Over the years, I’ve noticed that the skills I’ve developed as a photographer have also helped me to “see” more creatively in other areas of my life, too. I’ve discovered that there are some strong parallels between the art of seeing creatively through a camera lens and the art of creative problem solving.
There are a number of elements that contribute to creative photography, and which have metaphorical equivalents in the world of creative problem solving.
First, 35mm cameras have interchangeable lenses, which enable you to frame your subject in a number of interesting and creative ways:
In addition to lens selection, the photographer can manipulate elements like lighting, image exposure and the angle from which he or she shoots the subject, which can also be used to compose some highly creative photographs.
Finally, every professional photographer knows that shooting pictures is a numbers game. In other words, the best way to come up with one great image is to shoot many photographs. During the shooting process, it’s often hard to envision which combination of factors (lens, lighting, exposure and the camera’s point of view) will yield the best images. So professional photographers usually try to shoot a large quantity of shots, realizing that the law of averages tends to prevail.
What does all of this have to do with creativity and problem solving? More than you might think, because creativity, like photography, is all about the art of “seeing.” In other words, looking at the same situation as everyone else, but seeing something different.
When we analyze a problem or opportunity, we may focus in on a single aspect of it, like a telephoto lens does. Other times, we may broaden our mental perspective to take in the “bigger picture,” like a wide-angle lens does.
Like a photographer, you can take a mental “walk” around your problem or opportunity to view it from multiple perspectives. This process often yields important insights and fresh ideas.
Likewise, both the photographer and the innovator recognize the importance of quantity in their respective professions: The best way to come up with a truly great idea is to come up with many ideas.
If you’re looking for ways to increase your creative output, why not adopt some of the techniques of professional photographers?
Don’t be satisfied with looking at your current challenge from your usual, habitual point of view. That’s like digging for gold in a tapped-out vein of rock. Instead, dig deeper. Take a mental walk around your challenge. Get focus in and examine each aspect of it. Then broaden your mental focus and consider your challenge in the context of other trends or forces, as well as similar situations others may have faced. Like the photographer, examine all of the possible variables or factors that may lead to a winning solution.
And remember that creativity, like photography, is all about “seeing” things differently — about thinking and discerning more fluently, so you can see the unique elements and factors that others may have overlooked in their habitual way of looking at the world.