Photography Problem Solving Wisdom

Workshop participant Fred Morton photographs a young woman at the wall of the Malecon. During Irma swells were over 30 feet and parts of the city flooded.

SD5_4535A wise man I met in Japan more than 20 years ago described his process of problem solving. He said that when you are trying to come up with a solution to a problem and you’ve racked your brain and thought out all possibilities but still come up empty…stop.Go back to the beginning and try a completely different route around that problem—maybe even the exact opposite route, or some other different approach that first pops into your head. In other words, reset to the beginning and try something completely different and new.

His words have always resonated with me, and I have used his suggestion successfully to fight a creative block. When I’m working the situation and things just aren’t moving forward, I stop and try a completely different photographic approach. In a portrait session I might change locations from indoors to outdoors, or vice versa. If I’m shooting long, I might try wide. It’s about shaking things up and not overthinking. It’s about taking chances. Albert Einstein said it’s okay to get crazy.

 “If at first an idea does not sound absurd, then there is no hope for it.” —Albert Einstein

And when you try stuff and it works, these successes are stored in your brain and infused into your process for future photo situations. Your photographic palette of possibilities is widened. You are becoming a better photographer each time you stretch and try something new, especially when it works.


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1 Comment

  • So true! Sometimes by pulling away from a situation or problem, we can then look back at it with a fresh perspective. For a photography example, I’ve recently purchased the 58mm f/1.4 (inspired by your article) and have been deciding on what lens to carry with it as I like to carry primes in pairs. At first my idea was the 35mm because I love that focal length and thought it would match nicely with the 58mm. But now…I’m thinking I will carry the 24mm with the 58mm, which will prevent me from leaning on my good friend the 35mm, and also provide a lens that is significantly different from the 58mm. Hopefully to challenge me, but also as you allude to here…that if things aren’t happening with the 58, then the 24 provides a good “stop” and way different look than the 58. Fun stuff! Thank you for sharing this story, a good life lesson.

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