5 Reasons Creative Obstacles to Your Photography Are Healthy


“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
– Randy Pausch

Obstacles of any kind are a nuisance most of the time. Getting stuck in traffic, hitting your toe on furniture, feeling confused, and not being able to solve a problem all share an intimidating quality we simply can't escape. And so, like bruises caused by clumsy navigation, creative challenges are almost impossible to avoid. Being a beginner at anything compels you to face the consequences of inexperience, while mastering a craft often threatens to destroy your source of inspiration. From time to time, giving up seems to be the best option.

As Randy Pausch gracefully stated, however, there's a reason certain obstacles exist. This doesn't mean you must look for the meaning of your life in a bruised thumb, but it does mean that you should persist when creative hurdles come into the picture. If you feel limited, insecure, or afraid, don't abandon a project you care about. You have far more strength than you dare to imagine.

If you're going through a creative drought or a discouraging phase, I hope this list of reasons provides you with at least a spark of hope and motivation. Though you needn't force yourself to love obstacles to the point where they cease to be discouraging, you can at least learn to understand them a little better. Instead of viewing them as relentless beasts whose sole intention is to destroy your hope, imagine that they're brick walls testing your desire. Nothing more, nothing less.

Photo by Joshua Earle

Creative Obstacles Will Help You Appreciate Details and Find Potential in Everyday Objects

I didn't truly appreciate details until I moved to a small apartment. There, I began to make the most of everything I had, from old fabrics to intricate shadows cast by hands. It's incredible to imagine the sheer amount of potential that lies in a single room. This isn't to say that I didn't feel limited at all. Shooting indoors was often frustrating – the corridor was usually cluttered, which almost always resulted in a bruise, a wobbly tripod, or a very unfocused shot. There were times when I'd give up on an idea for fear of not being able to execute it properly with my limited equipment and space. However, I persisted, and persistence led me to unimaginable opportunities.

Photo by Fab Lentz

In my case, my circumstances forced me to look at everything with an immense amount of gratitude, but that doesn't mean you have to move into a tiny apartment to value everyday objects. What you can do is challenge yourself. Try out a new genre of photography. If you have a lot of equipment, limit yourself to only one lens or camera during a shoot. Take photos in a single room. As you experience these struggles, you'll get to know the imaginative innovator you've always been. At the same time, you'll strengthen your gratitude, observation skills, and creativity.

You'll Be Able to Make the Most of Light, Equipment, and Space When You Do Have More Access to It

Once you overcome an obstacle, you'll be better prepared for bigger opportunities and more comfortable surroundings. For instance, spending time in outdoor locations is something I greatly treasure and try to make the most of. After having spent a lot of years shooting in indoor locations, the great outdoors is an endless creative universe for me. I find more opportunities for growth thanks to the obstacles I've had (and continue to have). Keep this in mind whenever an intimidating artistic issue overshadows you; it's just an empowering test in disguise.

Photo by 2Curious

They Will Strengthen Your Patience and Willpower

A lot of self-control is needed to try out new techniques and go the extra mile. Stubbornly persisting, regardless of how difficult a task may be, will lead you to wonderful results, lessons, and opportunities. Even if you don't get the results you wished for, you'll have a valuable new lesson which will inevitably come in handy in the future. Once that willpower is strengthened, creative challenges will become less intimidating. The more challenges you face, the more powerful you'll get, and the easier it'll be to deal with certain obstacles.

All of This Admirable Experience Could Increase the Success of Your Client Shoots

Knowing how to take full advantage of equipment (a single lens, for example), will allow you to take a simple shoot to the next level. You’ll be able to impress clients with your ability to take fantastic photos in any kind of environment. Being able to make the most of the simplest locations will increase your clients' confidence in you. Knowing that you'll find even a single idea in any situation will, in turn, make you feel more secure as an artist. As a result, you'll have a better chance at having successful shoots, happy clients, and a stronger reputation.

Photo by Noah Feldman

Your Hard Work Will Enrich Every Shooting Experience You Have

Working hard toward a specific goal – such as making the most of one piece of equipment – will enhance the value of your rewards, shaping you into a better creative thinker and individual. I can't guarantee that you'll always feel wonderful after a struggle, but I can assure you that every experience will strengthen you in one way or another. These new strengths will help you immensely in the long run. They'll make future shooting experiences more fun and creative, too.

When tough hurdles emerge, it can be easy to give in and passionately doubt yourself. Don't beat yourself up for having such an impulse. Instead, imagine the enriching rewards waiting for you on the other side of this steep hill. Imagine the strength you'll gain and the lessons you'll absorb. Most importantly, believe in yourself, and even the most frightening problems will become overcomeable.

Photo by Jon Tyson

About Author

Taissia is a professional photographer and educator.

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