on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Limitations and constraints in photography

The enemy of art is the absence of limitations

Rafael Rojas

Following a career as an engineer, researcher and university lecturer he made a dramatic change of career as a nature and landscape photographer, his true passion and vocation. Today, he travels extensively in search of those fleeting moments when light and land combine to create something very special. His work has been awarded in many international photography competitions, including the prestigious Master Hasselblad Award, several First Prizes in the International Photography Awards (USA), Px3 Prix de la Photographie de Paris and Px3 People's Choice (France), Nature’s Best (USA), International Conservation Awards (USA),


Many are the individuals who have praised the beneficial effects of limitations and constraints in the creative process.

The enemy of art is the absence of limitations. ~ Orson Wells

The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution ~ Igor Stravinsky

In the book “Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind,” Scott Barry Kaufman mentions that creativity “Involves variability – different ways of doing things,” but also “involves constraints, which can either promote or preclude creativity”.

It might seem logical to think that an artist which plenty of tools, options, and possibilities will see his or her artistic output thrive. The reality seems to be just the opposite.

Even if it is true that a minimum of resources is needed to create, limitations and constraints reduce the overwhelming feeling triggered by too much freedom and channel creative energies, providing a framework and helping us focus our attention, energy, and work. All writers and painters dread the blank page or empty canvas syndrome. This effect is nothing but the consequence of the total absence of limitations and constraints. Right before the first word is written or the first brush stroke is laid on the canvas, all possibilities are there for the artist to grasp. The sheer amount of options available, theoretically infinite, can freeze the creative process even before it starts. As soon as the first few sentences are written, the story starts being channelled, and the options get progressively reduced. Constraints appear as the beginning of a plot begin to materialize. The painter experiences the same progressive liberation as paint disrupts the empty space. Each brush stroke informs the following one, and as the painting emerges on the canvas, the options get narrower and narrower, the idea clearer and more transparent and the actions more focused and determined.  

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