In the first chapter of Galen Rowell’s great book, Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, he talks about the three phases of developing creativity. Ever since reading this, I’ve noticed how often it applies to any “creative” hobby I start. I’ve also noticed other people go through these same phases. So, I thought it’d be interesting to share them, and see what other people think.
Anyway, here are the phases that Rowell talked about, and a summary of how I interpreted them:
#1 – Curiosity
The first phase is all about satisfying your curiosity about photography, so in this phase you’re likely to take photographs of just about everything. This is when you learn all about your camera and how to change those three settings (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) to produce the image you’re looking for. You might perform a lot of little experiments in this phase just to see how your camera works and what happens when you change one little thing.
In this phase, it’s also common to try and reproduce other photographs you see. Some photographers believe this is wrong, but I think it’s perfectly fine and perhaps even necessary to truly build a unique vision (just as long as you don’t claim any creative credit to the image). This is the same thing that happens to anyone who starts playing an instrument: the first thing you want to learn how to play is your favorite songs, and then after you master all of those, that’s when you slowly start creating your own songs.
At the end of this phase, Rowell points out that your collection of photos will resemble an “unstructured visual curiosity.”
#2 – Organization
In the second phase, you start organizing that “unstructured” collection of images from phase one. You start seeing patterns in your images, and start developing a unique vision. In this phase, you’ll realize things like, “wow, I really have a lot of close-up photos!” And, those realizations help you see where your vision is naturally taking you.
#3 – Visualization
In the words of Galen Rowell, “High-level creativity begins at state three, when a person intimately familiar with the known organizational relationships in stage two uses his mind’s eye to visualize a previously unseen pattern in the sciences or the arts.” Basically, that means you start visualizing images that are not a part of your collection yet, and then you set out to create those images.
Once you get to this visualization phase, you’ll probably start thinking of ideas for images at completely random moments. You might be walking down the street to pick up some eggs at the store, and all of a sudden you think of a great image composed of your favorite flower in front of a very specific background.
When you start visualizing images like this, that’s how you know you’ve reached true creativity.
What do you think?
Have you gone through similar phases? Is there another phase of creative development that you think is missing? If so, please tell us about it by leaving a comment below! Thanks 🙂
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.