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The Daily Shoot and Creativity

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CogDog asked a thought-provoking question on his blog recently: has the daily shoot improved my photography?

This is a great question. I’m not sure if there is a simple yes or no answer for me. I’ve played with photography off and on over the years, enough to develop some basic skills and head knowledge. But never really with the dedication and consistency to develop a skillful eye.

I don’t think I’ve noticeably improved over as short a time span as a week. However, for me the value in participating in the daily shoot (so far) has been its introduction of consistency and constraint into my photography. Having to take a picture every day, regardless of whether or not I’m “inspired,” and being constrained by the prompt, together have resulted in photographs that I would have never thought to take otherwise. Furthermore, it seems reasonable that if I were to remain this dedicated then my photographs would noticeably improve over time.

Here is an example of how the consistency and constraints have been helpful. The prompt for this photograph was “#ds450: We all prepare for things every day. Illustrate preparedness in a photograph today.” I remember walking around campus that day thinking about preparedness, looking for preparedness, wondering what preparedness was. No luck.
That evening, though, I was thinking about how Leatherman’s were an example of preparedness, and then I remembered an old pocketknife my grandfather had given me. However, Jim Groom’s words in class came back to me: him dissing the idea of a plain old picture of tools and gear. I tried to think of how I could make it interesting. It needed… atmosphere. It needed… lighting. But just shooting it with a flash turned out bland, so I figured out how to get the flash focused on a small area of the scene (it’s called a snoot). And of course you need an interesting background, so I dug around and found a bit of cloth with an interesting pattern that seemed to go. That photograph was the result.

It’s clear, I think, that absent the constraint of needing to take a certain kind of picture that night, I probably wouldn’t have ever headed down the path which resulted in the picture, nor would I have gained further practice in photography.

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