Do you feel stale with your photography? Not feeling any of the old enthusiasm for shooting? Wondering if you’ve just lost interest or is something else going on? Just feeling like you’re stuck in a photography rut?
This is one of the most common afflictions that affect all long-term photographers. Regardless of the type of work you do-studio work, photojournalism, weddings, portraits or whatever-feeling like you’ve seen it all before, like everything you’re looking at through the lens looks too familiar, is a common issue. This may cause you to start to doubt your own enthusiasm, or worse, your ability as a shooter. You may start to wonder why you’re doing this, spending all this time and money in the pursuit of this thing that no longer sings in your head.
Well, when this happens, know you are not alone! The key is how to shake this feeling off and reinvent yourself as a photographer! Like a snake shedding its skin, this will be a process of rejuvenation and rediscovery. Once you’ve worked your way through these doldrums, you’ll come out the other end of this tunnel as a better, more mature photographer.
Here are five of my favorite techniques for chasing off the photography blues. Try one, try them all-see what works for you! You may find that working your way through this list makes a good creative exercise, even if you’re not feeling particularly lackluster right now. Go ahead and see where this may lead you!
- Pick up your camera, right now, right where you are. (Go get your camera if it’s not close at hand, and come right back.) Now look around you. Without getting up from your current position, begin to make pictures. Take your time and try to really look! Look for details. Look for patterns. Look for interesting light. But make pictures now.
- Make photos in an outdoor space close at hand, at the same time, for 7 days in a row. This can be in your yard (if you have one), in the vacant lot across the street, on the sidewalk in front of your apartment. The important thing is to have the discipline to get out at the same time each day-I like early and late evening light-and look for photographs. I promise that you’ll be surprised at how differently these photos will look from day to day, as both your perspective and the light changes with each day.
- Make a series of 5 self-portraits. Requirements: each portrait must reveal a different aspect of your personality. You may accomplish this with lighting, props, environment, etc. The decision of how to do this is up to you. At least one of the photographs must be in black and white.
- Spend a shooting session shooting “outside your comfort zone.” By this I mean to attempt to photograph in a genre that is foreign to you. If you’ve never tried to shoot any fast action, go out and try to shoot a soccer or tennis game. If you’ve never been interested in nature photography, spend an afternoon trying to make the best nature photograph ever. If you think you have no talent as a studio shooter, set up a classic still life and spend an hour exploring how different lighting affects the outcome of these photographs. If you’re scared of strobe photography, spend an evening really wrestling with the nuts and bolts of strobe until you’ve made some images that you like, using both on and off-camera light.
- Take a famous photographer whose work you admire-it can be anyone-and research their lives. Find out what motivated them to become photographers, how they approached their work, what drove them to pursue this profession. See what lessons there may be for you as your develop and pursue your own work.
OK, here are my five suggestions for today. What other ideas do you have to break out of a photography rut? Any favorite things you’ve used to get recharged and going again? Let us know!
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog