Skip to main content

How To Find Ideas

Lesson 14 from: How to Become a Freelance Photographer

Isaac Johnston

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

14. How To Find Ideas

Creative blocks can be very real. But Isaac has created a tried-and-true method to coming up with ideas for photo shoots.

Lesson Info

How To Find Ideas

How to find ideas when you're stuck. I feel like when I'm making films, or when I'm shooting photos, or even writing, about every six months I start to get a little bit burnt out on new ideas. I just don't have any of my old ideas stocked all up anymore and I just can't think of anything to do. So I'm imagining that's happened to you if you've done any sort of creative work for a while. And I have come up with a way to kind of combat what I see is the problem. And the problem to me is that we have a tendency to look at like, we don't have a good camera, or we don't have any friends to do something with, or we don't have any gear, or we don't have any good locations around us. So that's not true. And what happens is you think of it in like this big picture of you need all these ingredients to make a story. And what I find is if you break them down into people, props, activities, and locations that sometimes you can kind of draw a line between like props and locations, or activities and ...

people, that you normally wouldn't have done. And so I've actually made this into a sheet that I use for myself that I call the idea asset list. And it's basically a four column sheet. I'll draw one now. It's got people, props, locations, and activities. So I'm gonna show you, I'm including this sheet, this PDF that I'm making here in the link below this episode, but I'm gonna show you, you don't need that sheet. You can just do it on anything. And to demonstrate that, I'm gonna do it on this piece of wood that I found in my garage. So my handwriting is really bad so you're gonna have to live with me here, but let's see if this paint marker will work. So I'm just gonna draw a line there, draw a line here, here, like that. All right. So we've got these four columns and this one is gonna be, let's start out with props. Really bad handwriting. And then we'll put people. And come on now, paint marker. Then we're gonna go activities. And the last one is locations. Okay. So again, the idea here is to list all this stuff and then come up with an idea with what we have. So for me, I, people is easy. I do a lot of stuff with Alex so I could probably shoot him doing something. I do a lot of stuff with my wife, Meg. So she's on there. Friend of mine, Max Marty, just came back into town. Maybe he wants to do something cool. Another friend is around, usually free single guy, Levi. That's a really weird weird way to do an E. All right. So I'll just leave it at that. Another really cool thing to shoot or person to shoot is my brother, Jesse. He's a horseshoer for a living so he's always got horses and I can shoot Western stuff there. He doesn't get a name. I'm just gonna name him brother. (chuckles) All right. So jumping into props. Props are going to be, sometimes they'll commingle with activities, but for instance, like my brother the prop would be his horse or maybe his hat 'cause he wears a cowboy hat. Another prop that I like to shoot like I really like to ride bikes with all three of these dudes and motorcycles. So I'm gonna put MTB there. I'm gonna put moto here. All right and then with Meg. Some of the things I always like to do with her is like, obviously she's pretty, she's my wife. So it could be maybe a dress that looks cool like a bright yellow dress and that would be fun to shoot. Or maybe we want to go out together in the canoe. Gosh, this is really hard to write and I apologize if you can't read this, but that's what we're doing. All right. So the activity, is kind of has to go with the, with my list of props, but like I'm just gonna write moto on there again. I really like doing that. MTB. Horse. I could go riding horses with my brother. Canoeing, which was the prop, but is also an activity. But maybe it's just like, I wanna shoot my wife in a swing 'cause we've got kind of a cool swing underneath the tree in the backyard. So we'll just put swinging. That could be the motion that she's doing. All right. So you're getting the idea. These are kind of the same as props, but they're not all the same because a hat is not an activity. And then locations. So sometimes what I like to do is I like to list a bunch of locations that I just love to shoot at, but I don't have any idea of what I would shoot there other than landscapes. So for instance, like a really cool location that I always wanna shoot landscapes at, but I never quite figure out what to do there, Mariah's Pass. So this is like a pass kind of south of Glacier Park. And it'd be really fun to maybe shoot my brother on a horse there rather than just his ranch, which I will include as a location. So his ranch is pretty and cool, but I've shot there before. So it allow me to kind of just have a bunch of different options when we go forward. And then like Crane Mountain is an area close to me. I can do some moto there, I could do mountain bike, I could shoot Megan. So Crane Mountain. There's also like this really cool sandhill kind of near my house. That's really easy to get to that I could moto at and it could look bigger than it actually is. And for, you know, I'm just thinking of just my props here, but I'm also thinking of locations that I want to go. This I have no idea where this would fit in, but there's this lake about an hour away from my house called Holland lake. And maybe I could shoot Megan there, or maybe I could shoot some mountain bike stuff there, or canoe stuff. All right. So you fill this out to, 'til you don't have any more locations. You just keep going. I just, I used to do one full page vertical, but because obviously I'm doing this on a board I'm just gonna write these. So here's where the exercise comes into a full-fledged idea. You can say, okay, well Alex is here. I think he's free today. Let's just work with him, right? Meg is a little bit busy. She's taking care of the girls 'cause I'm filming this workshop. I haven't touched base with my brother, Levi, or Max. So easy peasy. Just gonna hit up Alex. I could either go mountain biking or moto-ing, but I don't have a really cool mountain bike and I know that Alex doesn't have one right now either. So this bike behind me that's been in shot the whole time is actually Alex's, so let's do moto. And then what we're thinking the activity is clearly gonna be moto. We're not gonna be canoeing and he's not gonna be swinging on the swing in his motogear that would be dumb. But you could do that, why not? Just gonna put that on there, just a B-roll, just keep it as an idea. All right. And then two of the areas that I know we can get to really quickly. Not my brother's ranch, not Mariah's Pass, but this sandhill like I said is really close to my house and Crane Mountain is really close to my house. So like I've just come up with an idea to go shoot. It may not be the best idea. And now I can just like link it, like we're gonna go moto-ing. Alex and I are gonna go moto-ing and maybe swinging in the backyard and the location in which we're gonna do that is the sandhill and Crane Mountain. Now I wanna bring up another prop because what I wanna do is I wanna do a spec shoot here. And by that, I mean that I want to go build portfolio work that I can show a brand and be like, "Hey, I've shot, you know, moto whatever." So I've just got these new pair of gloves for my birthday a little while ago. So maybe I'll shoot these. And so now that I've thought, "Oh I actually have another prop down here." Gloves. Okay. Can you see that? That's not, gloving, gloving is not an activity, but we are moto-ing with gloves. So we are mo, we have the prop is moto and gloves. We're gonna go moto riding with Alex, maybe swinging in Crane Mountain and sandhill. So you can see that this is a really good way to come up with an idea when you don't have any. Now I'm not saying this is always gonna find gold, but you don't have any excuses. This is just designed from when I'm like, God I don't know what to shoot. I wanna do something creative, but I don't have any ideas. Just write this down. Boom, boom, boom. Four columns. Get it done. Yeah. So let's, let's go shoot this next. I think that's gonna be fun.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Workshop PDF
How To Build A Proposal - Pitch Deck Example
Idea Asset List Template
Story Creation Sheet Template

Ratings and Reviews

Ken Neubecker

A great course/workshop, one of the best I've seen with CreativeLive. While at 71 I'm not looking at starting a full new carrier in freelance photography or video work, doing the work helps keep me off the street. It has given me inspiration to do a stoty about what I am going through now as a full time caretaker for my wife, who has been suffering the declining pains of Alzheimer's for a few years now. No one with Alzheimer's travels that final journey alone. In a sence it is an adventure, mostly for those close to the one with the disease. While it's not like the travels I did 50 years ago when what today is called "adventure" (canyoneering, something we used to simply call a hike in the desert...). I spent a lot of my life running rivers and working as a wilderness wanderer and guide/instructor. Now my travels are pretty well limited to long walk with the dog and occasional fishing outings with my wife who used to be a guide herself. Maybe thats not all that interesting or exciting as say going over a cliff with a bike and a parachute, but for many older folks it is the new story, the new adventure as their later years unfold. This in itself will be an adventure, at least for me.

Ryan David

Practical yet fun Great workshop and worth the time/money. Isaac is an easy to watch presenter and the various modules were each concise and practical. Time well spent!

asieh harati

honest advice from an adventure photographer who went through career transition I think a lot of us are mulling over the idea of transitioning to become a photographer. It's not easy. There are lots of fears and hesitations. It's a change that could affect our life. I'm at this decision branch for the second time in my life, and I still fear. Isaac shares with us how he overcame those very same hurdles and fears. He is genuine, practical and proves that you don't need expensive gear to start or even continue to become good enough. The pitch deck example, the starting up a conversation with a prospective client, the way to deal with blockers, all are real. I cannot wait to put them in place and start my first pitch. Thanks Isaac for sharing your journey!

Student Work