Playing for Fun





Photography is a serious business. But it doesn’t need to be – not always. I know for certain I too often take it too seriously. We sometimes – or more to the point: regularly – need to play more with our artistic expression. Have fun. Creativity is in the first place fun, so why do I not let myself play more when I take photos or process the photos? Is it my reputation as a photographer I am worried about – or is it just that getting old has left the child in me behind somewhere in life? I am reminded of what Picasso said about creativity, the child in us and getting older.

Part of playing and having fun is letting go of expectations – not expecting high quality in the end result. Playing means letting go and just see what happens in the process and where it will take us. That’s the beauty when we can let go – we find new places, we find untracked paths for our creativity. We discover new faces behind our habitual mask. I think that’s one reason why Instagram or Hipstamatic has become so popular; those apps let us play with photography so easily (and of course share the result so easily – too easily?), but maybe that is also their embedded flaw; they are just to easy to use and thus don’t really make us challenge ourselves enough, don’t make us play in fullest. What I am saying is, let’s lower the guard, and play – I was about to say play seriously, but at least play more profoundly. And let’s drop preconceived ideas about what is good and bad or correct and incorrect.

Take myself for instance; I know I am often critical of technique for technique’s sake. I often see HDR as plain trickery, a superficial technique, not adding much to an image’s expression. I often see the use of Photoshop filters the same way. As pure playing with technique. Or any other technical manipulation; in general I don’t see it is anything but an attempt to hide what in the first place was an uninteresting picture. As pure play and fun. And that is exactly my point in this post. So what? Play and have fun – and I should do so more myself – and let go of all rigid and predetermined ideas of what is the right way.

In order to take up on my own words, I let go of this preconceived ideas of mine, sat down with Photoshop and played with filters and various add-on’s for instance from Nik Software. And as part of challenging myself, I posted some of the resulting images in this post. The original photo is below. So go out and have more fun!



93 thoughts on “Playing for Fun

  1. Great point – and we learn best when we enjoy doing it!
    I tend to feel the same as you regarding the use of too much software and sadly it is used too often to try and make a ‘silk purse from a sow’s ear’, Having said that it’s also a good idea to know what tools are available to you when it comes to a particular aspect of self expression.
    Your original photo is beautiful – but I’m also very taken with the second version 🙂

  2. A good insight into photography! I think there is a fear hidden deep somewhere for whatever reason that stops us from going beyond the normal bound (I am talking about photography here) or to try new things. I am included 🙂 That is a good suggestion to letting of them and see!

    The fun ones are cool. I think they are abstract view of the scene. Definitely, the original one is not thing less and I like it very much too.

  3. Great points. I don’t consider myself to be a photographer. It’s something of a side hobby. Writing is my main passion, but what you said about “having fun” is also applicable. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m not looking for the perfect words, the technical things, etc. That I am writing, also, because it’s what I enjoy doing.

    I love your second version, too. The colors are really beautiful.

  4. A great reminder, thank you Otto! It really is easy to get stuck in certain ways of doing things, trying to do them the “right way” or thinking that for example certain type of photography is simply not for me. In the end it is very refreshing to try out something new, and indeed, have fun. 🙂 Very cool edits on the photo!

  5. I adore your insight into the creative process. It’s so true–we must loosen up. I tend to be very critical of HDR too. Even though it’s not my bent, I do like the interplay of apps with reality. If you do not PLAY, you cannot discover the possibilities that are available in our too kit. Thanks again for opening another good discussion.

  6. I haven’t got any Photoshop skills and I keep using the excuse that I haven’t the time to keep from learning it. But I like the premise of this post. For what it’s worth, I like the yellow one.

  7. I’ll always remember an encouraging comment you left on my blog. My Canon power shot is all I have but still you commented that the image fit the story well. Thank you again for that.

  8. Love the pink and blue one! 🙂 I know what you mean – my natural tendency is to favor more “realistic” work, but I do admire people who can create compelling images using the many creative tools available these days

    1. Thank you for sharing your opinion, Lynda. I am very much in the same camp as you when it comes to realistic work. But sometimes I feel like breaking out of my self-imposed “prison”.

  9. Your post strikes home: I have tried to be a “purist” in many respects, but decided a few months back, while working on a series about grave decorations called “A Grave Image” for my blog, decided to let go, have some creative fun and start exploring filters and textures. In the process, I discovered I was getting more “likes” on my photo posts. I now find my exploration has turned into an evolution of style. One thing about photography I know for certain above all else: don’t fear change because it is by trying new things that we advance.
    — Earl

  10. Love the original…a nice monochrome feel that goes well with the landscape. Enjoyed this post, as combining both technical and creativity in making a photo is a lot of fun, but I agree with what you say as starting with a good technical photo to begin with is the best.

  11. Hi Otto, These are worthwhile things to think about! I tried playing with some presets on a newly acquired plug-in recently, and it seems to me that what starts out as ‘play” can result in an “Aha!” moment and something that gets adapted as possibly a serious approach in later postprocessing. BTW, my favorite is the second from the top.

  12. Spesso ci gioco con le mie foto, però alla fine pubblico quelle naturali, solo pochissime di quelle con le quali ho giocato. Umm forse dovrei imparare a divertirmi di più. Le tue sono veramente belle e mi stuzzicano a provarci. Però l’originale resta la mia preferita in questo caso 🙂
    Ciao, Patrizia

  13. Hi Otto, it seems as though there’s a lot of “us-versus-them” in photography. Since just about every phone now has a camera and everyone can take and upload photos, there’s a separation in place between professional or “serious” photographers and those who use the fun, trendy, tools on programs like Instagram. To me, seeing the way people experiment with photography is really fun. Does it make the photos any less pure? Well, it certainly makes them different, but there’s room for all types of creativity. What each of us do as the originator of that piece of art is up to us, and other people can like it or not. Accessibility and ease of use don’t make things into lesser art forms, they’re just more tools. People will always be divided on this. Ultimately, it’s a question of “what do you like?” If you like it and have fun with it, why not keep playing?

    1. I totally agree with you. Tools don’t make it easier or more difficult to make art, it’s still depending on who you are and how you engage with your work. And no, not all think in terms of making art, but are “just” having fun. My point here is that even “serious” artists should allow themselves to play more – and that includes me. Thanks for you poignant thoughts.

  14. A few years ago I made a conscious decision to think of myself as ‘a picture-maker’ rather than ‘a photographer’. Somehow, this mentally gave me the licence to explore a wider range of artistic expression, though still using photography as my medium. I felt no longer constrained (and frustrated) by the constant pursuit of the perfect fine print. I now enjoy playing and experimenting and, since the change, have produced (I think) some of my best work.

  15. When I play with photography I free my brain and I discover new process opportunities. A few of these can later be incorporated in my “serious” work. Or at least are a starting point.
    PS: of course to enjoy playing we must keep alive the small child inside us 🙂

  16. I agree a million percent! I’m my “truest self” when my cameras are in hand…light and a full heart translate through that lens, for sure. We put out what we’ve been given… 🙂

  17. It’s so good to hear that a photographer like you can let his hair down, and play with his work sometimes. I always see professional photographers as so serious in their work. I took one of my recent super mess-ups (over exposed photo) and decided to play with it and see what I could get…it was fun, and I actually posted it. I had a good time playing.

    1. I am not sure I can let my hair down – literally that is… But I am glad you had some fun after first messing up. Sometimes that’s what is needed to let whatever you have down and let go. Thank you for the comment, Angeline.

  18. It can certainly be fun to fool around with different filters and so on. With so many quick editing tools and programs out there it’s easy to get sucked in but hey, have some fun out there.

  19. Your posts on creativity are both educational and provocative. In efforts to “loosen up” critical thinking is difficult to let go of but mastery of technique is always, or should be, the end result…no matter what. I find inspiration and encouragement (words I’ve used often…and pointed straight at you) in your comments. Speaking of which: the comment you left on my post (which I’m answering here and not there) I have taken to heart. You are correct…those memories continue to bring smiles. No one and nothing can or will dull that sparkling finish. In sincere gratitude, Otto. R.

  20. Good for you. The process is fun, too. Sometimes I will play with the special effects just to see what I can come up with.Reflections and repeats, for example.

  21. Great post. I have trouble “coloring outside the box” and need to work on being less literal with my photography. Play is good. Though I have to agree about HRD. At first I was amazed with HRD images. Now, some HRD images actually put me on edge; visual overload I think.

  22. You do know I agree with your views here a 100 % Otto, don’t you? Marrying technique with creativity can sometimes bring out stunning results. Though personally I draw the line when it comes to street and/or documentary photography.

  23. The first variations remind me of my early play with silk screening, which makes your words really speak to me about things I need to do for my creative soul. Love the feel of the last variation.

  24. Thank you Otto for the reminder-I know with photography and writing both, I can get way too serious-everything has to have a purpose, have meaning, etc., etc. Then as I was writing this, I thought-there is purpose in having fun-thank you! I really liked your experiments too, especially #2 and #4- beautiful color-

  25. I tend to be very serious, literal, a rule follower. I’ve recently discovered the joy of playing with some photo apps and am loving it. I’m not worried about making Art with a capital A, any more than a child with a box of crayons does, and I think that’s what makes it so freeing – and so much fun.

  26. Javisst, här blir jag aldrig besviken när jag tar mig en titt och tid att läsa. Det har varit lite dåligt med det på sista tiden, som du har förstått, men nu börjar livsandarna och inspirationen åter ge sig till känna.
    Tusen tack för dina ord förresten, de har hjälpt mig på vägen mot ljuset!
    Visst måste man leka, experimentera och även ta ett och annat misslyckat försök på vägen…om vi slutar leka, om vi stelnar i prestationens givna ramar…ja, vad finns då kvar?
    Att jag personligen inte är någon fan av Instagram och liknande program, det vet du ju redan och även att jag förordar lekandet i och genom linsen i stället…ja, det är väl en överflödig kommentar.
    Den mittersta bilden hos mig är tagen genom två fönster i ett ödehus…och som vanligt…straight from the camera…
    Ha det gott…och visst, en god lek eller två förlänger livet…och gör oss mer ödmjuka.

    1. Takk for din alltid skaprsindig observasjon og dype ord. Du har ikke bare et godt takk på fotografiet, men mestrer også ordets nyanser. Alltid kjekt å ha deg på besøk her. Og så er jeg selvsagt glad for at du begynner å kjenne livsånden igjen. Jeg forstår jo at det har vært en vanskelig tid.

  27. For the most part, I am pretty serious when I have my camera with me, but I also know that if I overdo that, all inspiration goes right out the window. It has to be fun for me.

  28. Great advice, Otto! I am all for finding the fun in life. And I am certain that you did not leave the child in you behind, as you mentioned. I think little Otto is alive and well and has proven more than once he’s ready to try new things. More importantly, he knows the value of sharing this contagious energy with others!

  29. Yup, it’s nice to let go and just play and have fun. The things that we discover (or re-discover) when we do so… 🙂 By the way, the pics reminded me of some of Andy Warhol’s prints!

  30. Hej Otto, blev både glad och överraskad av dina fina rader. Tusen tack.
    Känns så bra att du tar upp lekens betydelse. Tyvärr måste man ju även lära sig saker på annat sätt. För mig går krav och prestation absolut inte ihop med någon form av skapande.
    Finns kanske en anledning till varför man ofta säger att något är el gick “lekande lätt”.
    Orginalet och den gula versionen blir mina favoriter.
    Ha det så gott.

  31. I must say – I like all five versions – original plus four. I am just beginning to figure out how to use Photoshop – practicing the simplest of functions like cropping. So, I am not far enough along with it to be creative, non-creative, serious or playful with it as it relates to photography. But I can tell you that I like what you have shared – all five versions – for different reasons. The blue one actually reminds me of the 70s. And the fourth one – the yellow one – seems to jump off the page with life. All wonderful to look at.

  32. Otto, those are wise words for any aspect of life. And I bet you had fun just experimenting with these photos. Isn’t that how creativity begins to flow, being open to the unexpected.
    I have to tell myself often to be less serious, not have expectations and just play, for the pure experience of it. Thank you for the reminder.

  33. I am always playing with my photographs. In my case, a bit more studying of technique wouldn’t go amiss. I will never stop playing though, I think it’s one of my strong points in my images and also my self. 🙂
    I do so enjoy your essays, Otto.

  34. I think everyone should play around once in while. It gives you a whole new perspective often on a photo. Even giving you more creative ideas on catching one more naturally. I am truly amazed on how one can take an ordinary photo and make a work of art out of it. When I was working on my christmas greeting cards I first got caught up in doing all kinds of things with the photos, thinking how cool it looked. But after asking a few friends their opinions they all preferred my originals. Even though I have found in some circumstances the creative photo were more visual to look at when the originals were dull and lifeless like some of my desert scenes I posted in my blog. They were boring so I did jazzed them up. Anyway great for you to share with others some of the many things that one should try such to see the results sometimes.

    1. And of course when I encourage us all to play more, I don’t only mean in the post processing as with these pictures, but the all aspects of the creative process. For me most often it’s really the original that comes out best, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Carrie.

  35. Yes, the playing and feeling some freedom in photography does take us into some enjoyable places. At times, trying to be technically perfect misses another message. There is room for both. For your photos here, you from from Andy Warhol to National Geographic and…I like them all! Nice work, Otto.

  36. Fun is a key factor in anything creative. Don’t just do it for the sake of doing it. Try and have some fun while doing it.
    I often try out different filters in photo shop but I usually end up with the original. But, every once in awhile something just clicks and makes me smile.

    1. That last thing is really the point, isn’t. Yes, in most case we will still go for the old proven way, but once in a while by playing we discover something new and great at the same time. Thanks for your comment, Michelle.

  37. Thank you for liking “Patterns” and “Spring Is Here!” I have mixed feelings about HDR and Photoshop filters too. I like some of the effects they produce, and I often use Photoshop filters in my digital paintings. However, they can distort reality too much if they are overused or used improperly. This distortion of reality is not a problem for me because I am creating fantasy art, but I can see how it could be a problem if you are trying to capture realistic photographic images.

    Despite my concerns about HDR and Photoshop filters, I agree with you that there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with them. I think playing is an important part of the creative process as well. 🙂

    Nice post! 🙂

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