by Guest Contributor Amy Cannon
“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”~ Kurt Vonnegut.
If someone were to ask you right now what you’re passionate about what would you say? What do you draw inspiration from when it comes to your photography? WHAT inspires you to shoot and HOW you focus on that inspiration is so important, regardless of what it pays you or IF it even pays you at all. I think we can all agree that we didn’t start taking photographs to become rich.
For me, photography is a passion, a unique art form, not a platform to become wealthy. I’ve always believed that if you do something because you believe in it and feel passionate about it, the rest will find its way to you. But every now and then, that passion gets put aside and you suddenly find yourself in a creative rut. This recently happened to me. I was burnt out and feeling incredibly uninspired. Does this ever happen to you? Maybe you’re feeling this exact same way and you don’t know how to fix it? If so, then it’s time to do something about it. It’s time to think outside of the box, push your creativity and regain your passion. So what inspires you? What do you feel passionate about? You have to ask yourself those questions first.
For me, this was a no-brainer. The one thing that I have been passionate about in my life besides my photography is dance. I’ve danced my whole life, both as a student and as a professional. Dance is such a wonderful way to express yourself. It offers an outlet to be creative, teaches discipline, inspires confidence and awakens the inner spirit of people, no matter what their age or talent level may be. I knew if I could find a way to photograph something about dance I would feel that creative spark again. That’s when I decided to do a series of photos inspired by Swan Lake. Rather than renting an elaborate studio or traveling to a school I challenged myself by photographing the entire thing in my small studio space, with one light and not spending a dime. I wanted to force myself to be creative and think outside of the box.
CREATIVE TIP #1: You don’t need elaborate props, a huge space, or couture clothing to create art. You need a VISION.
You also need a subject that can bring your vision to life and I knew the perfect girl.
Lolly is only 10 years old and one of the most poised and professional young ladies I have ever encountered, not to mention exceptionally beautiful. Her dream is to dance for the NYC Ballet and she recently got her first pair of pointe shoes. Her mother also shares a true appreciation for art and photography so I knew teaming up with her would be exciting.
CREATIVE TIP #2- If you want to do a shoot that is just for you it is imperative that you collaborate with someone who shares the same passion, appreciation and style that you do.
So I have my concept, my subject and a space to make it happen. Now what? Well, that’s where a vision board should come into play. I created mine on Pinterest. I used my train ride to and from work to explore thousands of dance images and quotes that spoke to me and made me feel something. Because isn’t that what art is supposed to do? Make you feel something. Make you feel inspired to create something beautiful.
CREATIVE TIP #3 – Use imagery to find inspiration. Don’t copy it. Draw from it. Use it as a jumping off point in which you build your own unique ideas.
Then I had to ask myself what my Ballerina was going to wear. I needed two different and contrasting looks. And remember, I didn’t allow myself to spend any money so I needed to get creative. I started looking very closely at what I had in my studio closet already, what my model had in hers, and what resources I had that may be able to help me out. It’s amazing what you can piece together with a little creativity and imagination.
CREATIVE TIP #4- Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for wardrobe help. Borrowing and trading is a great way to keep looks fresh and inexpensive. You can also layer different pieces together to create an even more unique look. For example: The white swan look is a Tutu Du Monde dress with a large white tulle skirt layered over top of it for added drama and the headpiece is two different headbands but worn one in front of the other.
Every princess needs a fabulous crown right? I studied the black swan crown and decided to put my up-cycling skills to the test. I went shopping in my daughter’s bedroom for one of her old plastic tiara’s. (being that she has about ten of them I figured she wouldn’t miss one). I painted it black using some latex paint that I had in my garage and applied a generous amount of black feathers from an old headpiece I had. The stones are nothing but old rhinestone buttons and earrings. The end result… a crown that is one of a kind. Download a free DIY Flower Crown tutorial here!
CREATIVE TIP #5- You can pretty much up-cycle ANYTHING! If you don’t know where to start, try Pinterest!
Now I was ready to shoot. Remember that I am shooting in a small space with one light in the dead of winter in NYC. My backdrop is a piece of seamless paper and I have no props. This is when you can really push your creativity. Yes, I was doing a ‘dance’ session but that doesn’t mean I had to have my subject in a bunch of difficult dance poses. I needed to focus on my concept; THE SWAN- A story about passion and perseverance, not about fancy positions and complicated tricks. I made my main focal point her eyes. For it’s in the EYES where we tell the story, not the props or background or the clothes.
CREATIVE TIP #6- “Photography is about capturing souls, not smiles.”― Dragan Tapshanov
Post Processing- my FAVORITE part. Growing up I wasn’t exactly a math or science wiz, but I did excel in art class. Being the daughter of an artist, I always enjoyed painting, coloring, sculpting and drawing. I loved to take a plain piece of paper and create something colorful. I consider post processing an art form. Sure you can run a filter or an action on a photograph or make a few quick enhancements in Light Room and call it a day…OR you can use a photograph as your canvas and paint it like an artist. Playing with textures, overlays, gradient fills, I could go on and on…the choices are endless and so much fun. I could spend HOURS playing with one image! So if you always thought that studio photography was boring or lacked artistry, think again.
CREATIVE TIP #7- Think of your post processing like having an entire box of brand new crayons in front of you and your photo is your canvas. Play, create, imagine. The choices are endless.
Now it’s your turn. Sit down and make a list of things that inspire you. Then choose one of those and create a story for yourself, a concept that you want to bring to life. Create a vision board, jot down ideas in a notebook, and re-visit them over and over. Take a moment to remember why you love photography. Make it a goal to shoot for YOURSELF every now and then. I guarantee you’ll find the reward to be so much more fulfilling than a paycheck.
CREATIVE TIP #8- “You don’t take a photograph. You make it.” ~ Ansel Adams
Did this article inspire you? I would LOVE to hear about it! Please share your stories and/or images on my FaceBook page. Let’s inspire each other!
About the Artist: Amy Cannon is a member of the National Association of Professional Children’s Photographers and currently resides in Long Island, NY with her Broadway husband Mike and their two kids- Cooper and Camryn. Amy Cannon specializes in creative portraiture both in studio and on-location. She’s a Nikon Girl (Nikon D3s and D700) and her favorite lens for studio is her 85mm, 1.4g and for outdoor sessions she prefers the 70-200mm.