Get an Instant Jolt of Passion

Every photographer hits a “rut” where we just draw blanks, no matter how much our heart and passion drives us to shoot, and often it’s depressing, but I’m here to help you kick-start your photography with themes. Themes that subconsciously you should carry in your brain with you on every photo shoot. More specific, “working themes.”

Model Photography

Using juxtaposition in photography can provide an interesting theme.

Working themes will bail you out every time, especially when you’re on a photo shoot and you or your subject can’t come up with photo ideas. Basically, every photographer should write down, then remember, themes, or projects, that they want to accomplish—like a bucket list for photography.

I have some working themes that I’ll share, and feel free to make them your own themes if you’d like. There is no trademarking of themes; it’s just a matter of making your photos better—in fact, that is a great end goal for any photographer and all you have to do is ask yourself, “How can I make my photos better?”

It’s this question that challenges me every time I pick up a camera, as personally, with over three decades of shooting under my belt, I can get bored rather quickly. So not only do I think of various themes when I shoot, but I’m constantly challenging myself to make every shoot better than the last one.

Do I always succeed in doing this? No! But it keeps me going along with my working themes. All professional photographers take bad photos while trying to capture that great one—we just rarely show you the bad ones, and that’s what separates an amateur photographer from a pro, the amateur will show you all their photos, mainly because they’re still learning what makes a great photo. Themes will help you get there faster if you fall into the latter, and if your photography is at a higher level, themes will bail you out especially when it counts.

Here are a few working themes that bail me out anytime I get into a crunch where my brain goes blank in creativity:

1. Wide Aperture—this theme is exactly what it says, I just open my lens apertures to the wider f/stops, anything from f/1.2 to f/4. I know right off the bat it will add a pleasant “bokeh” background. Bokeh is what I like to call a “mood changer” in my photography; in fact, shooting at wider apertures can actually help you define your photographic style.

Try this theme. Challenge yourself where you shoot an entire photo shoot f/4 and below. You’ll be surprised with the results as explained in my last article, “Sweet Spot In Photography.” More specific, this article is about how to avoid the sweet spot, or optimum aperture, when photographing women—you can even say avoiding the sweet spot is a theme in itself.

Model Photography

Have a little fun with juxtaposition, it works well in photography.

2. One Light, One Chair—in this theme my concept is two parts, first, find anything that provides a human a place to sit, preferably something unusual, like a chair with character or even a seat on an old farm tractor. Then, only use one light source to illuminate your subject while still allowing for the character of the chair to appear. Even an old Coca Cola box that once held bottles makes for a great chair especially when it’s standing tall off its longest side.

3. Modern Vintage—now this theme is something a former muse and I actually came up with. We’re always scouting for locations of “vintage” nature, she then styles the shoot with vintage looks with a modern flair. As an example, she might dress for the part with more modern clothes that comes close to the era of choice, and then style her hair plus add hair accruements to fit the part. So while this theme is more planned on pre-visualized concepts, it’s achievable with effort and provides for a great starting point that can evolve into another theme during the shoot, like that of “Wide Aperture.”

4. Mimic—this is an interesting theme where you have to do some research first, before you add it to your photography theme list; basically, pick any iconic photographer who you love their photographic style, then study them. I don’t mean just study their work, do your research, learn about what makes them tick, read their biography, and listen to what others say about them. See if you can find their artist statement too. Know everything about them!

Think of that photographer as an implied mentor. Take a piece of their photographic style, whether it’s their lighting, lens perspective choice, composition, etc., and try to mimic one of those characteristics of their photography with your photos.

Notice I didn’t say copy, I said mimic. There is a difference. Think of mimic as “fair use” and copy as a copyright violation. Better yet, you don’t plagiarize your photos you paraphrase your photography to theirs.

Now these are just four photography themes that help kick-start my photography when my mind draws a blank—again, feel free to use them. It has happened to me, where I hit that rut, felt depressed, then when I reached into my mind and recalled one of those four themes, it provided me that jolt of passion. With that I close and I ask that you don’t forget those who protect our freedoms plus their families and friends. God Bless them! Rolando.

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