When we enter the world of photography it is full of technical things we need to learn. Settings on the cameras can seem confusing for a while but is easily mastered over time. Lighting systems and all of the variations of those. Learning what the difference is between hard light and soft, and the ways to direct, combine, and reflect the light. What seems overwhelming at first becomes easy. Like pretty much anything else. It takes effort and thousands of images to get there.
Those are very important to doing any kind of photography. Eventually, it will get to a point where you will not even think about what you are doing with the camera and lights...it will just come naturally to you. Everyone is different in this respect of course. When someone asks me what I have my camera set at or the lights I rarely have a clue. I have to look and see where my mind had put things to get what I want. Kinda' like jumping in a car and driving off. You don't think about all of the things you need to do to get there.
This is all important...but there is something else that makes it really work.
I'm always talking about photography as my art. I'm an artist and in my blogs I assume you are or want to be too. If you are a perfectionist and want to take images that are exactly like they look in real life then I'm sure I drive you nuts.
Art is what I see in my head, not my eyes.
So, this brings me to the part a lot of people miss. Imagination.
Most of my shoots involve a model or models. Lately I've done more landscape and it still takes some imagination. So it works in every area of photography.
When I plan a shoot I don't plan down to the last detail. For me, that stifles the creativity that I feel makes a session work. Being light on my feet and keeping my eyes and mind open. Watch, listen, and imagine what the possibilities are. Remember that our creative 'eye' is actually calling on everything we've ever seen that we liked, or didn't like. Not specific things of course. But a bit like a recipe...you can't always taste individual ingredients, but without them it tastes different.
Take your time, and don't hesitate to change the lighting or direct the model or makeup and hair stylists to bring your vision together. Especially lights. Those are probably the biggest element of creating a certain image and you control those. Even if you are out in natural light, there are endless options to have reflections, shadows, shade, and (gasp) direct sunlight to create what you see in your mind.
Don't hesitate to cheat. Well, I call it cheating but it is common. Before a shoot I pick out a couple dozen images from the thousands I've downloaded that inspired me in some way. I pick them out based on the look of the model and any known talents the MUA might have. Interestingly, I very rarely want to try to duplicate the image. Not that this is even possible. Nope, the images are picked because of some lighting I liked, or to remind me to do one thing or another. In many cases the end result isn't anything even close to the inspiration shot. Much like painters use 'reference' images to help them see how muscles, ears, and hands might look, I use 'inspiration' images to remind me how some lighting or poses might look. It keeps the shoot moving forward as we move from one idea to the next.
Moving at a good pace is important during a shoot. No breaks. Heck, I've found models that need smoke breaks tend to dent my creative zone a bit. That five minutes of inactivity busts the flow.
The result of a creative shoot, with a heavy amount of imaginative sets, is an exhausted brain. For me, I get to a point in a shoot where my mind just stops...it's exhausted and that's when we end the shoot. Nothing after that works. I just run out of anything to try. This is typically 3-5 hours in and many sets later so it's not a bad thing. Great creativity only works in spurts.
So, use your imagination. Write down that idea you just had in the shower. My favorite place it seems, to have interesting ideas pop in my head. Pay attention to cinematography in movies and TV shows you watch. Study other artists styles and figure out what you love and what you don't, and think about why. This all gets your mind thinking creatively. It's an endless pursuit because we are always growing and changing.