Stretch Yourself to Expand your Creativity

Lying on the ground gives you, and your clients, a unique perspective.

As any physical fitness instructor will tell you, stretch to keep yourself flexible and prevent injury.

Photography is no different.

There have been many times I have arrived for an assignment and said “What am I supposed to shoot here?” And digging into that bag of tools, I use what my good friend August Miller taught me.

While attending Western Kentucky University to earn my bachelor’s in photojournalism, I had the opportunity to intern at the Odgen (Utah) Standard-Examiner.

August was the photo editor at the time. A great photographer now the assistant photo editor at the Deseret Morning News.

During my first week, he gave me a simple piece of advice. To make me a better shooter, begin by shooting “wide, medium, and tight,” and then “stretch” your creativity for the best image.

By first shooting these three basic shots, you get something usable and you’ve essentially covered your bases. While you are getting the main three, seek out compositions you’d like to pursue further.

Seek those that with the right moment, will make your image zing. The one when you get back home, or send to a client, that says “This is What Happened.” That image that makes the editor say “Wow!”

While shooting a parade in Basalt, Colo., I saw this gorup of kids and worked the moment by shooting up and capturing the repition of hats.

But the thing to remember is: wide, medium, tight, does not mean to shoot them with that focal length of lens.

Wide is to get a good overall. You can shoot these images with long glass. For example, your story is about a policeman walking his beat. You shoot with a wide angle lens to get him and all the buildings, and then run ahead and get him walking through the crowd with a telephoto. Same information presented in two different ways.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have to photograph a tall building. As you drive to the city, you see the building, so you find a good spot and photograph it with a telephoto to get a perspective with it towering over its neighbors. When you get to the base of the building, its towering facade is overwhelming so you use a wide angle capture it as it recedes into the clouds.

Now time to stretch. What compositions did you see that with the right moment will make your editors, or clients, be happy you shot the assignment?

Turning a boring building shot into something better. I simply waited and captured this image.

For example, did you like the photo of the building as it towers into the sky, but thought it was a bit bland? Then compose and wait for someone to walk by. Wait for someone unique. Maybe you get lucky and a delivery boy walks by carrying a lot of balloons.

The key is to exercise your creativity and constantly push yourself to do better. Climb on things, lay on the ground, look for angles that are not “pedestrian.” Look through, over, under. Don’t take the obvious, but keep seeking something different.

So keep your eye exercised by stretching your creativity.

Rather than shoot the obvious stage photos, I went behind the scenes and found this image of the girl lit by the hallway light as she waited her turn on stage.

Paul Conrad

Sky Fire Photography


  1. Great reinders Paul and sometimes we just need to back to basics to get our insights again. I have been a little complacent of late and needed this reminder. Thanks


  2. Great post Pablo! I will have to take that into my next shoot. I am often guilty of just winging it and finding the photos don’t meet my expectations. This will help me stay focused. Thanks!


    1. Thanks Will for reading.

      It does help to have some kind of pattern when shooting so you’re hunting for the better angle and moments.

      Have a great day.


  3. Great tips Paul. I think we sometimes lose site of things and a building becomes a building instead of a really great skyline or something more. These are great ways to “remember” and avoid the mediocrity in our work.


    1. Thanks Christopher.

      It always came in handy when shooting the mundane photo assignments. It also helped to remember the old adage: There are no bad assignments, just bad photographers.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  4. I like that tidbit: wide, medium, tight. It gives me a place to start and move forward to more creative stuff. Especially if I’m not inspired by anything in particular. Next time I will try that as a starting point.


    1. Thank you Erin.

      It does help having an “attack plan” if you feel a bit on the stuck side. Or even if you are in a creative slump.

      I find sometime just sticking the camera to my face alleviates the slump.

      Thanks again.


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