How do you stand out with your holiday-related projects when it seems like all the creative ideas have already been used and overused? Some say you should look for inspiration in movies and books. Others believe that you need to bury yourself in research about the subject you’re working with to dig up an interesting and original concept. There’s also an opinion that every idea becomes unique if you spend enough time adding your own artistic spin to it.
But sometimes you’re just stuck. As Valentine’s Day is approaching, we reached out to different photographers and artists from around the world to find out about their ways of coming up with new, original, and unconventional ideas when it comes to working with that one universal concept and feeling – love. The simplicity and complexity of this one word and topic causes many artists to blank. As a solution, we turned to those that can help you rethink your approach to working with this theme and other popular thematic projects.
In this article, six photographers and artists share their personal tips and tricks to come up with original ideas on the theme of love. They showcase their works and projects as examples, and give advice to aspiring professionals such as yourself that really want to battle their creative blocks and create more original work when working with popular themes and topics. Throw out used and overused concepts and start from a blank page as you read this feature with insights from Tanya Yatsenko, Zamurovic brothers, Dina Belenko, Jesus Ortiz, Oleksandr Bondar, and Janelle Sweeney.
Tanya Yatsenko, a portrait and family photographer who switched from law to photography more than seven years ago. Her portfolio on Depositphotos is a mix of lifestyle and documentary genres.
Ask yourself what you feel when you think about love
I am a visual learner and observing the world around is vital to me. The most important tip I can share is the need to understand and realize what love means to you and what you feel when you talk about it. Then, you must build the visual images in your head that associate with this concept.
Knowing your ‘why’ is of the highest priority. Some people would say it might be a kiss, a red heart, or a bunch of flowers. But is it really what you believe in?
When I started to dig deeper within myself, I realized that love is about connections that can be transformed into various forms: touching, hugging, holding hands, dancing, eating food, and riding a bike together, smiling or just lying on the grass with your beloved one and staring at the sky. What really matters is the details and symbols that truly speak to you. As for still life photography, it can be anything associated with love – candles, sweets, or children’s paintings with hearts.
I would say there are several sources where you can find inspiration.
First, you can follow photographers, communities, and artists who inspire you and analyze how they translate love in their images.
Second, you can watch movies and animated films. You can see how filmmakers did it in terms of showing the concept of love. See how the characters touch or walk, what they do, and how they react. Observe the settings, colors, and mood.
Third, there are music videos and ballet concerts. Dancers show love without talking! This is exactly what you need. Apart from that, you can create mood boards where you collect everything about love. Sometimes, I print out the screenshots from movies I like and put everything in one place. I can carry it with me and skim through it when I need inspiration.
Share what real life is all about
I am not a fan of unnatural settings. Photos should be about real life and people. Not everyone dresses up for Valentine’s day. Some prefer to stay at home and this is the reality of what it’s like during a pandemic.
As for the ideas, I would say that a home atmosphere would be a nice one. It can be a dinner with or without candles, breakfast in bed, watching movies together or playing video games. We shouldn’t forget that Valentine’s Day is not only about youth and adults. There’s love between seniors and LGBT couples. Kids also love to celebrate this day! They can cut out paper hearts and paint them in colors or prepare love postcards for their parents and friends.
Speaking of color palettes, you can use colors that are associated with love. There are many possibilities but the most important thing is to take pictures of what brings you joy. If you can create a real story based on a concept of love, go for it!
Create your own world instead of blindly following trendy concepts
As I have already mentioned, it’s important to understand what really speaks to you. We are all unique and you can try to recollect your childhood memories and think of how you felt about love. What made you believe in it? I am sure everyone has their own vision. You shouldn’t follow the trendy concepts. You can create your own world.
If you wish to create holiday-related projects you must find inspiration, right? You can look at the works of artists that inspire you. Photography communities share a lot about these kinds of projects. Become a member of those communities. You can see examples and try to create your own piece of art. Participate in photography contests. Sometimes I do this in order to see how other people work and see the world.
Read and watch a lot about different subjects. If it is love, find movies and cartoons about love. I’m really into Japanese animated movies. You can see how they show feelings through their protagonists.
Find painters who were or are good in this sphere. Create your mood boards, google and collect photos that inspire you. Learn to constantly excel. This is not an easy way to stand out from the crowd but failures keep us afloat and push us forward.
Zamurovic brothers, a popular duo of photographers working with the fine art genre in their field. Contributors to Depositphotos since 2016 and one of our top authors.
Start off with a clean slate
A heart is the main symbol of love. When looking for new concepts, we always start from scratch. We browse through social networks and slowly drift away from the symbol of a heart but stay within the theme of love.
Everything becomes love when you spend hours thinking of it and browsing through love concepts and ideas. One by one, concepts begin to emerge from the sea of inspiration.
Try to get at the very heart of a subject
Like we already said, we start from basic words and symbols. This year brought us an interesting turn and led us directly to the raw essence of the word “heart”. The task was challenging but those kinds of tasks are the main reason why we love our job. We took a heart from the local butcher to make our latest series.
Opt for the creativity-first approach
That is exactly the path to choose. Creative photography is becoming more and more popular on stock photography websites. There is so much freedom with this approach because being creative is the most rewarding feeling you can experience. For example, we found a way to be creative and successful with an artistic approach to stocks. We both believe that creativity is the future of the stock photography business.
Dina Belenko, a fine art and still life photographer who loves sharing magical stories. She’s one of the most notable contributors to Focused Collection and has been with Depositphotos since 2016.
Look for specific manifestations of a theme
I approach sketching on the theme of love in the same way as any other topic. I try not to consider the abstract but to find specific manifestations that:
- are interesting to shoot
- can be visualized with the help of equipment and props that I have
My strategy is the following. You can start from the abstract theme of “love” and come to the concept of love for food (find your favorite! Be it borscht or tiramisu), love for a specific person (and move further from their character, hobby, or profession), or love for a certain group of people (obviously, your note of appreciation for a book club will be different from the appreciation for fellow metallurgists). Abstract love involves photography with common symbols that are just a stone’s throw from clichés. But if you add a restriction that solidifies a concept (with a subject, additional theme, or character), the skeleton of an abstract symbol becomes more meaningful, and the photo looks much more lively.
Think about your language of love
This year, I am shooting a supplement to my book The Creative Photography Cookbook – three workshops dedicated to Valentine’s Day. In each of them, I wanted to show some interesting shooting techniques but also to do it using unusual ideas as an example.
The first one is connected with a saying “The way to one’s heart is through their stomach”, as well as with a joke of my favourite Dylan Moran (Irish comedian and writer):
“Cake is the language of love. I don’t see any cakes in the building. You know, people say that to you: “I love you, I love you!” Yeah? Gimme a fuckin’ eclair.”
I thought it would be fun to visualize this quote by putting something tasty at the centre of a labyrinth. On the packaging of French fries I replaced the famous logo with a heart, which was a discovery. For those who have a sweet tooth, I placed a heart from macarons and pink petals in the center of the chocolate labyrinth.
The second idea is also related to food (I started as a food photographer and love sweets which explains everything). I decided to add to the macaroon one of the symbols of love that is often used in illustration but I almost never see it in photography – a Cupid’s arrow. It turned out that it is quite easy to make it from paper, “pierce” something tasty with it, and add a twist to the Valentine’s composition with sweets and flowers.
The third idea is about magic. This is my favorite topic, I can tie it to anything. Love potion seems unethical to me, but medicine for a broken heart is something that can be useful to everyone. I could just capture a bottle of potion with moss and smoke, but I wanted to add something more dramatic and the flames turned out to be a perfect fit. Yes, the fire is real.
Toss away the ideas that come to your mind first
I think that it is important to discard the first ideas that come to mind.
The initial associations with a concept are often the same for all people, it’s the first level. But if you draw ten or fifteen sketches instead of three, you might get to the bottom of stories that are rooted in your cultural code. In books that only you have read. In songs that only you have listened to. It can also be a unique combination of all the tropes you know. Keep digging!
Jesus Ortiz, a photographer, illustrator, and artist who combines doodles and objects to tell heartwarming conceptual stories.
Stray away from cliches
I think the ideal is to try to avoid the clichés of romantic love. Maybe, in the times we live in, we should focus on a healthier love. A love where there is no emotional dependence. Love should be based on freedom. Two free souls who decide to walk the path together.
Why not create an art piece about self-love?
Love is a very broad concept. For example, it can be approached with a small flower that grows into something majestic.
It would also be interesting to work on the topic of self-love. It seems that a large part of society still thinks that if you don’t live as a couple, you have failed in some way. That’s not the case at all, so I think it would be an original way of approaching the subject.
If you never try the idea, you’ll never know whether it works out
I always say that the most important thing is that artists should feel comfortable doing their job. It’s much more interesting if you love what you do, rather than doing it with the public’s response in mind.
I believe that an artist should never discard an idea before trying it out. It might not convince you at first sight, but new, innovative alternatives may emerge during the process.
Oleksandr Bondar, a lifestyle and portrait photographer who has been a contributor to Depositphotos since 2017. In his works, he focuses on people and their emotions, enriching his portfolio with authentic images every year.
Draw inspiration from people around you
When I prepare for any creative project, I always draw inspiration from people. Therefore, I would consider all the possible options first, to eventually invite authentic, sincere, and real people to the photoshoot. Their own stories often form the basis for constructing a concept on the topic of love in particular. Then, I think about the plot, storyboard, camera angles, and colors. This is my approach to preparing for creative photoshoots, including the ones on the theme of love.
Lifestyle photography is always a safe bet
I would also suggest shooting a couple in love. But it should not be staged and captured as lifestyle shots in a cozy and familiar environment for them. They can communicate, have fun, hug tenderly, and enjoy each other and the day that helps them feel even more love and support from a beloved one. Perhaps, I would suggest cooking a dish together in the kitchen or in the barbecue area near the house that would have symbolic hints of Valentine’s Day with some symbols and colors.
Add your own artistic touch to stand out
Considering my experience, I understand that you always need to be yourself. At a time when our ideas are already repeating someone else’s, you just need to preserve yourself as a creative, unique person, whose works will be recognizable at first sight. And work hard to live up to these expectations.
Janelle Sweeney, a portrait and brand photographer who currently lives in Paris. Among her clients are local businesses and big companies such as Booking.com.
Be an observer, pay attention to emotions
Love is the most beautiful thing in the world. And as photographers, we have the joy and honor of capturing it! The love between a parent and child, a dog and its owner, two high-school sweethearts, best friends, or a couple celebrating 50 years together… Love is what brings us together, and each time I pick up the camera this is what I am searching for. Love can be captured as two lovers stare into each other’s eyes, it can also be captured by someone offering food to somebody in need, it can be captured in a laugh as friends tease each other. When it comes to capturing love in your projects it’s about seeking out the emotions and those little moments.
How do I capture these? I watch interactions between people and the emotions that are showing on their faces and in their body language. Photographers are observers, everything you see has the potential to be a captivating photo. If you want to mix it up and show love in an interesting and different way, why not take a moment to watch and observe how people interact? Observe where there is love and see how you could translate that in your photography without it being posed or forced.
Create a series that tells a story
For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t just about love between couples but rather a day where we celebrate all love. Growing up, my parents always gave my sister and I Valentine’s Day gifts. We would come down for breakfast and each have a chocolate heart on the table. This was always so special to me. So this year, I am hoping to collate different images of love. Also, over the past year, we have been confined, separated physically, and the ways that we normally displayed and shared love isn’t always possible. So I am also hoping to capture the unconventional ways that we can display love during these crazy times.
I have previously done a couple love photoshoots too, which I have been sharing around Valentine’s Day. I love the photos from this shoot so much because they tell a story. Within the photos, there is intimacy, care, laughter, closeness, and love.
Keep pushing yourself to find a truly unique concept
If you feel like you are in a creative rut, I recommend following some other photography accounts to seek inspiration. As you are seeking to be original, be careful not to copy the works of other artists. Use what you find in a way that will inspire you. Maybe you will see a photographer play around with light in a different way, or use a different angle. From there, give it a try, and keep pushing the boundaries until you have something original and unique.
In the next year, I am planning to explore more creative photography ideas with Photoshop. Typically, my portrait photography is very natural, as it’s about capturing authentic and genuine emotions. But to increase my expertise as a photographer and to challenge myself creatively, I plan to learn a few new tricks and tips with the software.
When it comes to holiday-related projects, my biggest recommendation for aspiring professionals would be to have a good think about all the possible ideas you could use. Then choose the option that you have seen the least on social media or elsewhere. It’s great to seek inspiration from other photographers but take a bit from it and make it totally your own!
Share this article with someone that could use the inspiration!
We hope our feature for the upcoming holiday will help you with your Valentine’s Day projects this year. Apply these original ideas and tips to your projects (and don’t forget to put your spin to it!) or share the inspiration with someone that could really use it this year.
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