Ghost series photoshoot with girl in a dress in a park autumn

How Setting Boundaries Can Improve Your Creativity

On last week’s Creativelive annual Photo week, Lindsay Adler held a class on cost-effective creative shoots.

What really stuck with me was something she said at the very beginning: creating boundaries for yourself can improve your creativity. It sounds completely counter-intuitive, but I found out it actually works the same way for me as well.
Complete freedom may seem like a dream-come-true, but I work best when I narrow down the subjects I’ll shoot and, thus, the different possibilities.

I attended the Academy for applied art until a month ago when I majored and we always had tasks and projects we needed to complete, be it a logo for a wine institute or repurposing old stuff. When these boundaries were set by the project and the options limited not only in creative terms, but also in technical terms (printing, size, colour etc.), you had to push yourself harder to think about a solution that would not only visually look good, but one that would also follow the project’s brief.

I tend to do the same with my own personal projects!

I either pick a theme, an item, a subject, an feeling, a colour, an atmosphere, an ambient, a dream, an idea – and start conceptualizing and translating it into visuals.

For example, last year I was listening to Dead Man’s Bones album and wanted to do a series of photos about ghosts. I wanted them to be more our own alter-egos than ‘ghosts’ in the typical sense, so I created concepts around that main idea. Then I picked my model, Iva, because I could see her fit in the story. It was autumn at that time and her hair went really well with the colourful leaves in the park that also helped create a slightly moody atmosphere.

Behind the scenes of a ghost shoot
This is the photo I sent to my model before the shoot so she could see what I had in mind. The hand would be transparent as it represented the ‘ghost’.
Ghost series conceptual photoshoot with girl in a dress in a park autumn
This is the final result where my model, Iva Pajković, embodied the timeless subject I wanted her to be.

So, what can you do to creatively set boundaries?
1. Pick something that you’ve got an interest in, be it a dress, a book, or a leaf pattern
2. Think about all the things you can do with it and write them down
3. Narrow down the better options
4. SHOOT.  Don’t give up just because you think it might not work out well!

Does this sort of thing work out for you? Let me know in the comments below!

photographer self portrait with cameraAbout the author
Hi! I’m Isabella and I’m a photographer, blogger and applied arts graduate. I love spending my time creatively, or watching movies, drinking tea, playing with my cats and hanging out with friends.
Find me here or on Facebook and say hello!


3 thoughts on “How Setting Boundaries Can Improve Your Creativity

  1. Hi Isabella,
    this was a fantastic piece of advice. I have a lot of random shoot ideas but find it hard to put them together and come up with a concrete plan. I like this blog very much and will follow it 🙂



    1. Hi Surabhi,
      thank you for your comment and I’m glad it helped! 🙂 It’s great if you have a lot of ideas, maybe just writing them down and categorizing them (like: things to shoot in spring / things to shoot with XY model etc.) could help?


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