of Wisconsin. His ideas were very unique and as his title, “Food For Thought” suggests – it’s a fun and different way for aspiring new photographers to think about how to get those interesting photos. Although his tips were conceived  before the advancements we have with digital cameras, all the ideas here are still relevant for anyone who loves taking photographs. I hope this will guide you in your own pursuit in capturing that next awesome shot!

Be honest. Photograph your way. Photograph the way you really want to photography. Push it, have fun with it and let it develop. Don’t make photographs you think you should make. Don’t make photographs based on other’s expectations. Make them for yourself. Enlightened viewers will understand and appreciate images made for the right reasons. Honest images are ultimately the best images. We all have influences. Just don’t be pushed around by your influences. Let them synthesize within you so that what you express is a true extension of you. Make photographs you (from the heart) want to make. Be honest.

  1. Make and ordinary object unrecognizable
  2. Give an ordinary object sensual or emotional qualities because of the lighting and the way it is printed.
  3. Design a photograph ahead of time – maybe sketch it out–then make the photograph.
  4. Photograph yourself in as many ways as you can.
  5. Make a night photograph indoors leaving the shutter open with a cable release using small light source like a flashlight, candle, electronic flash, sparklers etc.
  6. Do a night photograph outdoors.
  7. Passionately express your love in a photograph.
  8. Make a photograph with “meaning”.
  9. Life and Death (Symbolism)
  10. As an exercise, shoot part or all of a roll ignoring subject matter and thinking only about composition.
  11. Use light as the subject.
  12. Give space or atmosphere importance in a photograph
  13. Elevate the ordinary object to a religious symbol or give it great importance.
  14. The wind.
  15. Skin.
  16. Alter the “reality” of what is in front of the lens.
  17. Photograph something the way you want it to be, not the way it is.
  18. Combine the human figure and the landscape.
  19. Make a photograph no one else could possibly make.
  20. Make a photograph using your bathroom as an environment.
  21. Make a series of photographs within 30 feet from your bed.
  22. Record a love relationship so that the viewer will understand.
  23. Go to a boring, uninteresting place and make interesting photographs.
  24. Ask a stranger if you can make a photograph of them.
  25. Go to a new place and record not things, but your impression of things.
  26. Shoot randomly (from the hip, etc.). Then crop later. Find compositions that work.
  27. Photograph parts of your body (remember, composition is critical).
  28. Make a photograph based in some way on another work of art (sculpture, painting, etc.).
  29. Make a photograph that depends more on the subtlety of the lighting and print quality than the subject matter.
  30. Try to make the very best negative and print you can make, as a technical exercise.
  31. Make something three dimensional and photograph it in such a way that the photograph is the work of art, not a documentation of another work of art.
  32. Photograph one of your parents in a non-traditional way.
  33. Do a small series of photographs with relate to one another in some way.
  34. When you see a great sunset, turn around (180 degrees); that’s the nice light (almost always).
  35. Photograph the same object or composition at different times of the day as an exercise in understanding light.
  36. Make an angry photograph.
  37. Make a photograph in such a way that the composition or design of the image is so unique and so personal that the compositions itself becomes the statement or meaning of the image.
  38. Make a portrait of someone you care about or are attracted to in such a way that the viewer will understand to some extent how you feel about that person.
  39. Take a chance. Make a photograph which reveals something very personal or private about yourself or a friend. Some of the very best photographic images come from taking risks.
  40. Make photographs using a nude model, possibly yourself. The challenge here is to do it in a personal, unique way. Artists have used nude models for thousands of years, so uniqueness, though quite possible, is difficult.
  41. Make a political statement which is also beautiful.
  42. Photograph your dreams.
  43. Photograph your depression or ecstasy.
  44. Paint or draw on your photograph.
  45. Combine small photographs to make a larger one.
  46. Invent a new photographic technique
  47. Read about a “Fine Art Photographer’s” work and make a photograph in the “spirit” of that photographer, but add something that makes it “yours.”
  48. To “free” yourself, make a photograph different from any  you have ever seen.
  49. Think of the camera as a tool and photography as a medium for creative expression. Insist on controlling the medium. Don’t take photographs – make photographs.
  50. Don’t give in to the obvious.
  51. Be free, have fun, don’t stifle your instincts.
  52. Regarding your ideas, beware of societal norms – avoid the strait jacket.
  53. Make the photograph you are afraid to make.
  54. Combine photographs with another creative medium.
  55. Photograph your own home.
  56. Create order from disorder.
  57. Explore the “erotic”.
  58. Deal with your deepest feelings – be vulnerable.
  59. Photograph in such a way that the images must be printed very small to be successful.
  60. Moved by a good book or an emotional experience? Make photographs before you lose the feeling.
  61. Include your own creative writing with a photograph or series of photographs.
  62. Keep a small notebook of ideas. Some ideas will escape if you don’t write them down. I speak from experience.
  63. Try not to be detached from your photographs.
  64. Respect your photographs. Take charge and control every detail.
  65. Photograph the places of your childhood.
  66. Being overly influenced by mass thinking, the trendy, or the fashionable can weaken your work.
  67. Shoot lots photographs on one idea. Look at it–think about it and do it again. Let the idea penetrate your psyche.
  68. Satisfied with your work most of the time? This is most worrisome.
  69. Frustrated? Wish you were getting better faster? Spending a lot of time researching for better ideas? Trying with only moderate success to perfect your technique? Hungry, but unsure of yourself? Vibrate with excitement when you succeed? Celebrate! You’re GROWING!!
  70. Investigate things a little closer.
  71. Get intimately involved with something meaningful to you.
  72. Reveal something–open your eyes.
  73. Offended by racism or sexism? Make a creative statement about it (through photography).
  74. Take the viewer and yourself somewhere neither has been.
  75. While very carefully considering the consequences, break some rules, technical and otherwise.
  76. These suggestions will mean something different in two years–again in five years.
  77. Photograph things you take for granted.
  78. Use your imagination more. Think more. Stretch the possibilities.
  79. Fine are photography takes work, dedication, and passion, but the rewards are immeasurable.
  80. Worry less about what you will photograph and more about how you will photograph your subjects.
  81. Work with several vastly different subjects and treat them photographically in a similar way so that they “hold together” as a series.
  82. Write a statement about your work. Imagine that you are having a solo exhibition and that this statement will appear with your photographs. In other words, think about what your work means.
  83. Insist on BEAUTIFUL light. Never settle for less. Wait for it. Create it. Recognize it. Treasure it. Understand it. If it’s just no there, walk away.
  84. There are many ways to approach photography as there are ways to think, see, and feel.
  85. Regarding the value of good technique versus good creative ideas: the two cannot be separated. Good ideas are diluted without good technique. Good technique without good ideas is vacuous and empty.
  86. Try to establish an attitude about your subject matter before making photographs. Don’t let your subject matter control you. Take charge. Have a plan. As you are photographing, think about the final print and ways that you can get that to print.
  87. Art is a tangible manifestation of pure creativity. Do not allow anyone to limit your possibilities. Do not let traditions and theories control you. Beware the limiters.
  88. Photograph with a friend.
  89. Go on an afternoon/evening road trip with the sun to your back. Stop and photograph along the way. This approach has worked well for me lately.
  90. Stay humble. None of us can conceive of what we have yet to learn. Growth is stifled by inflated egos. On the other hand, enjoy your successes!
  91. Collaborate with someone on a photographic project.
  92. When you are photographing, think all the way to the final print. Anticipating technical decisions down the road will help you during the actual photographing.
  93. Shoot the same roll of film twice. This work best if dark backgrounds are used either the first or second time through.
  94. Sun light isn’t always the best light. Your subjects need what they need.
  95. Allow an unexpected image on a contact sheet to generate a series of photographs.
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5 Quickest Ways to Deliver an Urgent Design Project on Short Notice.

It’s been 16 years since I’ve started my journey to become a graphic designer. I’ve read a lot of design books, skimmed through design magazines, attended conferences and watched a lot of sci-fi movies to get inspired for the projects I’ve done. But after immersing myself in these different mediums, nothing inspires me more to get things done than a hard deadline. No matter what type of visions you might have for a particular project, it seems to be that we always revert back to what we know and do best – and that is to stay true to classic design solutions and just press on until it’s time to deliver. Here are 5 ways to get your project done when that client needs a new project yesterday.

1. Ignore Everyone and Everything.

So everyone in the office is talking about what you missed on The Colbert Report last night or what’s on the front page of Reddit. You can find out about it after you get home from the office. Hey, maybe you can turn on the tv and some other channel might be talking about that scene you shouldn’t have missed. Better yet, make it a reward for yourself to be able to surf the web after you’ve accomplished an important deliverable. In my reality, what worked best for me was to turn off my work email, my personal email, skype, twitter, facebook and even not answer text messages unless they’re super important. I put my headphones on, get in the zone then create, produce and submit.

2. Have Your Reliable Go-To Sources Handy.

I’m talking about bookmarks filled with handy tools to help estimate different mobile screen sizes such as, generate textures with, test type and font family pairings, and one of my favorites sites to get functionality ideas  Also, remember that your web developers, digital communication specialists and project managers are your best sources. Don’t forget to ask the right questions and demand for your content.

3. Have a Very Thorough Plan of Attack.

One of the best things I’ve learned when a quick deadline is approaching it to be as efficient as possible. So for me to be able to get to my solutions quickly, I spend at least 30 minutes going through all my best realistic options and imagining the worst possible outcomes in my head so I can simplify and narrow down my approach to the project. Sometimes having too much time will just make you daydream about all the possible grand ideas you can implement – but in this case, you’ve got to get a move on. Chop! Chop!

4. Know Your Equipment. By Equipment, I Mean Your Computer.

Everyone knows how to use a keyboard and a mouse. By everyone, I mean even 2 year-old kids. (Trust me I know) Having the ability to know what each button does, what each palette holds, what shortcuts to use and what options to set will guarantee you a smoother and snag-free workflow. There’s no time to second guess your choices.  You will have to work like a production line filled with experienced craftsmen building ah… let see, ah.. like an expensive door for a Ferrari.

5. Recycle Unused Ideas.

Somewhere, deep in your files is an awesome design that a previous or even a current client never liked. There is absolutely nothing wrong about re-purposing a solution if the solution is a good fit for the current project. A couple photo edits here, some type style changes there, replace the logo and BAM! – a finished first round mockup. I don’t believe there’s a crime with somewhat plagiarizing your own designs. If anything, it’s the perfect way to jumpstart a new idea.

There you have it. My sure-fire ways of getting a project done in a moment’s notice. We all wish that we have that magical scenario of having 6 months to a year to create an award-winning design piece. But sometimes, clients just want something quick and simple that will work for them – and that might be the reason to default back to our tried and true solutions. If it works, then you just might be able to go home in time to catch The Colbert Report.


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