David duChemin: What’s in the Way, is the Way


Creativity, believe it or not, exists because of constraints. It’s also a result of approaching unique challenges from a variety of different angles. The problem is we often view creativity as a treasure chest of ideas or something we must unlock to access. We all know it’s not that simple, but that’s not all bad.  Professional photographer David duChemin believes that the road to finding your creativity and hurdling your limitations is actually the richest resource of all – “What’s in the way, is the way.”

Having to work within presented limits allows us to find new strategies to new solutions. As artists, we have the unique opportunity to challenge those constraints and step out outside the box everyday. This is especially evident in photography, which forces you to work with a technology that is incredibly limited in what it can perceive. Cameras compress a 3D image to a 2-dimensional flat surface, read depth only to a certain distance, and at the end of the day, capture just a fraction of a real experience. So how do you work to make the most of and even break free of these limitations? Unleash your creativity. Here are a few ways David believes you can use your limitations to your advantage.

Start by being creative with your gear.

If you don’t have the latest equipment – don’t worry. Instead of sulking a pool of excuses, work with the imperfection of your gear to make it something special. Think about what you normally shoot and how you can blend those techniques to work in your particular situation. Simple, creative changes may even lead to a photo you never even thought possible, using gear constraints to your advantage. Lindsay Adler’s makeshift lens flare crystal filter is a perfect example of how a few low-end items in your gear bag can produce unique, stunning results.

With any photograph, there is only one image that matters: the final photograph. However, you need three others to get there. The one you envision, the one you shoot, and the one you post-produce. With all of these, there is one overarching theme: use what’s available to you and don’t worry about the rest.

Ask yourself “What if?”

Our constraints are often not as constraining as we believe. Start training yourself to think “what if I changed the shutter speed?” and “What if I shot into the sun instead of away from it?” any “What if I laid on the ground and took the shot from a totally different angle?” Some people might consider these risks, but even so, these kinds of artistic risks are usually painless, and you never know which ones might work out! You never know what might come of asking “What if..?”, so why not go for it?

Remember, the most valuable photographic tool we have is our creativity. No matter where you are in your photography career, take the opportunity to embrace any constraints you have and creatively work with them. Have fun with finding that final picture, and use every bit of creativity and constraint you have to get it.

Casey Melnrick

Casey Melnrick is a freelance writer out of Seattle, an admissions counselor for Washington State University, and is always looking for a good story, fact or fiction.