THE CREATIVE MANIFESTO
It’s like I hit a wall. Not hit, actually. Fell through. And everything on the other side was magic. This past year has been the most creatively transformative year I’ve had since I first picked up a camera. Rewind to the start and you’ll see me, fresh off of a creative rut, desperately grasping at anything I could to pull myself out of it. I’m going to save you from hearing the long, boring story of why I was in a rut (you’re welcome), and instead I’m going to share the thoughts that brought me out of it.
We’re all artists and we need to be celebrating the hell out of it. We need to be making so much creative noise that it shakes our core and rattles our neighbors’ windows. We need to wake something up in anyone who hears us, and we need to remind ourselves why we chose this path in the first place. We’re all walking around with oceans of creativity crashing around inside of us and only so much time to let it out.
What you’re about to read are 10 things that have absolutely changed who I am as a photographer. I wholeheartedly believe in what I wrote here so I hope you read it with weight. It’s for me as much as it is for you. Enjoy.
Aesthetics make pretty pictures but emotions make powerful ones. Moments matter. Heart matters. Feeling something matters. Let’s create work that reminds us what humanity is. Happiness, desperation, serenity, fear and the galaxies of feelings in between.
Let’s search for emotions more than we search for perfect poses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about gorgeous visuals and I know that we can use aesthetics to draw out a certain mood, but we often lose sight of the emotions for the sake of the way we want an image to look and that’s where I think we (myself included) can take a powerful step forward. Let’s step forward. Let’s create heart.
If 50 people are running in one direction and one person is running the other way, who do you think will stand out? Lately it seems like I’ve been inspired by weirder and weirder things. I’m assuming it’s a byproduct of seeing countless images every day and realizing that it’s only the strange ones that stand out. The ones that run the other way.
I look at more images each day than most people do in a week and it’s filled me from head to toe with a boiling urge to see something unique. The reason that originality is a rare thing is because it’s not the easy thing. It (usually) doesn’t come naturally. Originality requires thought. Good images are common place, great images take effort. Think about what you’re creating. Don’t stop at your first idea, that’s the easy one. Push farther until you find something that runs the other way. I’m not claiming to create the great images, but you’re damn right that I’m going to try to create original ones.
Our most meaningful work is the work we put our heart into. It’s the work that comes from a place of personal vulnerability or inspiration. Consider yourself lucky that you’re a human. You have emotions. Some days, freaking all of them. Feel them. Understand them. Use them.
Put what you’re feeling into your images. Conceptually, symbolically, spiritually, who cares… just get it the hell in there. If you want to create powerful work, it needs to come from a powerful place. Look inside, you might like what you find.
In my first year of shooting, I started every shoot with a lie. I’d show up on set with my “professional photographer” mask while I left my sarcastic, introverted, pun-making personality at home. I had myself convinced that I needed to act a certain way if I wanted to be seen as a professional by my clients. Please, don’t make my mistake.
During my first few years, I never felt creative because I was too worried about being professional. Yes, be a trustworthy business, but be yourself. If you’re goofy, let it out. If you want to say “that’s what she said,” say it. Dress how you want to dress. Talk how you want to talk. Be who you want to be because it will allow you to create how you want to create.
Don’t waste your down time wondering why your work isn’t moving forward. Spend that time shooting personal work and trying new things. If you’re always working with a paying client, the pressure is always on. Your clients hire you because they love your style, and that’s what you should deliver but personal work is your time to let loose and experiment. Try the things you’re afraid of. Try that one technique that you always wanted to try but never had the guts to. This is YOUR time.
If you try something new and it doesn’t pan out, no problem! You don’t have to show that junk to anyone. If it looks killer, bam! You have something new in your bag of tricks and your style just got pushed forward. Progression.
Seriously. Give it up. It’s okay! Don’t worry about having tack-sharp focus every time. Embrace grit and grain. Don’t you dare toss that frame that makes you giddy just because it’s a bit blurry.
If you have the choice between a technically correct image (correct exposure, sharp focus, etc) or one that makes you feel something, choose feeling every time. A “perfect” image isn’t worth much if it doesn’t have any life in it.
Seriously people. Don’t be like I was. Don’t assume that every moment you aren’t shooting, your subject is wondering why you’re such an idiot. I really used to think that if I wasn’t shooting on set, my couple or model would think that I was having trouble coming up with an interesting pose or was having trouble finding the light. Truth… I was. I do. We all do. It happens. Sometimes we just need a second to step back, breath, and look at what’s in front of us before we start shooting again. That’s okay! You’re an artist. Art requires time to think. It’s absolutely, 100% okay to let your subject know that they can hang out for a second while you look at light, or find your next shot.
Your client hired you because they love your vision. If you need a second to make that vision happen, TAKE A DAMN SECOND.
I didn’t enjoy my math class, so I didn’t do well in math. That’s called cause and effect. There’s a huge lesson to be learned here. You grow the most when you’re doing what you love. Want to grow at a snail’s pace? Pursue a style that you think will make you the most money or will be the most popular. Want to propel your work forward? Create work that inspires you.
Shoot what you enjoy shooting. Edit how you love to edit. Pursue the things that your heart is being pulled towards. Otherwise, your work will become tedious and you won’t want to invest in it. You’ll improve the fastest by creating work you love.
Yes, education is important. It doesn’t need to be formal education (I actually dropped out of college), but knowledge of your craft and your gear is a powerful thing. The more you know about images and how to create them, the more opportunity you have to control the look of your own. Study your gear. Know what the buttons do. Know what each setting affects.
Study the greats that came before you. Don’t just look at the greats, actually study them. What makes their work stand out among the rest? How do they use light in interesting ways? How do you feel when you look at their images and what’s making you feel that way? Know their work so you can know more about your own.
If you’re anything like me, you have those maybe-too-weird ideas that you leave quietly buried in your chest. When you’re at your most creative, they pump excitement through your veins but then you reluctantly fall back to that thought, “maybe they’re too weird.” Let me stop you right there. For the sake of art, don’t miss the point of being an artist.
This is one of the only careers out there that lets you run wild. Run. Get weird. Open up. Show the world what you love and embrace your damn weird. We’re artists! We’re lucky enough to have a career that allows us the freedom of creativity and every time you push your weird ideas to the side because you’re afraid they won’t be “popular,” you’re slapping that freedom in the face. Creativity is only a beautiful thing if we actually use it.
ALWAYS LEAVE SOMETHING TO DISCOVER
If you found this, congratulations! You just found the joy of discovery. Hide things in your work. Put a reflection of yourself in a someone else’s portrait. Place a prop in the shot that has personal meaning to you. Art is about discovering something beautiful and it’s up to the artist to create that something.
This last bit is just for you. Read into it and let it soak in:
You have oceans of creativity crashing around inside of you and you only have so much time to let it out. So please, open up and share what makes you, you.
yes yes yes. so much truth in here, thanks for the reminder!
so much truth, well-written, and heartfelt!
This was a really lovely read. I think we all need a reminder of even some of the most basic things sometimes. to know other creatives think/feel the same is sometimes all it takes for that bit of a boost. Cannot echo being yourself enough though!
THIS IS SO NEEDED IN A TIME WHERE IMAGES CAN BE CREATED WITH SUCH EASE. I AM MOVED TO PUSH FORWARD WITH MY ART AND OVERALL CREATIVITY BECAUSE OF YOUR WORDS!
THE MOST IMPACTFUL PIECE FOR ME IS THE IDEA THAT WE HAVE A LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME TO SHARE OUR ORIGINALITY WITH THE WORLD. WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES AND EVERYONE ELSE TO LET THAT ORIGINALITY SHINE.
Perfect timing! Totally needed to hear this message. Thank you for taking the time to write and share it!
Great read – i learned many of these things at ben’s Heck Yeah Photo Camp. My life (and work) hasnt been the same since.
This is amazing and so inspiring! Thank you for sharing this with the worLd!
Thank you so much for every single one of your blog posts Ben. I have read all of them multiple times since they have such captivating & raw content.
You are truly inspiring, fun and an amazing photographer/person!
Ben, been following you for sometime here and on Instagram. Never replied. But this post absolutely was written for me especially, “if you need a second” point. I was really like that. But recently I’ve understood what it means.
Thanks a ton for all your help and thoughts. Any plans to travel to india 🙂
i needed this. Such BEAUTIFUL words and outlook. Thank you and keep being you!!
This really resonated with me, tHANK YOU FOR SHARING. Lately IVE BEEN FEELING like a machine pushing out work that I think people want and not what I WANT/FEEL. IVE JUST RECENTLY TAKEN STEPS TO CHANGE THINGS UP AND DO WHAT FEELS LIKE ME, AND THIS ONLY HELPED TO INSPIRE ME TO CONTINUE THAT JOURNEY.HECK YEAH:)
Oh my with the capslock craziness, sorry!
Ben, THANK YOU! This was such a great read and a great reminder. We are constantly pushing against expectations of perfection, it’s so important to be reminded that it’s not about that. Emotion over aesthetics and letting go of perfection are two specific ideas I needed to hear today. Thanks for sharing and empowering us to be weird! 😉
This is awesome!
Thank you so much for writting this. I am a senior in college studyig photogrpahy and graphic desigN and definitily feeling lack of creativity at Times. I have a personal photoshoot coming up This weekend and you just inspired me to stop stressing about AESTHETIC and let the models just be their natural, quirky, beautiful selves. Thank you!
Extremely impactful. you were able to speak directly to a part of me I keep to myself. You reinforced all the points that we wish to act on but, for the same reasons you didn’t, we don’t. Thank you for writing what I know will resonate with a lot of other artists and hopefully settle that conflict most if not all of us have. Good on you, Ben.
I needed this, this was the motivation I needed. I’m good at getting down on myself because I’m just starting out compared to the more popular photographers in my area… This is such a good post, I hope everyone that sees it reads it. 🙂 Also love the part about aesthetic over emotion, to not be bound to the “rules” but to run free.
Thank you so much for this Ben, This is so important to me and such a great reminder. Recently I’ve been just racking up weddings on top of weddings to shoot. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting weddings, but my approach was wrong and I definitely put on a mask of trying to hustle without my heart. I would also get jealous when my friends would choose other photographers to cover their weddings. But i was looking at it wrong. Reading these ten points changes the way I want to look at the next wedding i shoot, or even my day job at the start up that im at. Anyways, i wish i could shake your hand or give you a fist bump cause you rock!
This is one of those blogs that comes at the right time- every time. I know I could read this 10 years from now and be like, “Yeah! lets get weird!”
I’ve been struggling with a lot of these points, and am ENCOURAGED! thank you!
Ben, thank you so much for This post. As a photographer just starting out, it helps so much to know that someone Whose work You respect has Felt the same insecure feelings that i’m experiencing. Thank You for the reminder that it takes coUrage to be yourself.
Heck yeah! So well Written. I need a Kick In the pants. I will read this again and again. Thank you!
Thank you for putting your heart in everything you do!
Yes! Thank you for all that you do. If im ever 1/8th of the photographer that yOu are, i will have conSidered myself successful. Thank. You.
You are a mind reader, a brilliant writer and an inspiring artist. I am always left in awe by your work. You truly embody the raw truThs of this business, and you constantly remind me that This was my ‘passion’ first. I am better because of you. Thank you for being your true and hoNest self. ✨
Ben, Thank you for sharing this. This is exactly what I needed right now! You, my friend, are godsent to photographers like me!
Your writing is so good I even forgot you are a photographer 🙂
This is beautifully written and well put. I needed a read like this today! I am always afraid of my weird side and have been trying to slowly reveal it But being naturally introverted, it sometimes scares me to put it out there. Thank you for writing this!
Thank you for the reminder. We all inherently know this, but put on a mask for society’s sake. So done with that.
Thank you so much for the power words 🙂
I love — ‘If you need a second, take a damn second’ This is something I have started doing finally!
This is sooo inspiring. Ben, I’m so Greatful for your words. Heck yeah!!!
“take a damn second”. Thanks for this, Ben. I feel as though you have become a sort of sage figure in the photography world (in my photography world, at least). your clear intention to build community and tear down walls is something to celebrate. the inspiration i feel from your work is surpassed only by the inspiration i feel from the mission behind it – thanks for the inspiration in all its forms!
man, oh man! Sometimes we all need a push in the right direction, Or a full force shove (love shove, though) Thanks for this, ben!
this text is perfect. thank you sooo much!
Oh my word ben!! This has hit home in a million ways!!! I mean a few bits stand out… the standing back and taking a breather!? Why the hell do I feel that same pressure that i should be shooting every single second… sometimes even i know the images aren’t looking great, grrr! anyway…that’s about to stop. stepping back and taking a breather…and not being afraid to be myself a little more. god i wish more people were themselves too… it really does feel like there are so many people out there just craving to be one another huh.
thanks so much again ben, this post is one heck of an eye opener!
YOU’RE AH-MAZING! This is so beautiful. I learned many of these lessons the hard way over the last 6 years in business.
Thank you for sharing yourself with the world, Ben Sasso. It’s a much better place with you in it. <3
Jessica / Wayfaring Wanderer
Gosh i felt like so much of that Applied to me!!!! I am alesys scared that what i like snd do is not what others will like!!! I must Let me creativity out more!!! Thanks i love you work!!!!
Beautiful words Ben! Thank you fOr sharing your thoughts! Nice to know that you have creative slumps as well.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
This. All of this. This is the stuff we should be learning first, but don’t figure out until way down the road.
I am so excited to bookmark this page and read it regularly. thank you for pushing creatives to fuel our passion in a healthy and honest way!
Thanks for this! So needed to hear this today!!
Amazing! Feel like Im On the right path then, as i Read this i said “yes” like a hundred times! What a wonderful article ben!
So good man. Been in such a rut lately and cant wait to Get out of it. Thanks for being so open to help others!
You’re a rockstar!! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said! 🙂
Legit rocking worlds one blog post at a time, my friend! It’s a nice assuring reminder.
Reading this was a breath of fresh air! So inspiring! Thanks for sharing.
How encouraging this is! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing this Ben, funnily enough I was just thinking only yesterday that life is too short and too precious not to make good art.
More personal projects….here I come 🙂
Man, I hear all of this but I really understand the “take a damn second” — I feel so rushed all the time. but my favorite work came when i was working in a sense of peace. i do not feel internal peace when i am in a hurry. and my image feel frantic when i rush….because that’s how i felt!
Hot damn, this is great! thanks Ben.
Thank you for breaking out from the mold you thought you had to fill and for being yourself. Thank you for your heart for creativity and encouragement. After reading your blogs, newsletters, and comments I am always so excited to get out there and shoot! And not just shoot but shoot in a way that is inspiring and exciting to me!
i so appreciate what you do and who you are!
This was amazing, but let me tell you that the one thing that stuck out to me the most was “Take A Damn Second”. I’m so guilty of this. I’m always so worried about what my clients are thinking. Funny thing is… I wasn’t like this 8 years ago when I first started on professional photography. I used to take my time. Now I get home exhausted from 30 minute shoots cause I never took a second to f^#%#ing think about what I’m doing. So thank you! I will remember this and I will take my damn time!
This was the uplifting message i needed today. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself to help others grow.
You are truly incredible and this post is seriously inspiring. Thank you for being you and putting this and yourself out there.
This was the exact thing I needed today. Always enjoy your posts, keep inspiring!! xx
Absolutely love this bud… you hit the nail right on the head i, along with everyone snd anyone appreciate what you have done, are doing and will do.
Thank you so much for being a constant source of inspiration, creative empowerment and for the raw passion you put into all you do, be it creatiNg, tEaching or being a bad ass at all of the above
Holy Macaroni this is just so beautifully said! Thanks Ben for putting in words how i feel oh-too-often! Rock on!
oof- i needed this bad. i keep telling myself i’m too new at this to try anything different. i should stop that. thanks ben.
absolutely love this, just what I needed to hear. that little kick up the bum, and the words of wisdom at the end <3 perfect!
Love this! And all the secret gifs throughout 🙂 Super inspiring and what so many of us need to hear, love your work Ben x
LOVE this post. Thanks for always being honest and authentic!
preach it ben!
Thank you so much for sharing your heart with all of us! You are making the world of PHOTOGRAPHY a better place to be!
All OF this gets a big resounding YES!!!!
I need to print this out and frame it somewhere. This is exactly where i’m at, I just need to take a step forward. fall through that wall. thanks ben. you continue to be a driving source of inspiration in my practice. thank you.
spoke to my heart…thank you
This is the quintessence. good drive for all.
You’re the man, Ben!!!
Thank you a million times ben! this article is as inspiring as it gets! spoken straight from your heart and full of knowledge. absolutely lovely read. i’m feeling cleansed!
Amazing! Thank you ben!
I. LOVE this. This is the best phoyography advice i have read in a really long time. Thank you for this.
I have been a long time follower of Ben Sasso. You are amazing anD this particula artical is amazing. I myself am working tirelessly to build my own name so that I can give Back anyway I can to the photo communIty. Again bug thank you for what you have done and hopefully I will be able to attenD one of your workshops someday. .
thanks for sharing!!
Amazing!! Thank you so much for sharing this with us! Love every word!
Reeeeeaaaaaallly needed this! Thank you!!
Wow! All i can say is thank you so so much. Every single point resonated so strongly with me this year. This is the first year ive been “fUll time” and i’ve gotten more stuck in the rut of trying to be professional and lost the fun of creativity that i felt before. Thank you for putting it All into words and then caring enough to share it with all of us. you’re awesome!!
Yes yes yes!! As alwaYs, love your AUTHENTICITY.
Thank you ben! In some points i found myself, in other poiNts i’ve to work on it and i will do so!
It’s a pretty strange thing that, No clue why, i am one of thEse persons who are instanTly feeling that guests and clients are thinking bad about me, cause i hit the pause button for some Minutes.
BUt my mindset is changing. Slowly but surely.
I hope my englIsh is not too bad and i didn’t miss the point.
Cheers and holadrio from munich
im so glad you send me this emails ben.
most of my inbox is filled with blah blah mail..
yours are something out of the box.
love your work
keep it up!!
Yes yes a thousand times yes. Such powerful truths, so beautifully articulated.
This is so beautiful and moVing! I feel so inspired! going to have to read over and over 🙂
Epic advice, Thank you 🙂
SO FREAKING INSPIRING!!!
Wow… thank you so much for this post!!!!
So awesome!! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you ben for those inspiring words. It has been a tough year finding the inspiration to shoot again, but your post makes me want to go out and try all those new things that I have been wanting to try. So thank you, your words were exactly what I needed to hear.
I really appreciated reading this. I feel like the need to be consistent in my work is killing my ability to be creative. I have this inner voice sayibg “Oh you must stay teue to your brand blah blah, your ig nust be consistent blah blah you are not established enough to branch out and be a true artist.”
And the pro photographer act? I have that sooo bad. I am terrified of being seen as an amateur or a crazy art person that cannot be trusted.it is kill8ng me and these standard family portraits i am doing… they make me dread editing and it used to be the love of my life. I had almost started wishing i never developed a business.
Thank you…. i almostI feel like it is “ok” to be me again.
Get weird! Haha! 100% agree with everything in this post, but I love the last paragraph or so. Reminds me of the book “What do you do with an Idea”. I love to show it to my students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cxl7fN_GSLY
Thank you for your inspiration always. <3
Just a big thank you for this.
I have a saying that “everyone is weird in their own way”. loved this blog post, especially the quote at the end, made me cry.
I needed to read this. Couple shots are the hardest for me as i have to dIrect and i’m much more comfortable watching and documEnting (plus i’m an intrOvert so i struggle with this!) So many of the popular ‘poses’ don’t work for me and sometimes i feel i have to do them even though my heart isnt in it and my couples feel and look stiff. I’ll keep your words in my mind next time and try to feel my vision rather than the formulaic style i adopt when feeling under pressure. . Thank You.
I’m glad I’ve found your page and this post. Thank you!
Ben, Awsome thoughts well written! Enjoyed it all. Thank you! Bob
THANK YOU! I needed to hear this. I feel that my work is getting stale but switching gears is hard when I’ve already got a “style” goin. I’ve got a few shoots set up in the next weeks and can’t wait to EXPERIMENT and feel free with creativity! Amazing advice by you.I empathize with the needing a small break in shoots. I feel that way too (CLIENT thinks i’m incompetent because of taking pauses) but when I do take a break it does help. When I don’t take breaks I leave the shoot and head home and then creative ideas rush to me and I want to kick myself. It’s good to hear these things from other photographers. Again, Thank you!
this hits so many emotional road blocks that many creatives have, while they think it’s something technical, or it’s them or what they’re doing, many times it’s an emotional issue.
So good, thanks for the awesome content!
I just wanted to thank you for writing this. Its an amazing reminder to keep going, your work is so inspiring.
BEN! This was so encouraging. especially the pART THAT TALKS ABOUT forgetting about perfection. i find myself so often trying to make my photos tack sharp that sometimes i forget that some of my favorite images express emotion and may not be “perfect” but they are still so beautiful.
I really needed this. Thank you. I will go out there and make that: thats what she said joke now 😀
It´s so weird. So often I make my work harder for myself. It really comes down to: You got this. Be yourself. Have fun !!
This is really great Ben! Just what I needed to rea.. 🙂
Thank you, as an amateur I hit ruts, walls, and other obstacles a lot. after your post I feel like I’m in good company 🙂
Thank you for this! i’ve only very Recently come across youR worK, and blog (which i can’t stop reading!) this particular one is very inspirinG.
THANK YOU, BEN! I don’t know you personally but I feel like you’ve been such a huge part of my journey as an artist. I just wanted to say thank you today for this.
What a fabulous read!
These words are exactly what i have been searching for. As a person Who hasn’t considered myself an artist since elementary school, i’ve struggled creatively after taking the business leap. The pressure is Suffocating when i’m with paying clients. Work out a trade or capturing something spur of the moment relieves it and ends up feedIng my soul and artistic desire. I’m determined to learn how to hand edit and i kick myself sometimes for taking that uphill path, but nothing else feels right. I’ll trust the process now and follow my heart. Thank you! Keep up the inspirational words and work! *sorry for the capslock. I’m not sure how to turn it off.
Just the boost i need. Thank you, ben.
Ben, I can’t Thank you enough for the constant inspiration. Your dedication to this craft and willingness to share your insight is incredible. Keep it up, man.
This is awesome.
Well written. Gorgeous way to push photographers. Helped me so much.
this was so inspiring to read ! you are seriously my favorite newsletter in my email, because I always know it will be worth the read.
thank you for being so open and honest. and always looking for ways to encourage and support others.
It says comment away, but I Really am a little speechless – it can be such a struggle, when you overthink or are afRaid to share your special kind of weirdness. Thanks for putting it in such a direct, honest and personal way..
I’m gonna save this manifesto, sure thAng.
Absolutely, positively needed to read through these today. Thank you so much for taking the time to share from your heart and speaking to experiences and emotions all creatives grapple with.
Thank you for sharing this Ben. Heart!
Truly Beautiful. Thank you!
Great Post! Really needed that today. Very insightful and inspirational.
YOU ARE MY HERO BEN
This manifesto puts words to what has been written in my heart. (But I won’t get you in trouble for plagiarism Ben).
Thx for the inspirationS that go beyond phOtography.
you made me feel real good about shiz my man. Thank you. Onwards!!
Thanks for sharing these awesome tips. Great Post!
i’m in a serious rut. haven’t picked up my camera is a long time. this post has lit a flicker of a flame. thank you.
so much of what you say is exactly how i feel and have felt in many shoots, i actually do my best work when i am not in a rush and have time to create with patience and ease… ive been creating weird stuff that most people who know me have asked me about it and do not understand, hey sometimes even i dont understand it, but all i know is that i see it and i love it. Thanks for sharing your insights and please continue to do so