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We all get it – the dreaded photographer’s block – our very own version of creative block. It’s a common malady across the creative world. And it hurts. Dare I say, it hurts even a little more for us, being that the cost of entry for photographers is often so much higher than other artists to their crafts.
You sit on your couch, you look at your beautiful gear, and you just don’t feel it. You wrack your brain and search for that emotional excitement that comes from a new idea. Yet, you can’t think of anything worth shooting. Nothing takes you.
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It’s frustrating as hell. An empty feeling.
Hell, I have even picked up my camera and gone out and STILL not taken any shots.
And the only people who really get it are other photographers and creatives. It seems for a certain type of person, one who is creative, well, we just kind of have more of a predisposition for suffering from photographers’ block.
So I am not going to pretend I have a magic bullet for this one. But there are a few things I have found somewhat help me. Hopefully, they might help you too.
Shoot What’s Available
One thing I usually do when I feel a bout of photographers’ block coming on is to figure out what is closest to me that I could get a decent shot of and then force myself to do it – for me, that’s usually either flowers or macro bugs (in my backyard).
The images are potentially exciting. The results can sometimes motivate me to do more.
The key is that the effort is low because the subject is close. The other key is that it’s available to shoot right then and there. If I can power through the feeling and “just do it” then I can sometimes smash through to the other side.
But I won’t pretend that it isn’t a struggle.
Keep Lots of Photography Books On Hand
Another thing I often do is to search through books and magazines for inspiration. I have a lot of photography books and magazines lying around so it’s usually not too tough to find something that I think is awesome. Federico published a post on the photography books that he loves if you’re not sure what to get. Dahlia’s post on photography magazines is also worth a read if you want to find the most relevant ones for your set of interests.
But to be honest, it doesn’t even have to be about photography. The only stipulation is that there are photographs in it that might inspire you to get up and pick up your gear.
Now, let’s be clear here – I am not talking about taking inspiration for your own ideas with this little exercise. I am talking about simply finding images that you like and trying to emulate the style and subject.
Honestly, with this, I think action is key. The inspiration part comes a bit later (usually from the action part). The key is actually doing it (for me anyway).
Again, the trick here is actually getting up off the couch and shooting something (and trying to maximise the potential of that action in producing an exciting image, even given that you’re in a bit of a funk).
Check What's Happening on Photo Blogs
This one is pretty simple. I do a quick scan of the big photography blogs and see if they have a tutorial or set of tips that are published recently that I can riff off. Basically, just follow it to the letter and let them do the hard mental work of coming up with and explaining the idea.
My favourite photoblogs to scan for quick ideas are:
Sure, they're all competitors to Light Stalking, but they are all awesome too, so credit where it's due. They also often have a quick idea to get out of a photo funk published in the last few days.
Basically what I am trying to do with that is to minimise (or eliminate) the mental work of coming up with an idea. I just want to get out and shoot.
More Formal Exercises
Another thing that can sometimes get me up off the couch is redoing learning – literally the stuff that I learned years ago while I was really getting into photography – going back out and doing exactly the same thing again. Sometimes I can recapture the magic – the emotion of shooting something new that I was proud of.
For you, that might mean ploughing through an old blog post that you learned something from. Maybe an old photography lessons guide or book.
One advantage I have these days is that I have the Photzy Snap Cards on hand and printed out in a special folder.
They are small, printable exercises. I just grab a random one and do what it says. It’s a good way to get out of your funk and back in the swing of creativity. They are worth keeping around for just such occasions.
But again, the key is action. I am not pretending it’s easy. I am certainly not pretending that it’s fun (it often isn’t). But it is possible to get through it with a bit of thought and a lot of action. Hopefully, that works for you too.