On Earth Day, we wrapped up our coverage of Passport to Creativity with Adobe Students. The project highlighted conservation efforts by sending students and mentors to three different locations around the world and culminated in an exceptional interactive display in downtown Los Angeles showcasing the incredible work of six international students. Each student worked with a mentor on the ground and created a body of work that illustrated their individual experience and the protected landscape that they visited.
This week, we caught up with the incredible mentors from the program—Michael George (Patagonia), Adrienne Pitts (Lord Howe Island), and Jarrad Seng (Kenya)—to hear about some of the key lessons they shared with their students on the ground in each location. We felt it was imperative to share these with our community.
Key Lessons from Our Mentors
Take a step back and take it slow.
With social media we are getting used to formulating narratives and attempting to be creative on the fly. While this has some value, producing a high-quality product requires time and distance. Write in a journal: What colors, smells, people, culture, food, make up this place? What might life be like year round? What is the relationship between tourists and locals? Are there any individual stories you find interesting?
Be you… but also try something else.
As a young creative you are trying to find your voice while experimenting endlessly. Follow your heart and your natural eye but also make a list of things you never do. Do you only shoot landscapes and never portraits? Try something new! There’s nothing like a place you’ve never been to discover sides of yourself you didn’t know existed.
Go beyond the initial money shot.
This may be the first idea that comes to you for an image, but explore and delve deep into your subject in order to better tell a story. In the age of Instagram and the goal of one image getting as many “likes” as possible, ask yourself whether that one image is really the best image you can put forward to tell a story. I worked with my students on getting that initial shot, and then moving around – trying different angles, experimenting with different light, and going beyond that “money shot” in order to try and tell a deeper story.
Talk to people.
This can be tricky for those of us who are a bit shy, but taking the time to talk with your subjects, learn about them, and create a considered portrait of them is something which has a great effect on the final work created. This can be a work-in-progress for many of us as we learn to deal with any social awkwardness in order to connect with our subjects more!
Train your eyes to spot ways to creatively frame an image.
Shooting from the confines of a safari jeep all day was limiting in a lot of ways, but at the same time afforded opportunities to approach image creation from unconventional perspectives. We practiced by using windows, mirrors, binoculars… to acknowledge the context we were shooting in and to in turn create more engaging imagery.
Unleash the power of Lightroom to bring home the creative vision through post processing.
The creative process doesn’t end with the click of the shutter, in fact in many ways that’s just the beginning. I’m notorious for creating absurdly specific editing presets, so I felt like a proud dad when Rachelle, one of my students, showed me her very own signature version of ‘Cheetah Blue’ (kinda like Blue Steel, only better).
Advice for Students and Enthusiasts Looking to Make a Career out of a Creative Endeavor:
Pursue it with Passion.
Ask yourself: If there was no money in this, would you still do it? Is this something you have to do? Will you feel unfulfilled unless you pursue this craft? If the answer is yes, then you’re ready. If you’re hesitant, you’re not. This is a crowded field full of passionate people who live and breathe their work. If you can’t match that work ethic and excitement then you will never make it.
Establish a Creative Support Network.
Make friends of your colleagues and creative counterparts and become each other’s support network. It becomes obvious very quickly that we all feel insecure or lacking in creativity at times, and having those friends and colleagues who can encourage you is hugely rewarding. It’s very easy to believe that other people have things all figured out – they live a perfect life with an abundance of creativity. But it’s hard work to get there and it’s hard work to do – knowing that you are not alone in it is a gift that you just can’t put a value on.
Take risks. It can be freakin’ hard pouring your heart into your work and throwing it out there for the world to judge. But as artists we have to do this every day, and it’s such an important way to stretch, grow and develop creatively. So take those crazy leaps, try new things, say yes to projects that push you beyond your comfort zone. Collaborate, meet weird people from the internet and take a chance on people you believe in. The worst that can happen isn’t that you’ll fail, it’s that you never give yourself the chance.