Stuck in a photography rut? – How to clear photographer’s block

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It happens to even the best of us, sometimes we just lack the motivation to photograph. Or maybe you still take photos every now and then, but they just don't seem to work.

Thankfully photographer's block can be cured quite easily. Here are a few tips to help you get out of your photographic rut and back to taking great photos.

Set aside some time for photography

Often when we find ourselves suffering from photographer's block, it is because we haven't been photographing regularly enough. So set aside a block of time, preferably every day, that you will dedicate to photography.

Plant growing in a crack between the paving slabs on a city street
CHELSEA MORNING by marc falardeau on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

It is a good idea to fix a schedule of when you will be photographing, as this way you will be more likely to stick to it. If you just decide to try and take some photos each day when convenient, you'll likely find that other things get in the way. Then at the end of the day you'll feel too tired to put much effort into your photography.

Early in the morning around sunrise or later in the afternoon around sunset can be a good time for scheduling your photography time. The soft warm light and crisp clean air at this time of day is great for photography, and can provide you with some good motivation.

Silhouettes of a large tree with animals below it at sunrise
Castanheira - Sunrise by Ana_Cotta on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

You don't need to always set your time period for photography at the same time every day though. Mix it up a bit, and try some night photography sometimes, and shoot during the daytime at other times. This will help you master photography in a range of lighting conditions.

Get outside your comfort zone

If you want to give yourself a real push, try photographing a subject that you wouldn't normally. If you normally photograph landscapes, try some sports photography. If you normally photograph portraits, try macro photography.

Portrait of a stranger
Terry by gfpeck on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

By forcing yourself outside of your normal comfort zone, you will have to practice more, and learn new tricks and techniques. Part of the fun of photography is learning new things and trying different styles.

Shoot with what you've got

There is a massive range of photography equipment and accessories available, allowing us to get great shots of virtually any subject. However, sometimes this can get us into thinking that we can't get a shot we want because we don't have the specialist equipment necessary.

Most of the time though, the limitation is the photographer, not the camera.

Maybe you're lusting after a wide angle lens for landscapes, but can't afford one at the moment. Instead, why not try taking multiple photos with your current camera / lens, and then stitching them together into a panorama. You can use free panorama stitching software such as Hugin or Microsoft ICE. It's not as convenient as a real wide-angle lens, but it removes an excuse for not photographing.

Porto Katsiki, Lefkada, Greece - stitched panorama to give a view wider than the camera could capture in a single shot
Porto Katsiki, Lefkada, Greece. [Explore] by supersum (off) on flickr (licensed CC-BY-SA)

Or maybe you want to photograph wildlife, but can't afford a super telephoto lens. Instead, why not practice on more tame wildlife that will let you get closer while you save up for the long lens. Many farm animals, and those at zoos will let you get quite close. You can practice capturing the expressions and behavior of the animals, which will produce great images in their own right, and give you valuable experience.

Sometimes though, the limitation is with the equipment.

An option here is to rent the lens or equipment you need. So long as you aren't going to be using the equipment every day, this is much cheaper than buying expensive gear outright. It also lets you get used to using the equipment, and you can see if it really is what you thought you needed.

spin cycle - taken with a rented fisheye lens
178/365 - spin cycle by B Rosen on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

Another option is to just decide to use your current equipment for what it is good for. And don't worry about trying to photograph things it can't handle.

Terminal 1, London Heathrow - great photo taken using a superzoom camera
LONDON HEATHROW : Terminal 1 : AVIATION PASSION : The Magners Stroll Walkway : UK / IRL Departures : Arrivals : Enjoy your walks and flights! 🙂 by || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL || on flickr (licensed CC-BY)

There are so many different photography projects you can do with your current photography equipment. Why try and use it to do the one or two things it is not good at? Instead, play to your equipment's strengths.

Get inspired

Study the work of other photographers to get ideas for your own photography. Seeing great work produced by others is a good way to inspire and motivate yourself to try and get some great shots yourself.

Pile of photography books on a coffee table

To get inspired, there are plenty of websites showcasing wonderful photos. Photo sharing websites such as Flickr, RedBubble, 500px, and DeviantArt all have featured sections where you can see a selection of the best works from contributors.

You can buy photography books, those about contemporary photographers and also books about historical figures in photography can both provide inspiration for your photography. Check your local library as well, they will likely have quite a few photography books that can provide a good history of photography, along with great photos of the past.

Take a vacation

Visiting an area with different sights is a great way to get out of a photography rut. When on vacation it is only natural that we want to capture and record the differences (and sometimes similarities) to what we are used to.

Times square, New York
Times square by ramesh Iyanswamy on flickr (licensed CC-BY-ND)

If you can, try and organize the vacation with a focus on spending time for photography. A normal vacation will certainly get you shooting more, but when partners or children are waiting for you, it can be difficult to spend the time needed to perfect that shot.

If you're just going on a standard vacation, see if you can schedule some time just for photography every day. Similar to scheduling your time at home, early in the morning around sunrise, before most people have got up, can work well. It will give you some time to yourself when you don't need to worry about others waiting around for you while you're photographing.

Sunrise over Shinjuku
Sunrise over Shinjuku by KimonBerlin on flickr (licensed CC-BY-SA)

If you feel your photography's stuck in a rut, following these tips should help clear your photographer's block. Do you have any tips? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Written by Discover Digital Photography

August 25th, 2012 at 12:08 pm

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