Lost? Try Using A Map!

By Gene McCullagh
July 4, 2011

As photographers we tend to be visual people. When we get stuck creatively we try to jump-start our idea engine. Looking at other photographers' work is one way. Brainstorming and making a list of ideas can be another. But lists of ideas may not be what you are looking for. At least for me, lists are too dry and don't fit the way I think. That's where I find mind mapping really fits!

If you aren't familiar with mind maps take a look at the Wikipedia article. Another good source is Tony Buzan's site. While Mr. Buzan's claim to inventing mind maps is still being debated, he has contributed greatly to the concept.

So what is a mind map? It is a way to get thoughts out of your head and connect them naturally. As the map grows you can start to see patterns. These patterns can lead to some sparks of inspiration. More branches on the map. More inspiration. And so on.

For example, suppose you are trying to come up with some ideas for a landscape shoot. Start with a large piece or paper or one of the many mind mapping software applications. Put Lanscape Shoot in the middle. Start branching off as things come to mind; Light, Lenses, Composition, Location, etc.. Look at what you have. Start branching off of these ideas. As you map grows you may start to see combinations and patterns that will inspire your landscape shoot!

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You can use this technique for other things as well. Learning to use Lightroom can be mapped out too! This may help you figure out where to start and what to do next.

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Even thinking about all the different kinds of photography lends itself to mind mapping. Laying it out in a mind map helps me see, at a glance, a sort of totality.

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Your brain might not work this way. But I bet, if you play with this for awhile, you will find that it closely mimics how you think about things. I find it indispensable. Give it a try for yourself and let us know in the comments how it turned out.

There are quite a few software applications that you can use to mind map. Here are a few that are free to get you started:

That's a few to get you started. Be aware that XMind and MindNode have pro versions that will cost you some money. The free versions are more than enough to get you started.


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