Hello photographers. Let me tell you something. I get it. I totally understand what you’re going through. The year 2020 has been unbelievable. You’ve been doing all you can to keep your portfolio (somewhat) updated. But some days, you and the camera just don’t see eye-to-viewfinder. No matter when or how you click the shutter, the images underwhelm you. As this happens to you over a week or two, you find yourself in a bit of a rut. A creative rut. It’s beyond frustrating. But again, I get you. I’ve been there. Also, I know that you can get through this. Allow me to share a few exercises I’ve completed to help get me through a creative rut.
If you’ve been shooting for many years, you’re probably quite comfortable with your gear. You understand just what your camera is capable of. For example, you know how bright your speedlight or strobe is when set to 1/64 power. That comfort makes the shooting process much easier, but it doesn’t equate to creativity in all cases.That just leads to an efficient shoot. But what happens when you use a different strobe that isn’t rated quite as highly? Or better yet, what happens when you use a new lens for the first time? I think you know where I’m going with this.
An easy and fairly routine tactic I utilize to get myself out of a creative rut, is to introduce some discomfort into my shooting. There are times when I force myself to use my older camera for a couple weeks. Or, I’ll tell myself to only use a specific focal length. THAT is always an internal fight for myself. I love shooting street photography and wide landscapes. But can you imagine shooting the wide vast wine vineyards of northern California at 85mm?
The perspective and sometimes the mood of that frame is totally different versus shooting with an awesome 35mm. Quite frankly, it still works in creating a captivating image. Take this a step further and shoot said landscape only in black and white. Seeing an image of rolling vineyards with all its glorious colors of green, amber and violet is quite pleasing because the colors tend to speak to us first. But with that same scene desaturated or shot in black and white? Woah. That’s a challenge. What will you do? How will you frame the scene when you can’t use the beautiful lush colors as a crutch?
Constraints and discomfort in your photography can be quite helpful. Just think about what you would normally do and come up with something totally opposite from your mode of operation. Your brain and creative eye will be forced to rework what you’d normally do into something that will make your images speak to you and your viewers. Restricted focal lengths, different lenses, different camera bodies, different styles or genres, black and white only or whatever comes to mind. Embrace the constraints and watch yourself progress to come out of the creative rut.
Get out and shoot. Some of you may not want to hear this, but it’s as simple as that. Just get up off your rear and go shoot some photographs. Back in 2016, I was REALLY struggling with my creative juices and motivation. It was tough on me mentally more than anything. The remedy? Shooting more. No matter how I felt. No matter what it was. I imposed a 30 days and 30 photos challenge upon myself. This lead to getting up and snapping photos of my stupid computer monitors or my podcast mic. Then I found myself snapping shots of my morning coffee. What happened after that was the game changer. The last cup of coffee I shot got my attention because of how the sunlight was hitting it through the large window. This lead me to think, “Hey, GO OUTSIDE.”
I went outside and was able to capture random images of birds, insects and cool landscapes from my backyard. Even deer. I felt myself getting more and more curious about things to shoot. Next thing I know, I was in my car snapping images of buildings I’d not noticed before, street photography of interesting pedestrians and more. It was a glorious 30 days when I look back at that challenge. The creative rut was behind me. Behind me pretty quickly, as a matter of fact. Yes, I was annoyed the first couple of days, but then I started to see the light of the challenge. Literally.
So are you currently in a creative rut? If you are, what are you doing about it? If you’re not, that’s GREAT to hear. Also if you’re not, share what you do or have done to get yourself out of a creative rut. I’m more than happy to take notes and learn from others in the photography community and here on the Scott Kelby blog. I hope my ideas are helpful and get you back to creating great images. Thank you to Scott Kelby and team for the opportunity to share my tips with you all. I truly grateful and honored. Take care and safely #CreateAndDominate.