“I find myself often using words such as exercise, discipline, accountability and boundaries, which seem at odds with creativity”

Art of Seeing by Benedict Brain
A simple idea or premise can act as a great springboard to get your creative juices flowing. Sigma fp L with Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG DN | Art lens. 1/60 sec at f/5, ISO 250 (Image credit: Benedict Brain)
About Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain with camera

(Image credit: Marcus Hawkins)

Benedict Brain is a UK-based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and the author of You Will be Able to Take Great Photos by The End of This Book.

Creativity can manifest itself in many different ways – sometimes it flows easily and images present themselves to you, while at other times it can seem a struggle to ‘see’ anything at all. In my workshops and talks, I often speak about ways to find your creative mojo. Surprisingly, I find myself often using words such as exercise, discipline, accountability and boundaries, which seem at odds with creativity and more at home in a corporate boardroom. However, they do play into the creative process and can help fuel creativity, especially if you’re in a slump. 

Sometimes just getting out there, taking your camera out of your bag and pressing the shutter can be a good springboard for unleashing your creativity, but even then, knowing where to start can be a challenge. 

One device I’ve started using, especially as I often find myself in new locations for only a short period of time, is to start photographing the front facades of homes. It’s a way of creating boundaries and provides me with a starting point, a reason to start looking with the camera in hand. More often than not, one line of visual enquiry leads to another and then another, and before long creativity is flowing – if not, then I still have a pleasing set of door images.

Here is a bunch of door and facade images that I’ve made into a grid of 20 shots. I like the way the individual images help build an overall picture and sense of place. On this particular trip, I visited half a dozen cities and ports between Lisbon and New York in a relatively short period of time. I made similar grids to this using the same format in other locations as well; it was fascinating to see the characteristics of each location manifest themselves through the doors, window frames, building materials, color palettes and facades. 

This particular set is from Cobh in Ireland, as you may have guessed. Some of the images work well by themselves as individual shots, and some work better as part of the bigger whole. However, it’s the creative process that interests me. The relatively straightforward mission of looking at the facades of buildings in each of the locations I visited was a good creative springboard that led to making other images, too. 

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Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He graduated with a degree in photography from the Derby School of Art in 1991 (now University of Derby), where he was tutored and inspired by photographers John Blakemore and Olivier Richon, amongst others. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and also sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel.

Until July 2018 Benedict was editor of Britain’s best-selling consumer photography magazine, Digital Camera Magazine. As a journalist he met and interviewed some of the world’s greatest photographers and produced articles on a wide range of photography related topics, presented technique videos, wrote in-depth features, curated and edited best-in-class content for a range of titles including; Amateur Photographer, PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Professional Photography and Practical Photoshop. He currently writes a regular column, The Art of Seeing, for Digital Camera magazine.