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episode 6

Stuck in a Creative Rut?

This post will be all about how you can get out of a creative rut you might be getting in with your photography. Photography just like any other art out there, even if it’s not a technical art, it may be writing a book or even other creative pursuits, there are times when we all seem to fall into a creative rut. At this time, we can’t figure out what we want to do with our photography or any other art. However, this problem is more rampant in photography because it seems like we are doing the same thing over and over again. You could be a portrait photographer and it seems like the only kind of thing we photograph are just the same types of families and although we obviously do get different poses, lightings and stuff like that, we just get to do the same thing time after time. One of the things we can do is to think about how to get out of the rut and start liking your photography again. How can I start thinking of new ideas to further the business that I’m just beginning or get better photos in general with different looks and not just shoot the same thing over and over again? I have about 8 little tips you can use to help you get out of any creative rut that you might be getting in. Hopefully, by sharing these tips you will be able to get out of any rut that you might be stuck in, maybe you don’t feel like you should be doing photography anymore and that’s a pretty sad thing. These tips will help you out because they have personally helped me get out of any rut that I have been in. these tips include: –

  1. Get out of your normal setting

This first tip is kind of counter-intuitive to what you might think will get you out of a creative rut. Normally we think that if you are in some sort of a rut you need to buckle down, sit down at your desk and figure out what you want to do. But what helps me at least is getting out of my normal setting. Maybe you are a portrait photographer, you start your day by getting to your computer and checking your emails and going through some business stuff among other things and you always find that when you get in front of your office it’s just the same routine over and over again. Maybe you are looking for your bookings or something like that. How about you take your laptop and go to a coffee shop or café and do your work there a couple of days and see whether that kind of breaks you out from your normal routine? I’ve actually heard a great quote when it comes to this. It goes something like “old ways won’t open new doors” and what this means is that maybe the old thinking is not going to open up any new situations for you. So, try to break away from any old ways that you are used to doing things and this might actually jog some creativity in your mind and it could start opening new doors as far as different things you might want to shoot or any kind of different projects you might want to start.

  1. Projects

Starting a personal project is very important when you want to get out of a creative rut. You need to have a project that you’re working on and this should be just for you. It doesn’t matter whether you are super-busy or the kind that shoots 35 wedding projects in two months, the truth of the matter is that you need to have personal projects even if it takes you 5 years or 10 years to finish. Having an awesome project that you can call your own is one of the surest ways to break away from any sort of rut that you might be stuck in where you do not really like your photography anymore because it seems really easy. Making a personal project even if it’s something outside your personal style of photography is a really awesome way to get out of a rut. Personally, I’m trying to start a project and I will give you a background of that.

I typically do real estate photography and landscape photography and wanted to get into Photoshop composite. I did one recently and I really like it and that made me start my own project of doing 4 composites making it kind of a small collection. They all have to be the same theme and include the same element and that is kind of my personal project.  It turns out that the Photoshop composites do take a long time to create especially if working on a tone of other stuff at the same time and so this is going to take me a while to complete but I still have this project. What this has done is to advance my style of photography because now I know these new techniques and ideas I can apply to my style of photography and it kind of opens up these new doors. So, it can be a simple thing like starting a small project like that or not shooting wedding photographs for a month if that’s the style you’re accustomed to. So, if you are in wedding photography it could mean breaking away from that in order to do something different. It can be some sort of different projects that you start on your own, just to get your mind thinking in a totally different way.

  1. Taking on a different photography style

To kind of piggyback on that a little bit when it comes to doing a different style of photography that could actually be something that helps you break out of a rut as well. Maybe you’re a wedding photographer and you kind of want to break away from that for a little bit, obviously don’t quit completely and refuse to do wedding photographs anymore because you still want to make money for your business. Maybe you can do sport photography and if there is a sporting event in your neighborhood such as a high school activity, you can ask whether they could allow you to take photos for free so you can break into a new style of photography. If you’re a portrait photographer, maybe you can go for camping for a few days and do landscape photography without shooting any people whatsoever. You probably will hate it because that’s not what you are used to but that’s the part where you start growing and get your mind thinking a little differently when it comes to breaking into different types of photography. Even if you do it, you hate it and don’t want to promote it on your website as a part of your business at least you know it opens up new ways of doing photography and that can jumpstart your creativity.

  1. Watching movies, playing video games or reading books

Just like the first step sounded a little counter-intuitive to get you started in your photography, this one is going to sound counter-intuitive because it sounds kind of fun. This has helped me very much and it’s like doing a combination of things and if you don’t like doing one of the things you can do other ones. These 3 things can help take your mind out of the norm and allow you to concentrate on something else. Let’s say when it comes to watching movies, there are tons of movies out there with a lot of visual effects and that is what basically photography is all about. It’s kind of creating a visual that you want people to look at over and over again and really love the image. And so, watching different kinds of movies can really jumpstart your creativity. I know one movie that kind of jumpstarted mine, not because of the subject matter but because of the colors. The movie Abattoir is from a while back but it got me thinking about different things. It was an animated movie and this made is so easy to kind of piece those two fields together as far as photography and kind of effects are concerned. That movie really jumpstarted a little bit of photography creativity in my personal field.

Playing video games is another activity where you can really get adventurous with your creativity and you might get some ideas there. Obviously, you shouldn’t allow it to consume a big chunk of your time but if you’re just looking at the aspect of playing video games, everything that went into the making of the games including the visuals, lighting and effects will give you some great ideas. Reading books especially the non-fiction ones can really jumpstart your creativity and get your mind thinking.

  1. Limiting your disrupting inputs

One thing I like to do when it comes to the limiting of disruptions especially if you are used to driving is to not do anything in the car as far as input is concerned. This means not listening to the radio, music podcasts or anything like that because if you have a lot of disruptions especially if you do your own personal photography business you will not be giving your mind space to breath or let loose and develop any creative thoughts that you have going on. Mostly it will mean that you have calls and emails coming in, video comments, Twitter notifications and all kind of stuff coming in which can really be disruptive. If you’re driving, shut off all these disruptions and only hear the hum of the engine and all that going by and this will let your mind to just roam and think on its own in a while without having anything come in as you just concentrate on the road. Once you start doing this over and over again, you get some interesting ideas coming in and you start thinking new things like how to start getting some kind of effects on your photographs or grow your photography business or even new ways or things you can embrace to do editing on your photos. All this stuff comes in when you let your mind breath and this is just a simple one to do but there are many other ways of stepping away and getting away from any kind of input and letting your mind do its things but this is one really easy one that a lot of people are able to do especially because many people do drive.

  1. Step away

To piggyback off that one as well, we also have stepping away and what I mean by this is that maybe take a “vacation from photography”. So, if you don’t have a lot of bookings or you don’t feel like going anywhere and doing photography that day, maybe stepping away and taking a break from it will let you come back to it as if it’s a new thing. Don’t even take your gear and although you can look at some of your photos once in a while, limiting your input as far as photography is concerned. I know when it comes to musicians, there’s a lot of people especially guitar players, who have developed calluses on the fingertips from pressing the strings and what many guitarists say when it comes to reconnecting with music and becoming great musicians again is that they know they’re ready to get back to it when their fingers begin to hurt again while they’re playing. That means they’ve been away for a long time and they start getting a connection with the guitar again when they start playing and it becomes like a new thing. It’s kind of the same thing when it comes to photography, don’t touch your camera for a while, don’t concentrate on photography groups on social media but just get away from it for a while and let it become new again and that’s one easy way of doing that as well.

  1. Limit your gear

What I mean by this is, let’s say you have a new top of the line DSRL and it has all the bells & whistles but maybe leave it at home once in a while. Maybe you can use your Smartphone as your main camera but obviously not when going to do a wedding shoot. However, if you’re going for an outing and you would like to take some photos, leave your gear at home and use your android, iPhone or Smartphone as your main photography device and let your mind roam on how you can achieve an effect without using your fancy gear. When it comes to the use of phones for photography, you’re to kind of zoom with your feet and so you have to learn on how to do that. Simply what we are saying is you try to limit your gear or any type of thing you normally carry with you to see if that breaks into any kind of creativity that you might be thinking.

  1. Change your space

Let’s say you have an office in your house that you use for your editing or maybe you have a small studio in your office, change it up a little bit. This will also help you break away from creativity rut. It could be something like getting a fresh coat paint on the wall to kind of change the look a little bit or maybe rearranging your furniture or desk or it can be something honestly as simple as changing your desktop wallpaper to something different than it has been for many months. Just change what you have been looking at constantly and all that ties back to the very first tip on “getting out of your norm”. Change things a little bit. Your mind is not going to grow if it’s doing the same thing over and over again and that comes to creativity as well. So, change up your space, do something different and if you have a desk you’ve been wanting to have for a long time, maybe it’s time to grab that desk so that it’s different to sit at or look at and you can kind of dress it up a little bit. Maybe you can change your computer or stop working from your main desktop and work from your laptop for a little bit. It can all be about doing very simple things to change up your norm.

Those are the 8 tips that could help you break away from your photography creativity rut and some of these have worked for me as I use them quite often and it kind of gets me new to photography again and that’s the fun part because I start learning new things I never thought of before.

Featured item of the week

This week’s featured item is something you can do right now as you sit in front of your computer and this has to do with creating your own gray card in Photoshop. A gray card is sort of used to help white balance as you have medium gray, a scale from black to white and then a medium gray in-between. What this does is that it helps you with white balancing your photos to kind of get the correct colors and you can go on Amazon and buy all these really expensive color check cards and gray cards but if you want a really simple one right now, you can create it in Photoshop. It is as easy as doing a couple of steps which I’ll outline below:

  1. Open up Photoshop and create a new document the size of a regular paper that is on your plate.
  2. Draw a gradient from pure black to pure white on that document (Black at the bottom and white on top.
  3. Go to the adjustment layer and choose to posterize and this will bring a small dialogue box which allows you to choose “Labels” and this basically means the number of colors that are going to show up. Choose 3. This will give you pure black at the bottom, medium gray at the middle and pure white at the top. If you have a semi-normal printer or laser, you can go and print that off and that will be a very simple color checker card.

This is a good one if you have a pinch but if you already have a professional gray card or color checker you can just stick with it. You can carry this simple card with you to help get balanced colors. I have used this a couple of times while shooting videos and it actually works very well.

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