We all get it. And we will get it more than once in our lives—Photographer’s block. There is no way around it, and you are not immune. So, how do you overcome it? Good question and I have multiple answers.
Some of the ideas below are mine. Some I ripped off from someone else. Where I remember, I will give credit. But all are some great ideas. Above all, let me instruct you right off the bat that the last thing you want to do, as some writers do when they encounter a creative block, is to step away and take a break for a while. All that does it make it even harder to get back into it. Trust me. That is a bad call. No matter what a genius photographer tells you to do it.
- Go on your own “Photo-Walk”: What a simple idea, but one that works. Just grab your camera and head out of the door. I suggest going in the early morning or the late afternoon. The failing light is often the best time to capture images for a few reasons. The light is not as intense, it is easy to find “flat light,” the colors stand out more, and the shadows are interesting We call this time of the day the “Golden Hour.” Just taking pictures will often get the creative juices flowing. When you add it to the best light to shoot in, you often get more pleasing results. That combination means that when you return home and look through those images later, you will usually be happy with the results, and presto – just like that – you are often cured. If not in one outing, then in a combination of only a few of them.
- Participate in a “Project 365“: You have to register to use it, but it allows you to show off your daily creation to the rest of the photo tips fans. Project 365 is your commitment to shooting at least one photo per day. Sounds pretty easy, I know, but after about three weeks, you find yourself struggling to stay committed. If you can make it to the 60-day mark, you will have overcome that, and a habit will have been created. You will start to do it just as a matter of daily life. The result will be a consistent daily improvement on your ability and a progressive evolvement of your creativity.
- Pursue a combination of elements: This one comes from Mike Wilson of nowhere-man photos. He was a guest speaker on one of our Photo Cruises. He spoke about pursuing combinations of things. Things that don’t usually belong. In one example, he blended the tentacle of an octopus from a fish market with a model. The result is shown above. The two things don’t go together, but he kept shooting until he found a way to make it work. Even though it may seem weird, he often picks up old magazines and combs through them, looking at pictures. He tries to find interesting things and then pairs them up together. He then sets out to shoot based on that inspiration. The results can be both challenging and surprising. He is often stumbling across things accidentally. It then prompts the pursuit of an all different thought line. You should go through this guy’s website when you have time. He’s quite talented.
- Look to other photos for inspiration: It can be done by just thumbing through magazines and seeing how a particular scene was lit, looking through someone else’s website and finding a pose that looks cool, or seeing a photoshop treatment and is prompted to try and re-create it. Some might call this stealing another’s ideas. I am cool with that. Why? It won’t come out the same on your end, even though you may attempt to rip someone else off. We come out in our stealing, and the next thing you know, we have something different. Photography is the only profession where stealing someone else’s idea is cool and often pursued.
- Create a project: It may involve finding a prop and using it through a series of images, getting someone to pose the same way every time, using a neat lighting trick the same way through a series of photos, etc. For instance, I once saw someone take an old red velvet chaise lounge and haul it all over the place and pose random people on it. It was in Times Square with the singing cowboy that stands there in his underwear every day. It was in a field was some old ranch hand sitting on it. It was featured in a wedding, and in the middle of a baseball field with the failing sun and the stadium lights. Props are cool ways to create fun projects and themes.
- Rent a lens: Most of us don’t own every lens we want to own. So plan a weekend and rent a lens you have wanted to try out. Maybe it is a cool fisheye lens, a super long telephoto for shooting wildlife, or a tilt-shift lens for compelling portraits or miniatures.
- Go to an art gallery: There are probably two dozen art galleries within driving distance right now that you have seen but have never graced the parking lot on—time to take a trip. Gaze upon someone else’s creativity, and yours will often start working again to try something new.
- Make a print and hang it on the wall: We have hard drives full of images that we have forgotten about. Go combing through them, find one that speaks to you and print that sucker large and hang it on your wall. You are often reminded of where you have been and what you have come from, which gets you motivated to go again.
- Take a class: Go hear someone speak about something. True, there is only one “me,” but there are many other photographers that occasionally have a good idea that is worth listening to. Yes, I am kidding, but you get the point.
- Join a photography club or start your own: Surrounding yourself with other people like yourself will often time result in creativity feeding off of creativity. You will be surprised at what you can learn from someone just starting, as well as from someone that has been there a while. You get wisdom from the old-timer and are motivated by seeing the new guy on fire to create and shoot.
- 100 steps: This one comes from Haje Jan Kamps. I heard him say that he will drive someplace random, get out of the car, and walk 100 steps and then stop. He takes a picture from that spot and cannot move to get a better angle. It can be frustrating because you will find yourself in the middle of a road, a field, or a parking lot and say to yourself, “But there is nothing here.” That is the point. You are tasked to find something to shoot from that spot. And you cannot cheat. You have to take 100 steps. Not 99 and not 101. 100 steps only. It is a personal favorite of mine. I dare you to try it. I double-dog dare you. Everybody knows that you cannot back down from a double-dog dare. Once completed, walk 100 more steps and do it again. Keep doing that until you are lost, dehydrated, hungry, or chased by gang members or wild animals.
- 60/60: It is fun, easy, and quick. You are challenged to shoot 60 photos in 60 minutes. You have 1 minute to find, compose, and take the shot. Then you do it all over again until 60 minutes is up. You will often end up with things that you will just delete, but once in a while, you do something amazing. And that is the point. Besides, it is a lot of fun.
- And here is the biggest thing you can do: Simply open up your calendar on your smartphone, computer, or even get a paper one to hang on your wall. Now pick a date and schedule yourself time just to shoot. Call it, “me time.” You take your camera, leave everyone else, have no customer and no one that you are going to listen to, and just shoot. You can, of course, combine this with any of the above tips and ideas, but schedule it. Often times procrastination is our own worst enemy.