I was wondering how other photographers get out of a long photography rut or lack of inspiration and motivation? Part of the issue is lack of time and distance to locations for shooting. I think doing workshops would be helpful, but, of course, time and money are not always easy to come up with particularly for workshops requiring travel. Just looking for suggestions and how other people have overcome this issue. I can’t be the only one.
Hi Lisa: Joining a local camera club can help. They’ll usually have field trips to local areas and explore lots of different genres including having presentations by experienced/well known photographers. My problem with many photography clubs is that they are competition oriented, however nothing says you have to participate in those meetings if it’s not your thing. I lucked out and our local club is a teaching and learning club. Our only real competition is the local county fair.
Some of the people in my local club have gotten into something called 52frames which is a weekly challenge to shoot on some theme.
No, you’re not alone. Back when I shot film, I could go months without picking up the camera, and while the intervals have gotten shorter, I still have lulls in my digital photography. I haven’t shot since the 11th of this month. And you know what? I don’t care. The trick is to not punish yourself for not picking up the camera. Unless you have some work to produce for a client, I don’t see why you have to beat yourself up for this.
In farming there is something called a fallow period where fields are not actively being worked. However, the land itself is renewing and becoming more vital by building up nutrients and giving the system that makes it all work a chance to do nothing for a while. Sometimes cover crops are planted and plowed under in the fall, sometimes the only plants that grow are the ones sent on the wind. The result is that the soils yield more with less need for artificial additives etc when it comes time for them to work again. It’s a rest period and important for the health of the field. Fallow periods look as if nothing is going on, but rejuvenation and regeneration happen.
So let yourself have a fallow period. Do something else. Catch up on your reading. Yardwork. Find a new favorite activity and keep your mind idling in the background. When the photography spark lights again you’ll be ready.
ETA - I don’t think creativity is something that can be forced. Either you’re feeling it or your not. It’s not a fault to not be burning bright all the time. That kind of mental energy isn’t sustainable realistically and when I try to force it in my own work, I end up being frustrated and creating junk. Not worth it. When I feel it, I go out and do it well. When I’m not feeling it, I don’t. And I don’t fault myself for that. It’s all part of the cycle.
That pretty much nails it. Photography is about bringing out what is within you outward. In order to do this well you need alone time, lots of it. When you explore yourself the images will come. You have to be selfish. When you do things ‘that must be done’ photography is put on the back burner and stagnates. If photography is important to you then make it so.
I completely agree, however, with Kris not to worry about not making images at every chance you get. It can’t be forced or scheduled. It needs to be allowed to come out on its own. But if priorities are wrong only obvious, cliche images will result.
This is a topic that has come up quite a bit on my podcast where I interview other photographers all over the world. I did a search through my transcripts and I can recommend a few episodes that might help.
Lisa, you are not alone there. In Texas, for example, summer months are excruciatingly hot. So, the desire to go out and make photos becomes nearly non-existent. A photographer friend of mine gave me a little challenge when I was feeling this lack of inspiration and/or motivation. The idea was to pick any place in your home or your favorite location and stay there for one hour. You could walk around and change lenses, but you could not move farther than one step from where you had selected to stay. So, I got a chair and sat down in my backyard in the shade. The first half hour went by with the obvious shots right at my fingertips. After that half hour, I noticed my creativity increasing while looking for other compositions. You’ll be surprised what might come up. It worked for me.
You are absolutely not alone in this, I think the distance to suitable destinations is a major issue for many of us who don’t do landscape/nature photography for living. Sometimes it is possible to refocus a bit on a different aspect of photography that can be done within my time constraints, I have got lot of pleasure out of shooting still life last winter, nothing special, just household objects and flowers. It’s not something I am particularly drawn to, but getting to grips with artificial lighting was quite a challenge, and if nothing else, it was useful in getting better understanding of light in general. The other thing I would say is I don’t beat myself up over the lows any more. I have come to value the fact that as an amateur photographer I have no deadlines, no projects that have to be completed; if at any given point in time I feel like doing something other than taking photographs, I am free to do so, and free to enjoy doing it. This reframing of the problem has been helpful to me, at times while doing other things I get ideas for future photographs and projects, maybe do a bit of planning. Sometimes nothing comes out of such plans, but that’s OK too.
Lisa, I don’t have much to add to the excellent comments that have already been made here.
Ruts have different causes and cures. One is weather. Like Egidio, I live where summers are very unpleasant. But it’s always tolerable at dawn so I get up very early and go somewhere within a half hour’s drive. Usually it’s one of our desert parks or the local botanical garden. Even after all these years, I haven’t exhausted their possibilities. For example, I think palo verde trees are beautiful , but I know I’ve never adequately captured that beauty in a photo, so I try again.
Most of my ruts have a different cause. I start operating habitually, photographing the same kinds of subjects in the same way, over and over. Even when I use a tripod, I’m just taking high-end snapshots. The solution is to make myself break some habits. I’ll put away the telephoto lens and put on my 10-18, forcing myself to get closer and to think about framing and composition. I’ll try subjects that are unusual for me, such as birds or city streets. I’ll take multiple-exposure shots. Sooner or later something will grab my imagination and I’ll run with it. My immediate goal isn’t to get prize-winning shots. It’s to shut off the autopilot.
Here’s an exercise that I’ve found helpful. Go somewhere that holds some visual interest for you. I’ve done this with a patch of desert, a local Japanese garden and a church graveyard. Sit down and look at what’s there for at least ten minutes without touching a camera. Even longer is better if you have the patience. The odds are very high that you will start noticing details you didn’t initially notice. You’ll probably also start seeing new ways of framing the interesting parts of what you’re seeing. If so, get your camera out. If not, move to a different spot.
What works for me may not work for you. Good luck.
I think everyone has experienced this. Life has a tendency to get in the way. There is some great advice in this thread and I can’t add much, but for me, these are the 2 things I do most often. I’ll go for a walk in the woods and spend at least a couple hours just looking around. I spend time trying to find a small scene that attracts my eyes, then think about why I’m attracted to it. If I find a composition I’ll shoot it, but mostly it’s just an exercise to restart the creativity.
The 2nd thing I so is go to a local florist and buy a flower or 3. I’ll take them home and photograph them in every way I think of. At first, the shots are just simple portrait snapshots, but if I keep at it, eventually I start making more creative photos.
In either case, if I can get the creativity started, it usually keeps me interested in shooting other subjects for awhile.
I’ve experienced lulls a few times as most of us have.
I’ve found that coming up with a project has helped me in the past.
For example, my father was in WWII, he was in the Pacific theater which allowed him to collect coins from several places like Japan, Philippines, Manila, Marianas Islands, and many other places along the way there and back, those coins had been in a jar for decades and I thought it would be good to photograph each coin front and back, then catalog them.
That project helped get me back into the groove so to speak, maybe it was because it was something different, something out of the ordinary and usual type of photography I was used to doing.
Personally, I think it’s a good thing to take breaks from photography because it helps to re-energize the creative flow as others have suggested in this thread.
Currently I’m working on updating promotional material for a few parks and recreation facilities which is not my usual kind of work, it’s refreshing and rewarding at the same time.
All the best!