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It's golden hour, your camera is ready to rock with a fast lens, your strobe is powered up, but you freeze up. Like quicksand, you're stuck. Photographer's Block! Meanwhile, your model is standing there waiting on your direction as you fumble aimlessly with a camera that's already ready. Photographer's Block!
Help! You say frantically inside.
Photographer's Block. Much like Writer's Block, it's a common symptom that hinders every artist from time to time. In spite of all the knowledge, gear and inspiration, as photographers, we can and we will occasionally succumb to this plateau during a shoot. Might not be tomorrow, might not be next month, but shoot long enough and it's bound to happen.
Success is often measured by how you overcome a challenge. Below are some useful tips to help you tackle this one and win.
#1) Back to Basics
There's a reason why they call it “fundamentals.” The rule of thirds, the 45-degree subject position, loop lighting and so on…When you get stuck and don't know what to do with your model, go back to the basics.
Study photography basics until you think you understand them, then study them again. There is no such as thing as too knowledgeable a photographer.
#2 Keep it Simple
A number of times when trying a complex pose or lighting composition, we'll get overwhelmed and stuck. This happens to the best photographers, every one of us.
Drop the difficult and pick up the easy. This may involve a simple “hands-on-hips” pose or a “hands-in-pockets” pose to get your momentum going, or it may involve simply turning off your flash and going natural light for a few minutes. Whatever works!
#3 Slow Down
Being in a hurry to create great photography makes as much sense as watching Michelangelo speed-paint the Sistine Chapel. It doesn't make much sense, does it?
Photography is art. Don't rush it. Even during a wedding, when time is crucial, slow down long enough to capture artful shots. Your bride and groom may act upset at the time, but they'll appreciate that extra five minutes you used during wedding day when you deliver exceptional images to them.
#4 Be Happy
Stop to remember why you jumped into photography in the first place. Probably because you loved taking pictures, right? Meditate on that for a minute and as Chubbs said in the movie Happy Gilmore, “Go to your happy place…” For me, it's the beach, camera in hand, butt in the sand.
#5 Drop the Baggage
No, don't literally drop your gear bag! Keeping in line with the tip above, drop everything from your photography that's not fun. If it makes you dread shooting, then drop it.
Examples may be:
- Overly extensive Photoshop editing,
- Complicated lighting patterns,
- Gear acquisition syndrome (GAS), plus a load more…
#6 Get in your Comfort Zone
If you have 10 years experience in shooting natural light and only one year experience shooting off camera flash, then turn off the light and go all natural for a little while.
Chances are you'll excel easier using the method in which you're most comfortable. This also applies to posing. Just go for a simple pose you've used hundreds of times in the past if you hit Photographer's Block. It'll help pull you out of that dark place.
#7 Joke With Your Model
Your model knows when you're struggling during a shoot. Like a dog, they can sense your fear and discouragement.
If you're not happy and confident, chances are they're not going to be either. So, why you're getting it together, joke with your subject and find common ground, even if it's a simple conversation regarding the weather. Anything. Use your surroundings too!
#8 Set Realistic Goals
If you just bought your first DSLR yesterday, then using off camera flash tomorrow, coupled with extensive Photoshop editing is probably not in the books for you.
It's often better to easily accomplish a bunch of small goals gradually than fight your way through a complex goal quickly. This also builds confidence as you won't get overwhelmed.
#9 Don't go Alone
If you're feeling anxiety creep in, bring a friend along. Even if they know nothing about photography, having a familiar face you know and trust beside you, may boost your comfort level during a shoot.
#10 Get out of the Rut
If you feel as if you've been stuck in a never-ending Photographer's Block, then stop what you're doing. Take a deep breath. Life isn't over. Watch online videos for ideas, visit LightStalking for inspiration, read photography books and magazines, sign up for your favorite photographer's workshop and tag alongside other pros to see how they work.
Cars get stuck in the mud often, especially in West Virginia, where I'm from. That's why tire manufacturers offer a wide variety of mud tires, designed to free a stuck car. Like a car, you can and you will get stuck from time to time, but remember there's always a way out if you're willing to try.
So if you're feeling bored, fed up with your camera and wondered why you invested all that time and money in the first place, we're here to get you back on track! The “Creativity Catalog” was designed just for this reason. There's no reason to feel stale. Reignite that inner fire and get clicking again…
- Stuck for Ideas? Try These 7 Creative Ideas for a Photography Project by Dzvonko Petrovski
- 7 Ideas to Help You Fight Gear Acquisition Syndrome by Jason D. Little
- These 4 Photo Essay Ideas and Examples Will Get Your Creativity Pumping by Jason D. Little