Seven Ways To Break Out Of The Photographic Doldrums

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It’s been an interesting year, 2020. One that most of us are unlikely to forget. Life’s more pressing problems put photography on the back burner for many. Restrictions, lockdowns, and social distancing meant many of us could not practice photography in the ways we used to.

There is more hope in the air for 2021. Vaccines are being rolled out, and whilst it may some time, this coming year promises to be better in general and better for us as photographers.

So how do we pull ourselves out of the photographer’s block that many of us suffered over the last few months? One way, of course, is to practice something new, and what better time to start over than the beginning of a new year. So here are our suggestions for seven ways to break your photographic doldrums! 

Shoot With A Single Prime

We have talked about this before. Taking a single prime lens on a shoot may sound restricting. Yet you will actually find it quite liberating. Having no choice in focal length requires you to think more creatively, to move more, and seek out new and interesting perspectives. 

Hand holding a prime lens
Shooting with a single prime is a great way to boost your creativity. By Ganda Lukma on Unsplash

The prime you use should go against your normal style of photography. If you are a telephoto sort of person, head out with a nice ultra-wide and vice versa. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the more creative you will become. 

Learn And Combine Advanced Compositions

As we start our journey into photography, we learn the basic compositional rules. Some of us, as we advance further, pick up the more complex rules. However, think about how often you use an advanced composition in your photography. 

A great way to start thinking about advanced compositional rules is to go out and practice one of them. Pick a single rule and go out with the sole aim of capturing a few shots with that rule. Take nothing else, look for nothing else but images that conform to that rule. Like shooting with a prime it will seem restricting at first but you will soon learn to see advanced compositions wherever you go. 

Once you are comfortable with advanced compositions, start looking for ways to combine two or more compositional rules into your photography.

Golden spiral Lightroom overlay on a sunset picture of Paris.
Try learning some advanced compositional techniques. By Jason Row Photography

Develop A New Style

As our photography develops, so does our own style. It takes a while to recognize that you have a style but there will be a point where you become conscious of it. If you are aware of your style and are happy with it, maybe it’s time to try a develop a new one. 

Styles are generally developed subconsciously, however, we can force ourselves in a new direction simply by changing the genre of photography that we shoot.

If, for example, soft, pastel-colored landscapes are your bag, then maybe look at shooting some gritty black and white urban shots. Push yourself into a new genre with enthusiasm and a new style will soon follow.  

Angled long exposure, monochrome shot of Odessa Opera House
I recently started to try long exposure architecture. By Jason Row Photography

Practice Artificial Lighting

For us outdoor photographers the sun is our light. We shoot in daylight, sometimes venturing into twilight. However, those of a more studio bent will know how using artificial light such as flash and LED can open the doors to all sorts of creativity.

At its basic level, you can shoot some macro at home using a simple table lamp or flashgun. If you want to go a little higher end you could invest in some continuous lights, these need not be too expensive. Often studio hire is a good option if you only want to shoot for a couple of hours. The lights, backgrounds, and paraphernalia are all ready and in place for you.

Even your humble smartphone can aid you with setting up your artificial lighting. There are now plenty of apps that show and demonstrate lighting diagrams for your shot, often for free. 

Photo session in front of an old piano.
Learning to shoot in artificial light can be a rewarding challenge. By Anastase Maragos on Unsplash

Organize Your Lightroom Catalog

Many of us have thousands if not tens of thousands of images. Often these are spread over multiple folders, hard drives, and even computers. Finding a particular shot can be time-consuming if your catalog is organized badly.

New Year is the depth of winter for us in Northern climes, so why not take advantage of the cold weather to get your images sorted out. A good place to start is to bring them all into one location. An external drive can be useful for this, they are not expensive and mean that you can use your images both on your laptop and desktop.

We have written articles here at Light Stalking on how to organize your Lightroom catalog, so maybe now is a good time to give it a go. 

Screenshot of a large Lightroom catalogue.
Has your Lightroom catalog got too big? Time to tame it. By Jason Row Photography

Go Advanced In Photoshop

Hands up if you tend to use photoshop just to tweak some contrast, or maybe do some sharpening for print? I see a veritable sea of virtual hands. Photoshop is immensely powerful and can seem immensely complex. However, with a few Youtube tutorials and a little practice, it’s not difficult to seriously up your Photoshop game.

Fancy learning about layers? Want to try some compositing? There are hundreds of very powerful techniques that you can use in Photoshop to lift your images to the extraordinary. Whilst these techniques might seem complex to learn, they are often merely a set of steps that are carried out in order. Watch some videos, write some notes and make your images stand out. 

Screenshot of tutorials available within Photoshop
Photoshop has extensive tutorial built in. By Jason Row Photography

More Considered Equipment Purchases

If 2020 has told us anything, it’s that our income is often not a guarantee. So with this in mind perhaps a tip would be to think more carefully about our upgrades.

It’s very easy to justify, in your mind, that a new lens, camera, or flash will dramatically improve your photography. 

The thing is though, it won’t. It might give you more keepers, slightly sharper images, or better low light portraits but it won't change your creativity. Thinking more about what we buy will lead to more enjoyment of it in the long run.

Whilst we are at it, I am sure like me, you have bits of equipment gathering dust on shelves. Why not dust them off and put them up for sale. With tighter budgets, there are plenty of people looking to provide good homes to secondhand camera equipment. 

So these are our ideas for some ways to beat the photographic doldrums. Like any motivational tips, it’s best to pick one and concentrate on that rather than dabble in several. You are more likely to stick it out through the year and in turn more likely to see a positive result from it. 

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Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

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