How to Be a Curious Photographer

How do some people end up more curious than others? Is Curiosity a personality trait or can it be learned? How can I be more curious? How can you add Curiosity to your Photographic toolbox? Here are 10 Ways to be a more Curious Photographer:

1. Don’t be held Captive ‘the Rules’
There are a lot of ‘rules’ going around when it comes to photography. Read the books (read this blog) and you’ll find them. Some of them have formal names like ‘rule of thirds’ and ‘the golden ratio’ while others are often just called ‘the right way to…’. 

Rules are a great thing to know (and use) – however the curious photographer often takes great shots because they not only know the rules but because they set out to break them. Take the Rule of thirds – sometimes the most powerful shots are those with a centered subject staring down the barrel of the lens.

2. Ask Questions
Curious photographers are always asking questions. Questions of other photographers, questions about their own work, questions about their cameras, questions of their subjects etc. As a result they often learn things about their art (and themselves) that the rest of us don’t and their work improves because of it.

Find someone with the same camera as you and ask them how they use it. Find a photographer from a different genre to you and ask them about their techniques. Look back over your last month’s photos and ask yourself what you did well (and not so well).

3. Ask ‘What if…’
One of the key questions you should get in the habit of asking is ‘what if’? Curious people don’t just ask questions – they also come up with solutions.
Many of the solutions will end up being thrown away but if you ask ‘what if’ enough times you’re bound to make progress eventually.

What if I held the camera on this angle…. What if I got my subject to stand like this…. What if I lay on the ground to take this shot…. What if I lengthened my shutter speed…..

4. ‘Turn Questions into Quests’
Asking ‘what if…’ (and other questions) is not enough. Keep a record of the questions that you ask yourself and keep coming back to them from time to time to attempt to find a solution to the problems behind the questions. Taking your questions to the next level like this may not always be fruitful but at times it’ll lead you on journeys of discovery to unexpected places. Set yourself quests and challenges for your photography. Get more tips and tutorials from our free newsletters.

5. Learn from Others
While sometimes the best way to learn is by trying, making mistakes and then trying again – sometimes it’s more effective to find someone else who has already tried, made mistakes and tried again to help you avoid the pitfalls of photography. Find another photographer to buddy up with when you go out on shoots. Swap ideas, give each other tips and share the lessons that you learn. 

6. Put disconnected ideas together
Edward De Bono has a lot of different exercises that help people develop lateral thinking skills. In a number of his books he talks about how one way to think outside the box is when you put random ideas together to find new solutions to problems. Get in the frame of mind where you regularly do this and you’ll be surprised at how your mind comes up with wonderfully creative things.

7. Play
Perhaps the most curious of people are children who do a lot of what we’re writing about here (especially asking questions). Another thing that children do is ‘play’. With no other agenda than having fun and seeing what happens next children will play with the things around them and experiment and push the boundaries of their environment. In doing so they learn about life, themselves and their world. Play with new angles, with different shooting distances, with shooting from different perspectives etc

8. Go with the Flow
One of the biggest blockages to creativeness and curiosity are statements like:

  • We’ve never done it this way before
  • This is Stupid
  • It will never work

It is often directly after such statements that ideas stop being explored, projects end and people return to the humdrum of life. Learn to ignore such statements and follow your intuition and hunches and you might just find yourself doing something that ‘has never been done before’ that people wish HAD been done before. 

9. Get Proactive
One of the main things about curious people are that they rarely sit still and are always pushing forward and taking the initiative. Curious photographers don’t expect great photographic opportunities to come to them – but instead they actively search for them. They have a mindset where it almost becomes natural to ask, seek and find the things that the rest of us hope that will one day fall in our laps. Grab your camera, get out of the house, find some interesting subjects and start shooting. That great shot won’t just come knocking on your door!

10. Slow Down
We live in a fast paced world where we race from one thing to another, rarely sitting still. Unfortunately it is easy to bring this way of life into our photography. We impatiently wait for ‘the shot’ and when it doesn’t quickly come we snap away and move on. However in most cases photography isn’t a fast paced medium. Set aside a few hours this week to go and sit quietly in a pace in your town or city and watch the world go by. Don’t set yourself an agenda – just watch and when you see something worth photographing take the shot.

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