As photographers, we may often find ourselves in a bit of a slump. The dreaded creative rut rears its ugly head at all of us from time to time, but the positive side to this is that growth usually occurs right after the rut! Whether you are a portrait, landscape or commercial photographer, experimentation and getting out of your comfort zone will lead to rewarding results!
Here are a few tips to help you turn lemons into lemonade when you need to flex your creativity:
Use a Different Camera or Lens: One of the reasons we get into a slump is due to the fact that we use the same equipment for every single shoot. Whether you are putting down your DSLR to shoot with a point-and-shoot, or setting your fixed lens aside to shoot with a zoom, getting out of your comfort zone with equipment will force you to compose your shots in a new way. Of course, you’ll go back to your favorite gear once you are done with the exercise, but most likely, you will have a fresh outlook!
Be Childlike: Kids are extremely creative because they have no inhibitions when they express themselves. They operate solely on the notion of creating what is pleasing to their eye, and they really don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. If, as adults, we could let go like we are kids again, we would probably feel much freer in our creative work. My 6-year-old stepson absolutely loves photography, and I am always amazed at the photos he captures with his tiny (and old) point-and-shoot! He gets down on the ground, up in trees, in the bushes – you name it, he is on it with his camera.
Collaborate: Enlist the help of a fellow photographer and collaborate. As photographers, we all understand each other fairly well (most of the time, at least) and having a partner for collaborations can introduce you to new ideas, techniques, locations, post-processing – the sky’s the limit, really! Your collaboration could be something as simple as an afternoon photo stroll, or something complex, like a Photoshop collaboration.
Ask a Non-Photographer: With the idea of collaboration in mind, get a friend or family member, preferably not a photographer, to help you. For example, have them select two or three objects, and then photograph those objects in several different ways, switching up your angle, lighting, and even your post-processing. Having someone who is not a photographer help you out with this exercise can be a great experience, because they may notice things that you, yourself, may otherwise overlook.
Photograph Someone or Something Important: Maybe you have a family heirloom, your child’s favorite toy, or a gag gift from your best friend that you would like to photograph. Perhaps you would like to photograph your grandparents, your favorite aunt, or a location that is special to you. Any person, object or location that stirs your emotions is a great subject for your photography, because when your emotions are in your work, your work will shine, and take on a very special meaning to you.
Finally, Be Inspired: We are very fortunate to live in an age where inspiring photographs are just a Google search away! Looking at the work of other photographers can be a huge help in getting you through your creative slump. While I am not a fan of comparing ourselves to other photographers, or blatantly recreating their work, taking the time to try to emulate what you love about their work can open you up to new possibilities. When you look at a photograph that inspires you, try to identify what “it” is that grabs you – lighting, colors, black and white tones, angles, focus – and experiment with those same techniques.
Always remember that the creative slumps hit everyone from time to time, so don’t let it get to you. Instead, look at it as a chance to experiment and grow!
How do you get yourself out of a creative slump? Any tips or ideas you would like to share with the rest of us?