Don’t let yourself get stuck in a funk of lacking creativity. If you are struggling to find that feeling of photographic inspiration, try these tricks and strategies to get the juices flowing again. They help get you out of your own head, pushing you to start shooting again, pushing you past the block without you even realizing it.
1. Recreate a photo you like, then do a photo essay about it.
Go online and find a photo or photo series that you appreciate. It could appeal to you for any reason; a visceral reaction to the aesthetics, appealing subject matter, or an obvious and interesting technique. Then do your best to recreate that photo. During the process of figuring out where the light came from, what settings the photographer used, and anything else that makes the photo work, pay attention to the discovery process. Then identify the two or three steps or aspects of the photo that required the most work or were the most interesting, and use those as the foundation of a photo essay.
2. Try someone else’s photo project idea.
Find another photographer’s photo project online and copy it. Take as much of their framework as possible, and then follow those guidelines to do your own project. The more specific the project the better, because you want to be pushed to explicit types of photos. Whether it’s working with available light indoors, modifying your flash at home for a macro project, or capturing the same human interaction between two people at every hour of the day, take the idea and let it guide you.
3. Give yourself a creative restriction.
Spend a few days walking around taking photos where every shot has to fulfill the same narrow creative restriction. The idea is that when you give yourself fewer options it makes you flex your creativity muscles. For example, try not to take any photos with the color green, or try to only take photos that are more than 50% dark from shadows. The alphabet photo project is an example of this.
4. Try to recreate a specific element from a favorite photo, but give yourself some gear and setting limitations.
Find a photo that you have always loved and identify the element or elements that appeal to you most. Try to recreate that aspect of the photo on your own, but impose a technical restriction. Things like a fixed zoom, manual focus, no flash, or turning off the review function force you to think differently and solve problems without your usual tools. This can expose you to a new technique or just give you a stronger grasp of a certain function of your camera, which you may then want to explore.
5. Go on regular photo walks with a group.
Other people can provide inspiration. Whether it’s appreciating their perspective, taking something new from the way they capture a specific photograph, or even finding their approach to a subject so frustrating that you take it more seriously yourself, spending time exploring new places and subjects with other photographers can help. This is true even if you are a much more skilled photographer than others in the group, as long as you are patient and keep your eyes open to what’s happening instead of just going through the motions.
6. If all else fails, fake it ‘till you make it.
Many creative people make a habit of practicing their craft every day even if they aren’t feeling inspired. For example, writers often do simple exercises like copying down a long passage that they love several times in a row. The simple act of writing and feeling the words helps them stop over-thinking, and eventually they continue writing the “rest” of the story beyond the copied passage as their creativity begins to flow.
Creative block is a normal thing. It’s how you approach working through the problem that is important. Try these tips to rediscover what you love about our digital cameras.