Developing your creativity and the art of smuggling cannoli

 Bicycle with basket on a street in Paris
Above: photograph I took in Ru du Roi de Sicile, Paris

There are some things you just don’t notice because they happen so slowly, like fingernails growing, the earth spinning or the six extra kilos I smuggle home on my thighs every time I travel to Italy.

I just wake up one day and notice my nails are long, or suddenly it’s the next day, or my favourite jeans don’t fit anymore.

It always feels like these things just happen overnight, but it’s a slow and gradual process much like developing your style as an artist.

Is your work evolving quickly enough?

Many artists I speak to get frustrated by the fact that they feel like their work is not evolving quickly enough, or not at all. The reality is, if you are doing something towards achieving your goals consistently, there will be growth. The two extra cannoli I ate on the first day of my Sicily trip had zero impact, but if I do this every day for three weeks, there is always positive growth.

However, if I wore baggy pants with an elastic waist, it would probably take me an extra month to notice the kilo creep. My jeans act as my starting point, making it really easy to track how my body is changing and my jeans are often a good incentive for me to step away from the cannoli for a while.

The best way to see where your work is going is to regularly go back and remind yourself of where you have been. There is a photo of St Mark’s Square, Venice hanging in my bedroom that I took 25 years ago. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. The image is poorly framed, badly exposed and out of focus, but to this day it’s still one of my favourite images. Why? Because it’s the first lifestyle travel shot I ever took. The first photo I took “just because” and it’s a constant reminder of where I started.

What is your St Mark’s Square?

Every photographer has a similar photo in their collection. What’s your St Mark’s Square? Dig it out, have it printed and hang it somewhere where you will see it every day. That’s your “before” shot. Use this image as a marker to track your progress, I bet you’ll be amazed at just how far you’ve come. But don’t just stop there, keep finding ways you can track your progress, or apply the cannoli protocol and regularly take time to stop look back and see how far you’ve come.

Here are a few other areas I suggest you apply the cannoli protocol:

1. Lighting
Have a look through your archives and find early examples of daylight flash or studio flash on camera and compare these to the most recent shots. Now, ask yourself the following questions:

a. Has my style changed?
b. Is my style improving?
c. What can I do to take this work to the next level?

Doing this on a regular basis will speed up your growth. It’s also a great way to highlight areas where you may have become lazy or too same-same in your style.

Now repeat the exercise for the following areas:

2. Posing
3. Post Production
4. Composition

Do you have a regular “cannoli protocol” or a St Mark’s Square image? I’d love to hear about your experiences.


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About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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