Artistic vs Creative

This blog will be more of a narrative then a display of my work. I wanted to write this article as an encouragement to those of you who have artistic interests but have repressed them because you thought you weren’t “creative” enough to thrive an as an artist.

Let me begin by asking this question: Do you ever fear that you aren’t “creative” enough to pursue an artistic field such as photography? I know I sure did. I have always enjoyed photography and other artistic fields but never saw myself as “creative.” I thought that because I did not have original create ideas that I had no right to pursue photography as a professional pursuit.

Not too long ago I was watching a course on Creative Live by Kirsten Lewis titled, “Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home” and was deeply encouraged by something she said.
She opened her class by level setting on where she started as a photographer and showing some of her early work. She had a healthy level of honesty and was able to laugh at how bad some of those early photos were. She shared a number of lessons she learned along the way. One of those lessons was a mental barrier she had to overcome. She was had been concerned that she was not creative enough to make it as a photographer. But over time she learned, there’s a difference from being artistic and being creative.

She proposed that the default assumption of creative people is that they have a lot of ingenuity or creative thoughts. But artistic people, even those that are not “creative,” canappreciate and create great art. She said that when she embraced the idea that it was ok to be an artist even if she wasn’t terribly creative and didn’t have a great deal of ingenuity or new thoughts, she relaxed and was able to thrive as a photographer.

That was music to my ears. I always feared that since I wasn’t coming up with new, creative, ingenuitive ideas that I had no right to attempt to pursue professional photography. But as I watched her online course, I was deeply encouraged that as someone with artistic inclinations and a love of photography I had more than enough to pursue photography as a professional endeavor.

When I look at other photographers work I often think, “what a great idea! I wish I had thought of that.” And I imagine that a lot of people think that way. They are afraid to produce something because they think that if it’s not a new idea that they thought of themselves then they shouldn’t pursue it.  However, much of our culture is just a recycling of old ideas, done with a slight twist. I read an article once (I wish I could find it now) that talked about how most all of the movies and music of our current age are a recycled version of some movie or song that was already created.  Stated another way, consider the often quoted phrase, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Considering those ideas has freed me up to consider that just because I wasn’t the first person to have an idea, doesn’t mean I can’t pursue it. If someone else had a good idea, I can take it and leverage it to try to create something for myself. Perhaps I won’t do it as well. Perhaps I’ll do it better. But the act of creating is life giving and creates a great learning and growing opportunity for me as well as for those around me.

Are you someone who has been reluctant to create photographs or other forms of art because you don’t have any original ideas or because you weren’t creative enough? Well rest at ease! You don’t have to have an original creative thought to try to create art. It’s OK to be inspired by others creative ideas and then to go create your own version of those ideas. Use your artistic passions and the ideas put before you by others, and go create something!


The following pictures are images I've created. Every one of them was inspired by an image or idea I got from someone else. If I was being honest, none of them are as good as I want them to be. But, every one of them provided a learning opportunity that helped grow my skill as a photographer. With each project I tackle and each image I try to create I find that I learn and grow and become more and more proficient in my ability to create images that have great impact. I'm grateful for the photographers and artists that have come before me to share ideas that have inspired me along my journey.

The first two images are a redux of a simple "baby photo" I've seen too many times to count. When done well it creates this really powerful image of a newborn resting in their parents hands. The focus on the baby and the parents hands creates a great contrast between how tiny the newborn is compared to their parents. It shows a loving care as the baby rests in the parents hands. It infers warmth as the baby is wrapped up and resting soundly in a blanket.

Creating these images was a great learning opportunity for me. The first was of my firstborn son and the second was my secondborn son. To accomplish a photo like this you want to use studio lights and you have to have a reasonable grasp of post processing. You can see that in the first image the detail is really soft. There is not much that falls in sharp focus. However in the second image there is a much greater degree of detail and focus. Much of that was due to my growing understanding of how to use off camera flash and lighting. I wasn't super happy with the fist image but I learned a lot. So when I did the photos of my second son, I was really pleased to see that what I learned improved the image (greatly in my opinion).

The following image is another example of learning from others. This is almost literally a copycat from other images I've seen. I wanted to do some night photos of the city of Seattle and looked online for some good spots to shoot from. I found examples of photos shot from this exact vantage point and loved the images. So I headed to that location to see if I could produce something I liked. The night I was there, the clouds were hanging low and created more color distortion in the sky than I wanted. But, it was the first time I had done city-scape photos at night. the ideas that I had seen online helped me step into a new realm and learn new skills that upped my game as a photographer.

The following image is another great idea of how other people's ideas have inspired me. The following image is taken from Kerry Park. It is perhaps the most photographed spot in all of Seattle. On a good day you can see the city as well as the iconic Mt. Rainier in the background. You would think it's a simple thing to go to Kerry Park and capture an amazing photograph. But, it's not! There are a lot of factors that have to come together to make a strong photo from this spot. You need to catch it at a time when there is little fog or atmospheric haze. You want to catch it at a time of day where the lighting is favorable. You need to get a good spot (which can be a challenge given how many people cram into Kerry Park on a nice day). I've been there a number of times and I've walked away with OK photos but I have yet to walk away with a stellar photo of that scene. But every time I go, and every time I look online and what others have done, I learn a little more about how I can make more impactful images.

I hope this has been encouraging and helpful for you. As I often say, none of this will do you any good unless you go out and put this to practice! If you're someone who isn't super creative but is artistic and wants to make some great photos, then take some time to search out some ideas to inspire you. Then make a plan to go try to create your own photograph based on the idea that inspired you. See what you learn. See what you can create. Enjoy the process and all that you learn along the way.

Happy shooting!