5 Things You Can Do When You Don’t Know What To Shoot

“I don’t know what to shoot anymore!”

How many times have you heard someone make that proclamation? Maybe you’ve said it yourself. I think most of us have.

It’s frustrating to find yourself feeling as if you’ve photographed all the interesting things in the world. Of course, you haven’t, but when you can’t find your muse you don’t really care about how hyperbolic you sound. There is a way out of this darkness, however. Keep reading to learn what to do when you just can’t find anything interesting to shoot.

1. Chase The Light

As you know, photography is all about light. So instead of trying to come up with specific subjects to photograph — people, cars, flowers, buildings — make light your subject. Light presents itself in ways too varied to count and as long as you shoot before sunset, you don’t have to go looking for it.

But let’s be honest — natural light isn’t always perfect and you have no control over that. Where there’s light, however, there are shadows. Shadows can be just as interesting as good light. And if you can find a way to combine the two, even better!

No matter what material objects that happen to fall within your frame, they will benefit from being involved in the play between light and shadow.

Photo by Jason D. Little | JCH Streetpan 400

2. Try A New Technique

When you’re plum out of ideas for what to shoot, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself just sitting around grinding your brain cells trying to come up with something. Don’t waste your time. Instead, try a new technique. Just like when you’re looking for light, trying a new technique isn’t necessarily subject dependent.

If you’ve never considered shooting in black and white, this would be a good time to give it a try. You could try some night photography. Or maybe incorporate motion blur into your images. You might even extend your new technique venture to editing and try something like using textures or HDR processing.

Photo by Jason D. Little

3. Photograph The Most Unusual Thing You Can Think Of

One of the reasons you might have difficulty coming up with something to shoot is because you’re thinking along the lines of what’s “good” or “acceptable” subject matter according to other peoples’ standards.

But if you disregard all that and just decide to photograph the most unusual/unexpected thing that comes to mind, you might be opening up a whole new creative lane for yourself.

It doesn’t have to be anything outlandish, just something that’s going to force you to put in some time and effort to locate and shoot. Have you ever spent a day photographing tattoos? Or shoes? Or anything with a camouflage pattern?

Whatever crazy thing that crosses your mind, go shoot that and see how much fun you have.

Photo by Trinity Treft on Unsplash

4. Get Close To Things

I mean really close. As close as your lens will allow you to get. Once again, this is an activity that doesn’t call for a specific subject. Everything looks different at the macro level.

Ordinary household objects, coins, articles of clothing, plants. There’s nothing that doesn’t take on a fascinating and sometimes strange appearance when viewed up close.

Once you get started you’ll soon find yourself wanting to get close to everything you photograph; your struggle to find interesting subjects will be a thing of the past.

Photo by Gastón Rouge on Unsplash

5. Go Somewhere Different

If you typically spend time photographing rural areas, change things up and go to a city. If you normally shoot in the city, go visit a farm. This isn’t about traveling or working outside of your means, but simply placing yourself in an environment that differs from your daily life.

Not only will the overall scenery be different, but you’ll also be exposed to foods and people and habits that may be new to you, all of which will provide you with valuable subject matter.

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Final Thoughts

When you find yourself feeling like there’s nothing to shoot, remember — there is something to shoot, and it's probably right in front of you. The problem is it's difficult to see those opportunities when you're already distracted by not knowing what to point your camera at.

With a bit of creative thought, I assure you things will turn around. Hopefully, the ideas presented here will get you up and running again.


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About the author

Jason D. Little

Jason Little is a photographer (shooting macros, portraits, candids, and the occasional landscape), writer, and music lover. You can see Jason’s photography on Flickr, his Website or his Blog.

  • Jim Kelly says:

    Really good article Jason…I’ve got a few strategies of my own but none as succinctly formulated and simple as these.


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