What is Creative Photography?

 An example of long-exposure photography

An example of long-exposure photography

In everyday terms, “creative photography” is not a new phrase; many photographs are inherently creative, after all. But using this phrase to define a genre of photography is a relatively recent thing, and that’s what I’m talking about here. So what is the genre of “creative photography”?

Actually, there isn’t an official definition, and what constitutes creative photography is highly debatable among photographers. I’ve seen very loose definitions where the term is used to describe any photo that captures a scene in a way a person wouldn’t normally see it, such as photographing a plant from its underside, or in the case of macrophotography which captures incredible detail our eyes rarely see. 

Other photographers take a much stricter view, defining creative photography as images that contain a surreal or impossible element, such as a person floating (levitation photography) or soft, smooth, dream-like water (like in the case of long-exposure photography).

My Definition

 These bubbles were created and added in Photoshop

These bubbles were created and added in Photoshop

So how do I define creative photography?

Well, I mostly share the opinion of the highly-acclaimed landscape photographer, Jay Patel. In this blog post he writes, “Creative photography contains an extra element (or elements) that are intentionally used to improve the photo from its original state.”

For me, yes, the photo must contain at least one “extra element” — that is, the use of a special technique (such as long-exposure photography) or the actual addition of an element (like the bubbles in the photo right). As Jay Patel says, the use of these elements is intentional, but I wouldn’t necessarily say to “improve” a photo — that’s too subjective for me. Instead, I believe that the use of extra elements is to support the story the photographer wants to tell through the image.

My Creative Photography Style

Let’s talk more about adding extra elements. Some photographers simply use composition and include things in the frame that make the picture more interesting, but my style is different (note different, not better). I often create digital composites, where I combine multiple images or elements into one. I also like to use special shooting techniques in-camera, as well as create special effects with Photoshop. I love blending textures into my photos to make them look like paintings, and I’ve even experimented with mixed media, adding paint or other tangible elements to prints. At this point, my style starts to overlap with “fine art photography,” but let’s save that topic for another day.

In short, I suppose you could say that creative photography is anything more than an everyday picture. It could be an image that portrays an actual scene in a highly unique way, or it could be an image that portrays abstract, surreal, or entirely unrealistic scenes. The photographer’s style will determine the final outcome.