Why keeping a detailed journal of your ideas is so important.
I want to share one of the biggest life savers I have come across for photography, and that is keeping a journal. Now, I know a lot of people don't like to write and may think its pointless but I promise it's a good habit to get into. Highly successful fine art portrait photographer, Brooke Shaden, discusses this in her YouTube video Promoting Passion Week 22: Prepare for Success, which you can watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxzMjjRi11s.
Before I started going to school for photography, I kept a journal of places I wanted to photograph. I didn't write in it often and over the years it became neglected. Then I enrolled in college and one of my instructors, Melissa Rackham, assigned journal entries as a requirement. The assignment was ten pages a week. At first I thought that was a lot and was immediately overwhelmed with the idea. But as I wrote my entries I quickly realized how helpful it is. Not only is it a great resource to store ideas as they came to me, but I also learned that the more entries I make the more creative I become. I've discovered that when I tell myself not to forget a great idea I have, without writing it down, 9 times out of 10 I forget it.
Writing in a journal can be intimidating for some, but it doesn't have to be a well written novel. Your entries can be as simple or complicated as you like. Of course the more detailed the better, but the point is to have a place to store ideas as they come to you. I find that writing a description of your idea as well as including a rough sketch is best (stick figures are fine!). The key is to remember that no one else has to see it, it's for your own reference.
There are a couple different ways I have recorded my ideas in journals. The first is more informational: listing the place, history of the location, maps, charts, and facts. The second is more descriptive of the final image I want to make: what does the final image look like, how does it make me feel, and what is the meaning behind it.
In my first journal, an entry would look like this:
Which allowed me to plan out a trip to Govan, Washington to create this image:
My second journal looks like this:
It's a less technical entry that gave me key points to create this still life with my sister:
(Read the blog about this photo shoot here)
The first journal does a great job providing history on the location and how to get there, but fails to describe what kinds of photos I want to capture. The second journal shows what I want to create but doesn't give a lot of detail about how I plan to do that. Looking at these side by side, I think an improved journal would be to combine both ideas into one entry.
I've started carrying a journal with me to most places I go. If I don't want to bring it I have an app on my phone for taking notes called Color Note.
I'll usually put a couple words or a sentence to remind me later what my idea was, then when I have the chance I'll elaborate on that idea in my physical journal. Make sure you put enough information to be able to remember what you meant later! Notice how the last entry on there is "Cat". I have no idea what I meant by that and it was probably a cool idea.
Not only has this system helped me keep track of my ideas, but it has also helped me when deciding what I want to photograph. If I want to plan a photo shoot for the week I can open my journal, flip through the pages, and pick what I feel like creating. I don't have to have a brand new idea every time I want to create a new image, I already have a library of potential photo shoots right at my finger tips!
So go get a journal (or start a digital one) and start writing!