Remember what it was like before you knew anything about photography? You probably approached the camera as a child would, with a hunger to learn and “play”. You didn’t think about what might be the right or wrong way - you just pointed and clicked, tried new things (it was all new!), and got lost in the creative process.

We can also call this Shoshin, a Zen Buddhism term meaning “beginner’s mind”. This allows us to approach our work with eagerness, openness, and without judgment. Shunryu Suzuki said, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

Sometimes we get so lost in what we know and how things “should” be that we get stuck and our work starts feeling stale. When this happens, it’s worth approaching the camera with the beginner’s mind, trying new things, and allowing ourselves the gift of creativity without judgment. 

Maybe you are in a creative rut, want to experiment with different techniques, or just want to push your skills to a new level. Whatever the case, here are 5 ways you can add a creative twist to your photos.

Related: Photographer’s Block: 7 Ways to Break Out of a Creative Rut

Some might turn out ugly, some might surprise, and some might be your new favorites. But no matter what the outcome, the point is to have fun and perhaps learn some things on the way.

Photo by Fernando Paz, black and white portrait with double exposure

1. Play with double exposure.

Double exposure, or blending scenes together, is an excellent way to combine two different photos to tell a story. This artistic technique can easily be achieved in Photoshop, but it can also be done in-camera. Some cameras have multiple exposure capabilities, but even if yours doesn’t, you can produce a double exposure shot using the flash. When creating multiple exposure images, experiment with textures and movement and capture subjects on both dark and light backgrounds.

2. Shoot through objects.

Look around and I’m sure you’ll see at least one thing you can use as a type of scrim. Try placing things like plastic/silk/real flowers, glass, prisms, different fabrics, and lights between you and your subject, then shoot and see what you’ve captured.

Camera falling into an outstretched hand with sunset in the background

3. Break the rules.

Keep it steady, shoot in focus, play it safe. You can take a break from these rules by moving your camera (shoot mid-whirl or while moving up and down) and by shooting out of focus (try this with a plain background). For adrenaline junkies (extreme photography!), try camera throwing. Enable a long shutter speed, set the self timer, and throw the camera in the air before the shutter is released. Most importantly, catch your camera before it hits the ground.

4. Experiment with exposure levels.

If you haven’t worked with overexposure, give it a shot. You can get some interesting black and white images using this technique, as well as some incredible burnt out photos when you shoot colorful scenes.

Black and white photo of a couple kissing in a vineyard at night under a light. by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikkolas Nguyen,

5. Add drama to your black and white photos.

Black and white images are dramatic on their own, but you can add an extra bit of moodiness by adding grain/noise. You can do this by boosting your ISO settings to the maximum number available. Once you’ve tried this with black and white, go ahead and give some grain to your more colorful shots and see what turns up.

And remember, “The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind.” ― Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

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