​ Problem solving vs creativity

I get told regularly that, being a photographer, I must be 'creative'. I think this is intended as a compliment - and would like to take it as such - but I don't think it's true.

Photography is a job; it's about getting the picture that the client wants. The artistic shot might not be very useful; some shoots have a strict shot list which must be adhered to. Despite claims to the contrary, clients are usually after reliability, skill and experience over artistry. Creativity where it's possible and desirable - yes. But the brief comes first. There's a higher value on being a 'good operator' than a creative. Yes, of course, there is more scope to be the latter in, say, fashion or conceptual art, or where the emphasis with the brief is to capture a mood or idea. But much of the time, as I've discussed before, it's about creativity within limitations.

That said, creativity should always be part of the approach: there's nothing worse than merely fulfilling a brief. Yet so often, the most direct or simple shot is often the best one, or at the very least, the frame of reference, the 'safety shot' from which we develop an idea. Hence, the idea of considering oneself artistic and pursuing creativity as a goal feels a little misleading and unhelpful, starting from the end point as it does, and working backwards to the brief. That is, we end up trying too hard.

Even for portraits (in my field, at least) I find myself working logically towards a goal. The challenge is not in considering theoretical or 'deep' artistic concepts, but simply identifying what could improve the photograph, then working out how to do it. Pragmatics and logistics. 

I think creativity mostly takes place in one's personal work. In commissioned work - if creative flow occurs at all - it's at the meeting point between that personal creativity and the objective brief. 

So, I would describe what I do as problem-solving. This might be a creative outlet (I don't know) but it's about dealing with issues, people, logistics, lighting etc. quickly and efficiently. Anticipating, problem-solving, troubleshooting - that sort of thing. A little bit of 'what if' and trying out ideas which come up, perhaps (but even these are rooted in time and situation, not theory). 

And as the trick is to get something fresh within the limitations of the real world (and in real time) that's the challenge I enjoy. To find that meeting point. As I've said before, it's knowing when something good can be achieved from the mundane (and the corollary: realising when even the most (apparently) rich situation has nothing much to offer). That's where creative opportunities lie.

There's the idea (mostly untrue I would say) that you're either logical or artistic. Well, if that is the case, I'm the former. Which is slightly damaging to one's self-esteem, to consider oneself unartistic in what is considered an artistic profession. But that's how it is, at least for me.