Don’t Let Creativity Overload Kill Your Photography


Creativity Overload – It Can Make or Break Your Ideas

It's not uncommon for us to talk about photographers block and how we can dig our way out of creativity slumps. The other end of that spectrum, creativity overload, is something we often neglect mentioning.

Photo by Noah Feldman
Photo by Noah Feldman

It makes sense, having an abundance of creative ideas to photograph seems like a really good problem to have!

That being said, it's still a problem. And one that can throw even the best of photographers off track.

I tend to go through phases–peaks and valleys–of creative overflow predictably followed by creative slumps. If you've ever experienced the same rhythms, you know just how frustrating that can be. So, on that note, I'd like to share some of the methods I use to deal with this phenomenon.

1. Take Notes. Lots of Notes

Often. Write down every idea you have.

I try to always have a camera by my side so I'm ready to seize any opportunity that comes my way. But the reality is, I'm just not always in a position to plan out, set up, and take the photograph I've just dreamt up.

When you have an abundance of ideas flowing into your brain, it's surprisingly easy to forget some of them. I don't even want to think about all the great photos I could have taken if I had just remembered to do so. Sounds crazy, but it happens!

That's why I've gotten into the habit of writing all my ideas down. Whether it be on a scratchpad, a sketch on the back of a napkin, or a quick sentence or two in the note app on your phone–make sure you're writing your thoughts down!

Photo by Galymzhan Abdugalimov
Photo by Galymzhan Abdugalimov

One of the added benefits of this is it also affords me the idea to spend a little more time developing my ideas, thus creating even better photos than I had originally come up.

Not to mention, if you keep a record of all your ideas, it can serve as a safety net and give you something to work on when the ideas just aren't coming to you. If you're only going to use one piece of advice from this article, this is the one that will serve you best.

2. Hone Your Ability To Focus. Stick to a Path

Here's another big piece of advice: focus! Pick your best idea and focus on it rather than trying to juggle 10 other photo ideas at the same time.

My creative belief system revolves around the notion that it's best to give one photography project 100% instead of giving 10 individual projects each only 10%.

Photo by Jesse Orrico
Photo by Jesse Orrico

The theory behind that is simple. Do you want to take one absolutely incredible photo? Or do you want to take 10 mediocre photos?

In my opinion, the answer is simple: less is more. 

Train your brain to work on one thing at a time. When you're happy with the photo you've spent so much time working on, then allow yourself to move on to your next idea.

3. They Aren't All Going to be Brilliant Photo Ideas. Sorry

It's a good idea to give all your ideas their due share of attention and thought. That being said, it's also important to recognize when one just isn't going to pan out.

Most of us have limited time to work on our photography projects, and the last thing we want to do is waste hours (if not days) on a photo that, well, is just not a good idea.

Just because you have a lot of ideas coming in, it doesn't mean they're all winners. And that's okay. Just be honest with yourself and know when to let a photo idea go so you have more time to spend on creating a photo idea that has real potential and value.

Photo by Joao Silas
Photo by Joao Silas

4. How Do YOU Cope?

I know for a fact we have some brilliantly creative photographers here in the Lightstalking community. In the spirit of sharing, I'd love to hear some of your tips and methods for dealing with the ebb and flow of photographic creativity.

Let's here how you manage in the comments section!

Creativity Overload – Top Takeaways

  • Don't forget. Write everything down. That way you won't forget. Simple.
  • Try to avoid spreading your ideas too thin. Focus your efforts and creativity on one idea and nurture it, explore it, really go deep. Remember, a single amazing photograph is way better than 10 mediocre ones – less is more.

Further Resources

Further Learning

Ok Adobe Users, how are your Photoshop skills these days?
I ask because if you could do with having a reboot, we have a great course on offer here by Joshua Cripps – Photoshop Fundamentals.

About Author

Tiffany Mueller is an adventurer and photographer based in Hawaii. When she's not climbing volcanoes or swimming with sharks, you can find her writing articles and running the official blog at PhotoBlog.

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