with Courtney Slazinik
Limit Your Creativity to Push Your Creativity

We are all familiar with the common mantra that “creativity knows no boundaries” and while I whole-heartedly agree, I have also found that I can pull myself out of creative ruts by imposing limits on my creativity. Sometimes boundless freedom to photograph whatever I want leaves me almost paralyzed; I don’t really know where to start. When I challenge myself to create something with a few constraints my brain takes it as a challenge and produces work I might not have otherwise been able to create.

I discovered how much I liked limits while on a road trip about a year ago. I am the typical Mom in the front passenger seat for the ride. My husband drives and I hand snacks back to the kids and occasionally try to referee a fight. It gets pretty boring after a while.

So on this particular trip, I pulled out my camera to look at photos I’d already taken to try to pass the time. I glanced out the window and saw a beautiful sunset and thought I’d try to capture it. But before I could get my camera settings ready to go-the scene had changed and there were trees in my way. I was annoyed I had missed it, but realized I wasn’t going anywhere (seeing as how I was strapped into the seat and all!) so I sat with my camera and waited for the scene to change again. And sure enough, as a few minutes later we were in a clearing and I was able to capture this:


I was hooked!! Hooked on seeing what I could capture while I had all these constraints, or limits, placed on me:

  • No.
    I was in a box.

    A literal box with wheels. We “creatives” always want to do things out of the box-but this exercise really pushed me to create while in a box.

  • No.
    I was strapped in.

    I absolutely forbid you get out of your seatbelt to try to get a shot while riding in the car. I don’t care if you pass by a unicorn sliding down a rainbow-DO NOT take your seatbelt off.

  • No.
    The scene changes every second...

    so it’s a rush to try to capture what you want before you’ve passed it by.

  • No.
    You are shooting through your window.

    That creates another layer of challenges because you have to determine whether you want the side mirrors in your shot or the darkened top of the windshield visible-it makes cropping and composing more difficult than normal.

  • No.
    For me, I was shooting unfamiliar subjects.

    Until this point, I had only taken portraits of my children. I had never shot a landscape and had no real desire to. So taking photos of the world passing my by was really a giant step outside of what would normally inspire me to pick up my camera.

So with all those limits, I found I was really forced to use my creativity in ways I typically didn’t. I started looking for things to photograph other than just the scene itself. I started using those trips in the car to focus on color, shapes, lines, textures and patterns. So many options opened up to me when I imposed limits on my creativity.

Here a few examples of when I focused solely on lines:



These are from my study on color:




In these photos, I was trying to see how many ways I could capture the clouds:




And here I challenged myself to photograph the atmosphere:


If you find yourself on a road trip over the holidays, do yourself a favor and keep your camera accessible for the ride! This may be my favorite article that I’ve written because I absolutely LOVE to take these types of photographs. You will learn so much by giving yourself creative limits.

  • lottie
    December 15, 2014 at 2:09 PM

    “The absence of boundaries is the enemy of art.” – Orson Wells

    • Therese Kay
      March 28, 2015 at 2:16 PM

      awesome quote!

  • Abby
    December 15, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    These are absolutely stunning! I love the color and how whimsical they can still be looking through a glass. I have always wanted to take pictures of the sunsets I see going over a bridge but have been limited by my car. This post has inspired me and will keep me busy on road trips from now on! Thank you!

  • Kay
    December 15, 2014 at 10:35 PM

    Love this! I have been making a lot of 6 hour road trips lately through Pennsylvania and Ohio and I ride with my camera on my lap. I have been taking pictures of the barns, sometimes I know when one is coming up that I missed the last time, so I have time to get in position. I also look for cows, and there are plenty. It does pass the time.

  • Marilia
    December 16, 2014 at 2:43 AM

    We take lots of road trips and I’ve been taking pictures in a moving car for years! Some people cringe at the thought but it’s a lot of fun and I have some incredible photos to show!

  • Jessica
    December 16, 2014 at 9:08 AM

    You know, a few years ago, I actually took photos on a road trip. I didn’t know what I was doing, didn’t know that I liked photography, and I swear those are some of the worst photos I’ve ever taken. Yet they were some of the photos I had the most fun with and really sparked my interest in photography.

    I had completely forgotten about that until this post. Thank you. Maybe I’ll try something like that again. It might be just what I need to get out of my rut. Also, thank you for sharing those beautiful photos. I love them!

  • Rosemary
    December 17, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    I spent an entire road trip out west (Yellowstone, Badlands, etc.) looking through the eye of a camera and while I discarded much of what I took, I learned a lot about framing, motion and waiting for the shot. Ironically, the best shot I got was a sunset taken through the sideview mirror in DesMoines, Iowa on the way home. Changing landscapes, lighting and weather can make the ordinary seem unique sometimes. On this particular trip I looked for those large rolls of hay and farm and small town shots.

  • December 17, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Great article! I love your photos and the scenes you captured.

    Do you typically hang out of the window when you take pictures from the car? I find that if I don’t do that, I get the glare/reflection from the windshield or car door window. Any other tips?

    • Brennan
      December 17, 2014 at 3:19 PM

      I take all my shots from inside the car–I’m too chicken to hang out the window with my camera! I just make sure I’m at the right angle so the glare isn’t a factor!

  • Ross Simshauser Australia)
    December 17, 2014 at 10:41 PM

    I thought I appeared to be the only photographer who photographed from the passengers seat
    whilst on a trip. I have done this for a number of years now and have hundreds of photos.
    Admittedly more editing is required but it is worth it to get shots that you would normally have to stop for. As retirees we do very long trips at times and I photograph while my brother-in law takes
    his turn at driving. I use a shutter speed of 320 mostly with a wide angle lense adjusted so that
    the front of the vehicle and the dash board are not included in the shot.The main problem
    is the constant cleaning of the widscreen.

  • Joanne
    December 18, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    I love your shots from your car. I do the same thing and have even won a contest with one I shot of a sunset from the seat of an airplane! Doing a 365 project doesn’t really sound difficult, unless you are unconcious in the hospital or something. If shooting an image from my smart phone counts then I shouldn’t have a problem ;)

  • Ryane
    December 22, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    How very cool! Your photos are stunning! What a fun was to stretch your manual photography skills. Do you have a favorite lens to work with? It seems like a lens with an open aperture and wider angle would work well. I love my 50 mm prime lens, although I am still trying to figure it out all the way. It’s a tricky one!
    Thank you for the inspiration. My family and I will be in the car for 8+ hours on the 27th from Northern Virginia to Charlotte, NC and back!

  • Ryane
    December 22, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    Typo – I was just so excited! “What a fun way to stretch your manual photography skills.”

  • Therese Kay
    March 28, 2015 at 2:24 PM

    what a great post! I’m often the driver so ca’t quite indulge in quite the same way, but this can be applied in so many amazing ways! I’m thinking perticularly of the #hospitalglam project that many with chronic illness indulge in. It certainly can stretch your imagination and creativity! I think I’ll be linking to this in my next blog post! Great images, by the way!! :)

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