How To Take Inventory With Nouns

 

This article is part of a series …

1.    Take Inventory With Nouns.

2.    Discover Qualities With Adjectives And Adverbs.

3.    Identify Actions With Verbs.

 

Try this. Before you photograph, write. When you first arrive at a new location you can quickly become overstimulated or even overwhelmed by all the new sights, sounds, smells, and events. You can make sense of it all and make sure you don’t miss anything by taking inventory. Make a list of all the things you see. You’ll find that in the process of writing things down you’ll notice more than you ordinarily do.

Push yourself a little. Give yourself a high quota. Set a minimum number of words; start with 50. And set a minimum amount of time – 3-5 minutes. This initial investment of time will pay big dividends. When you start making photographs, you will have already found more subjects and more details about them.

Don’t just do this once, keep it going. Practice this until it becomes a habit. You’ll find that as you develop this skill you’ll naturally start noticing more. In part, this is because you aren’t pre-selecting or what you notice. You filter impressions after not before you notice them.

After an initial burst, you’ll find that the number of new observations you make will slow down. Use this strategy to expand your list and notice more. Break things down into parts. For instance, after you write tree also write root, trunk, bark, branch, leaf, bud, flower, fruit. You can even note the parts of the new things on your list; for fruit list stem, skin, flesh, seed. See you started with one word and ended up with twelve and in the process, you might have been tempted to break open and sample the fruit.

The time to stop this flow of words is not the first time you get stuck and probably not the second or third either. But there is a time to stop this flow of words and just be purely visual while you make exposures. But anytime you see the flow of images slowing down or stopping altogether you can pick it back up. This is especially useful right after an extended session of making exposures. Consider it a review to consolidate everything you noticed. And when you come back to the same or a similar subject you already have a list, which you can continue building on. (I make my lists on my smartphone so they’re always with me.)

With so many possibilities, where do you start making images? Start with whatever is most interesting to you. Highlight those things on your list so that you can find them quickly when you look at them again.

Keep building your lists. Your lists will come in handy when you start repeating yourself. As a result, you’ll be able to make many more successful and related images. Given time and practice, you’ll notice patterns in your thinking, which can be the start of finding what’s truly authentic about the way you see.

Find more ways to boost your creativity using words.
Learn more creative techniques in my workshops.

Take Note of Your Process

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It only takes something to write with to learn a lot about photography and yourself in a little time. It doesn’t matter whether you use pen and paper or PDA. It doesn’t matter whether you finish sentences, spell correctly, or write legibly. Just write. Don’t just talk, using audio recordings, unless you transcribe them later. You need to see relationships – in writing.
One of the assignments I often give my workshop participants on location is to note your process. “First I do this. Then I do this. Next I … etc.” Most don’t follow through. They quickly fall into old habits and return to photographing the way they usually do, without finishing the assignment, without learning. So, to finish the assignment, they have to fill in their lists after they photograph. Then they don’t piece things together in the same way. They miss some things. They forget other things. One of the benefits of noting your process is that things that you ordinarily take for granted or weren’t aware of suddenly become clearer to you.
I do the assignment with my students. (Yes, I do the exercises I assign too.) They’re always amazed at how full my pages of notes are and how many pages I create in a short time. This comes with practice. And it comes with sharing your notes with other people. When you hear each other’s lists, you’ll find other people notice things you don’t. Both the similarities and differences you share with others can be revealing.
I find I write the same things down time and time again. This has lead me to create a master process list, which I copy and modify (add to or subtract from) on location. There are always new things. Are there new things because I noticed more? Why? Are there new things because I’m in a new environment? Why? Are there new things because I decided to try something new? Why? These are important questions that can unlock a new ways of looking, thinking, and working, now and in the future. Keep asking them.
Because I write … I’m clearer about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve streamlined my systems. I have a better understanding of how and why I work. I have dozens of new ideas to try. This is a great thing to do when you first start making photographs after a break or in a new place.
There are many more benefits to noting your process. With practice you won’t need to take as many notes as you do when you first try this, you’ll simply keep a running dialog in your head and note only the most important things or the things that are different. Do make notes. Writing reveals. Writing brings more choices. Writing leads to clear thinking. Writing leads to clear seeing.
Find more online resources in my Creativity Lessons.
Learn more creative techniques in my Illuminating Creativity workshops.

Using Visual Metaphors

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Here’s an excerpt from my column in the current issue of AfterCapture magazine.
“In photography, metaphors are visual rather than verbal. Different kinds of connections and transferences of shared qualities are made more easily with visual language than with verbal language. Relationships that can be seen but not easily put into words may become clear to the viewer. The echo of compositional elements, such as line, shape, texture, or color, between two (or more) draws a connection between two things that ordinarily might seem unrelated. Quite often, visual metaphors are not the echo of things already existing in the image, but instead offer specific reminders of things that are not in the image.
Interestingly, visual metaphors are rarely as direct as verbal metaphors. When you read a metaphor like, “Your love is a fire that burns me,” it’s crystal clear what metaphor is being used. You read fire and see it in your mind’s eye. Visual metaphors are often less obvious and more suggestive. If a shadow suggests the shape of an animal, it may not be definitively clear which animal it is, rather than a specific animal, it may be animalistic. Consequently, visual metaphors may be subject to multiple interpretations and this may or may not be a good thing. Visual metaphors may not be recognized consciously, but if they’re present, they are always felt.
We use metaphors to invest things with heightened emotion, qualify our responses to them, and produce insight. You can use metaphors to guide you deeper into a subject and your relationship with the subject. This works best if you truly connect mentally and emotionally with the subject and the metaphors you choose. Once you’ve identified the subjects and metaphors you react to most strongly, nurture your connection with and understanding of them. Free association, amplification, contemplation, and gestation help. You’ll find that internal processes are just as important as the external processes. They are what provide the inner life to your creative endeavors.
Metaphors can transform a commonplace perspective into an exceptional one. They can enrich your life. And you, in turn, can enrich ours.”
Find more online resources in my Creativity Lessons.
Learn more creative techniques in my Illuminating Creativity workshops.

SCAMPER

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SCAMPER
Having trouble coming up with new ideas? Get thousands of ideas with one word. Try SCAMPER. In 1939 advertising executive Alex Osborn, “the father of brainstorming”, first proposed a set of nine strategies for creative thinking, seven of which were later rearranged by Bob Eberle into the mnemonic SCAMPER.
S   Substitute
C   Combine
A   Adapt
M   Modify
P   Put to Other Uses
E   Eliminate
R   Rearrange
What are the other two missing words?
Minify, which I like to think of as expand and contract or put another way reduce and enlarge.
Reverse, which I think is the most powerful tool of all. It’s typified by the 180 degree rule. Do the opposite.
The underlying assumption with SCAMPER is that new ideas are based on old ones. This may not always be the case, but often it is. To use SCAMPER, you have to start with something.
You can use SCAMPER as a list of questions that can be used to generate new ideas. Simply ask, “Can I ____ something?” inserting the words SCAMPER represents one at a time. Next, you might try using two words at a time. Later try three. Classically, the best solutions are the simplest, but not always.
Find over 20 creativity tips here.
Learn more in my workshops.

LIDLIPS

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Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School
Syl Arena’s LIDLIPS started as blog posts on Pixsylated. They were so popular he’s collected them in a book.Syl delivers common sense wisdom that refreshes, provides a useful perspective, and brings you back to center.
Here’s one.
36. Make photos even when you don’t have a camera
Photography has way more to do with seeing than it does with driving a piece of hardware. Practice your skills as a photographer even when you don’t have a camera. Make mental pictures anywhere at anytime. Study the light around you. Watch the gestures and expressions of people across the restaurant. Look for geometry in the surfaces and shadows around you. Pick a word. Say it to yourself every time you take a mental picture. “Snap”.
Here are 9 more topics.
Don’t confuse distraction with creativity.
Embrace stress as the opposite of apathy.
Making yourself vulnerable is a sign of strength.
Listen for answers to questions you didn’t ask.
Look along the edges to find the in betweens.
If your camera were a pencil or a crayon it would be easy to understand it’s limitations.
Make photos even when you don’t have a camera.
Creativity comes as a breeze before it comes as a gale.
Be prepared for your dreams to come true.
Find all 100 LIDLIPS and the book here.
Find LIDLIPS on Amazon here.
Find my creatvity Lessons here.

Creativity Quotes on Twitter

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Everyday I post quotes on creativity on Twitter.
Here are some of my favorites.
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite. – William Blake
Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. – Rumi
We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are. – The Talmud
The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust
Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore. – Andre Gide
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. – T.S. Eliot
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
You can read the quotes I post on Twitter in the top right of this blog.
You can find many more and “Follow” me on my Twitter page here.

Storytelling

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Every picture tells a story. Every picture? Every picture!
Even abstract images tell stories. The stories they tell are not about their subjects. By definition they don’t have subjects. Or do they? They have themselves. So they tell stories about themselves. They tell stories about the things that make them –  color, line, texture, shape, proportion, etc. How all of those things relate is a drama of form.
How many kinds of stories are there? There are scientific stories that tell us what things are and how they work. There are historical stories that tell us how things were, how they changed, and what they’ve become today – some even speculate about how things will be tomorrow. There are emotional stories that tell us how people respond emotionally to things. There may be more kinds of stories, but these are the big ones. When it comes to images, the stories they tell are usually only about a few kinds of things. The images themselves. The things images contain. The processes things go through. The feelings people have in response to things and processes. The concepts created through interpretation. Things – Nouns. Processes – Verbs. Feelings – Adjectives and Adverbs. Concepts – Abstract Ideas.
So if every picture tells a story, one way to determine the strength of an image is to ask, “How strong is the story?” Put another way, one way to improve your images is to tell stronger stories. A story doesn’t have to be big or dramatic to be strong; it just has to be told well. Tell stories strongly. Tell them with stronger form; tell them by more clearly delineating actions; tell them by disclosing emotional responses more passionately; tell them by inspiring us to find the bigger picture beyond each picture or group of pictures …
Read the rest in the current issue of AfterCapture magazine.
Find more in my free Creativity Lessons.
Learn more in my Workshops.