Latest posts by Jason D. Little (see all)
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I’m sure this is hardly the first article you’ve read on this topic, but it’s worth revisiting from time to time because, at some point, we all suffer the frustration and anxiety associated with getting stuck in a creative rut. Photographer’s block is frustrating, in large part, because you want to create but can’t seem to find the motivation or inspiration; it’s anxiety inducing because you can’t figure out how to get your spark back and, perhaps, you may even be fearful of how long you’ll have to do without it.
The good news is that this state of being is temporary; you’ll break through eventually. But you can’t wallow in your grief. It’s up to you to take the appropriate steps to get your creativity back in full swing. The following recommendations are not inherently difficult; in fact, they’re quite easy to achieve. But when you’re experiencing creative doldrums, everything just seems a bit more daunting than it normally would. Give yourself a chance, though; put forth the effort necessary to regain your footing. You owe it to yourself as a creative type.
- Relocate. No, I don’t mean pack up your home and move. Simply find a new place to shoot. If familiarity is capable of breeding contempt, it also stands to reason that it can breed boredom. If you tend to do the bulk of your photography in the same location, change things up and go somewhere new. Regardless of what specific genre of photography you engage in most, a change of scenery will be a welcome boost of confidence and inspiration.
- Just Do It. There are some who subscribe to the theory that you should do nothing when inspiration escapes you; just let it return to you when it will. This may work for some people and in certain situations, but there are times when you need to be proactive and aggressive in your effort to win back all those good feelings you used to have about doing photography. You’re going to have to just pick up your camera and shoot. Something. Anything. Don’t worry about your percentage of “keepers” or whether the subject is book worthy. Don’t waste time trying to think of the perfect thing to shoot. Go wherever your eyes take you. They might lead you to some pretty cool people, places, and things.
- Narrow Things Down. Putting limitations on yourself may sound counterintuitive and, as it would follow, counterproductive. But narrowing prospective subject matter may be exactly what you need. Instead of wringing your hands over what to shoot — or not knowing what to shoot — simply give yourself the very simple task of shooting one very specific thing. Pick a color or a shape or a facial expression and shoot only those subjects that meet your selected specification.
- Experiment. I’d be willing to bet that somewhere in the hyper-creative recesses of your mind you’ve been keeping a brilliant photography idea that you’ve always wanted to try, but never had the time or courage to see it through. Well, now’s your chance; you can’t seem to make anything else work, so you’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain. Even if your bright idea turns out to be less amazing than you had hoped, just going through the process should be enough to try it again or try something new. Either way, you’ll be shooting again.
- Break Your Mold. Most photographers typically specialize in one or two types of photography. There’s good reason for this, but sometimes you need to get away from what you know so well and try something new. Challenge yourself. If you shoot primarily landscapes, find someone to do a portrait session with. If you’re always shooting portraits, go out and do some insect macros. Do you always use flash in your work? Try some natural light photography. The point is to expand your skill set and give yourself new things to look at. Newfound inspiration should be just around the corner.
Creative blocks of any kind are no fun, to say the least, but they are a fact of life. They in no way reflect any sort of weakness in your individual creativity; everyone goes through this. What really counts, though, is how you respond to and overcome these creative lulls. Some might argue that following a list of recommendations is just more of the same, just going through the motions. But if those motions can help get you back to where you want to be creatively, then why not give it a shot?