7 Signs You’re in a Photography Rut and 7 Ideas to Get Your Groove Back


Are you in a photography rut?

You are not the only one. Nope. Not at all. We all get this, as painful and as frustrating as it is. It sneaks it's way in; you may not even realise it at first. Then “Bam!” it hits you square in the lens. You're in a creative, photography rut. You're doing the same thing over and over. Your camera bag is becoming an irritant. Your workflow is getting so routine that you could almost move the sliders while sleeping.

Epic Iceland Sheen Watkins

What on Earth happened?

You've had so much fun learning, exploring, processing your images to life. You've lived for that next epic photo moment. Now it just doesn't feel quite the same. 

Sunrise on Ice by Sheen Watkins

7 Signs You're In A Rut

First, we need to acknowledge we are in a photography rut, which is half the battle. But what are the signs?   

Check out our list of seven considerations that may indicate you need to find the itch to get out of the ditch.

  1. Look & Feel – Out of your last 4 to 5 photography sessions or travels, many of the images look and feel similar. Sure, we have our speciality focus as photographers. That doesn't mean that all photos need to look the same.
  2. Diversity in Photographic Approach – You have multiple lenses, but they've been left behind as you rely on your ‘go-to' lens or two. You have primes, but you stick with your zooms or vice versa. You have primes but rarely use your zooms or change your focal distance by moving your feet a different distance.
  3. Habitual Post Processing – You use one photo processing application such as Lightroom, Gimp, Topaz or Photoshop. The steps you take for processing your images are the same with each photo.
  4. Forgotten Toys – The extra accessories in your bag such as filters, reflectors, flashes that you've purchased over time stay in your bag. Or worse, they are tucked somewhere in your closet collecting dust.
  5. Looking the Other Way – You're driving, and you see something that really catches and interests your eye from a creative standpoint. However, you'd have to stop the car, turn around and backtrack. Instead, you keep on going.
  6. Where's the Fire – You've deleted the majority of the images from your last several photography sessions because a) they did not meet your standard from a creative standpoint b) you found them to be boring or c) you have many similar images waiting to be processed, and these just won't make the cut.
  7. Rusty Rigor – The number of images waiting to be reviewed, selected and processed is almost overwhelming. You'd rather go photograph something else or do a completely different unrelated activity.

One thing is for sure; if you're reading this, then you haven't lost your enthusiasm for photography. It may be a reinforcer of why you like it so much and hopefully, will offer some ideas to help you get your groove back.

Abstract of Trees by Sheen Watkins

7 Ways To Ditch The Rut

Here are 7 Ideas to Get Your Photography Game Back On Track

  1. Expand Use of Our Camera Settings & Capabilities – Try a creative in-camera technique. We have a lot of features in our cameras that go unused along with the ability to use the shutter creatively. Try and find one that interests you and go for it. Practice several times – motion blur – vertical blur – trees, horizontal blur – water, landscape/sky
  2. Intentional Local Tourist – Visit a local go-to destination that's popular with tourists that you haven't photographed. If you don't like crowds, visit in the offseason and capture a perspective that others don't see. Push your thinking – abstract, depth of field, angle of view.
  3. Opposites Do Get Attention – Go opposite on depth of field. We get in a comfort zone of (examples) f/16 for landscapes, shallow depth of field for flowers and in between on wildlife. Depth of field provides a subtle context and will steer the eye differently with each image.
  4. Admire & Critique – Check out a favorite photographer's recent work on social media or their website. Pick one or two images and study what you like about the composition and how you could apply that technique to a future, different subject. Conversely, pick a couple of images from the same photographer that doesn't catch your eye. What was missing, what would have made that image stronger.
  5. Expand Your Horizon – Commit to one-day per (month, quarter, i.e. what works with your schedule) to photograph a subject that is entirely different from your genre of photography or a style that you don't like to photograph. Shooting what doesn't come naturally encourages the creative (or frustrated) eye to look deeper at a subject.
  6. This list would be incomplete if we didn't address a few of the items in the “Rut” list. If any of the 7 relate to you, then tackle one or two.
    A. If you have lenses you haven't used in some time, then take only that lens to your next photo excursion. You might rekindle that long-lost love for that lens. If not, you can always sell it to another photographer.
    B. How can you shake things up in your post-processing? Max out the sliders? Punch up or dial-down saturation, texture, clarity, contrast to the extreme. Apply an in-app or external filter. You may find that turning photographs into digital art opens another dimension in your portfolio.
  7. Just Be – After going through my own personal photography rut due to a variety of good and hard circumstances, it's okay to give yourself a mental photography break. With social media postings flying across our feed within minutes, it's quite reasonable to feel the need to be always out there. If you need it, take it. Or, you can use your tools and talent to help you through the hurdles and focus shooting what you love and keeping that work to yourself.
Tulip Festival, f/9 not f/16 by Sheen Watkins

Our lists above are not all-inclusive. You may have experienced something completely different that indicated that you were in a rut along with finding your specific way out.

If you did find yourself in a photography rut, please share your experiences in the comments below.

Further Reading:

Here are a few links that may provide additional inspiration:

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About Author

Sheen Watkins is a conservationist, wildlife photographer, instructor, author and photography writer. You can follow her photography on Facebook, Instagram and her website.

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