How to spark your creativity with photo jars


Sometimes, it’s hard to know what else to photograph. So you’re stuck thinking about what to do next. No spark of creativity comes to jumpstart your next photo session. For that, I have an idea.

We’ve all been there. Or else you wouldn’t be reading this article.

You sit at home. Batteries full, cards empty. You don’t know where to go for photos. Or you feel like going to the park around the corner, but you have already photographed everything there.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all. I could tell you just to get up and go. But we both know that doesn’t always work.

The solution is IKEA jars, though any jar works fine.

I have three of them. And when I feel stuck, I pull a card from every one of them.

Jar 1: The Hardware

In the first jar, I have put cards with all the possible lens and camera combinations I have, from my smartphone to my camera bodies with all the lenses that fit.

This card will tell me what I need to shoot with: for example, my Nikon D850 with a 150-600mm lens. Already, this makes me think of what I can do with it.

Often, wildlife photography would come to mind. I could go to the park and photograph some ducks and hope for a heron. Or I could do something less conventional and photograph a building far away from on top of another building or hill.

Jar 2: The technique

The second jar is for techniques. It could be empty, letting me do my own thing. Or do ICM. Or try double exposures.

Jar 3: The settings

The third jar tells me what settings to use. Most tell me to shoot manually, with aperture or shutter priority. But some are telling me to shoot automatically, with a specific aperture or a certain shutter speed.

With a card from all three jars, I could get the assignment to shoot on my Nikon Z7II with a 35mm f1.8 lens, in black and white and a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second.

My mind would go to blurry and dynamic street photography. But who knows what you come up with? 

What the jars taught me

After several random challenges, I sat down with the jars, and they told me to… no, just kidding. Jars don’t talk. But they did teach me a lot.

I needed to think about what specific lenses allowed me to do. Or would limit me in—the same for the settings. You won’t photograph birds at 1/20th of a second.

It also forced me to try new subjects. I usually wouldn’t look for symmetry. But when you are told to photograph it, you will see it all around.

It also made me use gear I may have forgotten about. Or didn’t like anymore. It taught me some of my old kit lenses are better than I thought.

The idea isn’t to make your best work. It’s to spark your creativity. Think differently and perhaps get new ideas and insights.

Disclaimer: In this article are some affiliate links. This means that, if you buy or book something, I get a small percentage of the fee. This comes with no extra cost to you but helps me run this website.

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