Taking photos is an exciting and creative pursuit but sometimes you get stuck in a rut, lose our mojo and lack inspiration and motivation. You get tired or bored with your own images. It happens to all photographers at one time or another.
Anthony Epes believes this happens because we are immersed in habit. You do almost the same things everyday. Make your coffee the same way at the same time every day. Do the same activities every week, eat the same food every week, it is almost like you stop thinking and just do.
“As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge” – Henry van Dyke (American author, educator and clergyman.)
Habit makes life easier for you. You don’t have to make loads of different decisions everyday. But if you are lost in habit you aren’t seeing new things, doing new things, trying new things in new ways. Habit will strangle your creativity.
The way to get of this cycle will be different for different people but here are some tips to try to reignite your motivation, inspiration and creativity:
Leave your camera at home
If you are someone who carries their camera everywhere and just take shot after shot it is likely that you will get bored with your shots.
Start looking at the world in a different way. What do you hear, smell, and feel? Use all your senses not just sight which photographers use all the time. Use all your senses and absorb the atmosphere around you to help you gain a different perspective.
Challenge: When you are ready to start taking photos again, set yourself the challenge of taking just three photos a day, for 15 days. If this sounds hard, then it’s the perfect challenge! This will help you be more precise and thoughtful in your approach. You will work harder to create a smaller number of better photos. So – what will you take with your three images?
Make it a habit to take lots of photos
If you are someone who doesn’t take photos very often then do the opposite. You won’t develop creativity. You need to practice and practice to develop the skills of really seeing the world and composing great images. The act of creating is like a muscle the more you do it the stronger it becomes. By making a habit of taking photos and being creative gets your body and mind prepared to be creative, it energizes you into new and exciting ways.
Challenge: If getting into the habit of taking photos is tough for you, then this is the challenge for you – take 50 photos every day, for 15 days. That will kick start your creativity, and imbue your day with the looking and seeing and noticing that is necessary to take great photos.
Enjoy taking photos
Don’t just think about what the result will be but enjoy the actual process of taking the photo like a child enjoys feeling the texture of things before they create a piece of art or craft. Get totally in the zone. Look with wonder at your subject, absorb yourself in the beauty, wildness, peace and craziness of the world. Cut yourself off from your day-to-day problems.
Start a project
When your life is busy and we don’t get a lot of time for photo shoots it is a good idea to start a project. See the link above for ideas. Choose something you are passionate about . It could be anything, kids, pets, trees, and men with tattoos or the colour red. It is not so much about technique but more about passion.
When you get in a rut you are less likely to abandon a project that you are passionate about.
Passion will drive you to create new perspective on your subject.
When you feel something when you are taking a photo you are likely to evoke emotion in the viewer too. Remember the best photos evoke emotion, tell a story and engage the viewer.
Do something completely different
Get out of the habit of photographing the same subject matter. Think of something that you’d be terrified to photograph and go and do it. It may be street photography or close up portraits. It might be asking permission to take a photo or to enter a building and climb on the roof for an overall shot of the city. If this makes you nervous then go for it.
Don't worry about being perfect
Often we stop taking photos or give up because we feel our work is not good enough. Who cares if some of your photos are not perfect? Its crazy stopping doing something you love. Recognize that you have a fear but don’t let it stop you. Ignore the output and focus on what you see. Follow things that spark your interest. I have a fear of asking strangers for a photo but I have a passion for street photography and want to improve it.
With the first shot I was so nervous and I had the wrong setting so the DOF is all wrong and in my hurry not to detain them too long I managed to cut off their feet. The second time I managed to get the feet but I’m still not happy with the background but I guess that is street photography and the decisive moment.
Get inspiration indirectly
Fill your life with creative inspiration of anything that moves you, be it music, art, books or poetry. Remind yourself what being excited and creative feels like. Remember how you felt when you did capture that great shot rather than thinking you will never take another good photo.
I loved this elephant at the Art Gallery. Up close I could see the intricate pattern of dots that had been stuck on.
Why do you take photos?
Anthony Epes says,” It can be easy with your photography to get into that should way of thinking – “I should take more photos! I should be better!” But scolding yourself rarely gets you anywhere (with anything). Instead, I encourage you to think about what photography really means to you, what are the benefits beyond the fun of taking that photo. How does it enrich, energize and enhance your life?”
Ask yourself, “What does photography give me?
How do I want to be creative?
Which of my photos am I really proud of?
Photos with meaning
Adam Crawford’s article in a recent DPS newsletter, says similar things about being on a plateau with your photography. You have acquired the technical skills but something is missing….substance, meaning, emotional connection and finding your own style.
He has similar suggestions on how to ignite creativity to Anthony Epes. Crawford says,
Mimicry is the best form of flattery. Try to shoot in the style of your favorite photographer. You will be cued into their vision, which will inspire your own creative insights. Just like surgeons learn from other doctors so it is with photography, it’s on the job training.
You need to learn different styles and then you will start to see your own style peeping through, because you have learnt to create your own vision by studying those whose work you like.
He also advocates taking up a challenge. Get peers to critique. It will give you helpful advice and a thick skin.
My Favourite photographer is Karen Larsen. (Manukau NZ left)
My mimicry (Grand Canyon right)
John Davenport says,
Self critique can help improve your photography
Learning how to constructively critique your own photography can not only help you make better photographs each time you pick up a camera, but it will also build your confidence as a photographer, and prepare you for the inevitable critiques from your peers and colleagues.
You have learnt the technical skills for a good shot but in the heat of the moment technique will often slip. You should notice this and correct it. You may find that you have a common fault like forgetting to check settings, wrong DOF, or it doesn’t capture emotion.
To talk about a photograph either what makes it good or what could be improved can improve your photography. You will start fine-tuning for a better shot while in the field.
Self criticism will prepare you for what others might say and you will be able to defend the choices and style.
He was self critiquing in the field by checking the LCD screen and retrying.
Adam Crawford also suggests just sit and wait for the decisive moment. Absorb the atmosphere and capture a special moment by composing and waiting.
Crawford talks about equivalence a term used describing Alfred Stieglitz work where he said his photos were more than a capture of reality but they were emotionally connected to him whether it was geometric patterns or people.
Photographic meaning isn’t a literal translation of an image. Instead, it is a way in which you use your voice or perspective, to create a work that doesn’t need to be explained, which also evokes something/anything in the viewer. Try to do this to improve your work.
Tell a story
You can tell a story in a single image or in a sequence of shots. To tell a story is the same as photographing with meaning. Try doing this to get back some inspiration and motivation.
Photograph close to home
James Maher ‘s article tells us how trying to be creative with photography around your own home will help improve your photography. He says,
“I am told fairly frequently by photographers and students that they cannot, or do not feel like, photographing where they live. “It’s too boring” they say, or “There’s nothing interesting to photograph. I only do my photography when I travel.
This is great of course, as passion for travel and photography go hand in hand, and it’s often when people do their best work. But, thinking that way can also make you miss the whole point of photography.
Challenge: Spend a few weeks photographing areas near your home. Go for a walk in a different direction each day and at a different time each day. Even go to the most uninteresting area and figure out how to take an interesting shot. You may think the area is banal or boring but to someone living elsewhere would not. Try to think like them.
Good photographers have learned how to make interesting photographs anywhere. They don’t take anything for granted. This is the skill to that goes to the heart of being a good photographer.
Look at the work of William Eggleston
Valerie Jardin gives tips on how to get over Photographer’s block. They include many I have mentioned but they are good reminders:
Push yourself take risks and make mistakes.
Experiment with different genres and techniques don’t be afraid to fail.
I tried to capture store holder selling chocolate but failed. I tried to capture welding sparks but failed to keep the camera still.
Get out of your comfort zone.
Try street photography and photographing strangers.
Spend time with Photographers
Get together with other photographers join a photo walk group
Take a class
Participate in a workshop, a physical class or an online class.
I was taught about metering on a photographic safari in New Orleans.
Immerse yourself in something beautiful. Visit museums, art galleries or pick up a book or magazine of photograph artists. Look up photographers on line. Look for composition, emotion and a story.
Get lost on purpose
Don’t think about what you are going to shoot just get out with your camera something will trigger your photographic eye.
Pick a theme
Leaving your house with a theme in mind will help you keep focused. It might be the colour yellow, reflections, or dogs
Start a project
Commit to a long term project such as 52 weeks or a weekly blog meme or join a facebook photography group like iPhotomagic or our very own camera club photo blog.
|Rod Holmes Camera Club Photo Blog Noelene Berg iphotomagic fb group|
Try new gear,
Try using a different lens or maybe a fun thing like a fisheye lens. Experiment with phone apps.
|I experimented with camera effects.|
It’s okay to take a little break too! Remember that creativity is a process, not a result. A creative block is not something to fear. It is part of being an artist.