As an artist, we all have to be creative and come up with ideas that are new to create. I call these “concepts” as a photographer. After hearing several photographers saying they are stuck in a rut and not able to get out, I thought it would be good to write something here that helps people get out of that rut. There isn’t a specific formula, but there are things you can do to help improve your creativity. Some of these are harder than others. Some require hearing what people really think about your work. You might even have to build something. All of these work to stimulate your creativity.
Have you thought about changing your subject? If you stuck with the same subject for too long, you will start doing the motions. With personal portraiture, this is a common problem. You discover something you like for lighting and posing, and then you use it over and over again to make money with people who pay you for those portraits. The problem is that you are just going through memorized motions and nothing is really new. Break this up by shooting something different. For instance, try to move to other things like plants and flowers, or animals, or still life images. Even shoot different types of images with people – maybe beauty, fine art, or children images. If you shoot mostly landscapes and cityscapes, just going somewhere new could work for a new subject. This change will stimulate a change in your creativity.
Second, join a group of some kind that does different assignments for photography, such as a competition, photo walk, or similar group of people. You will learn from the people who are there, and they will learn from you. If you need one on one attention, then you could possibly get it by being part of these groups. You will also be able to see how others see things with their vision, just as they will see yours. And, if everyone is taking a picture, don’t take it – look for something different. I remember one image where there was a photo shoot with a bathing suit competition – a photographer went but saw how everyone was fighting for key places up front. He decided not to fight and went to the back side and shot the photographers who were shooting the competition. Competitions have been included here because you can often go to a crit night, and learn from what the judges say about the images and their rankings. Just remember to not take the crits personally – they want you to produce better work and aren’t there to berate you personally (even though it may seem like they are at the time). Listen to what they say.
With the advent of the Internet, there are so many sites out there relating to photography. You will find many groups out there and many sites that have different things you can do with your photography. Try some of them out. For instance, a cheap and fun project is the Styrofoam beauty dish flash attachment. It will provide you with a day worth of new images and creativity. There are lots of others, too. Just look for them. There are also web sites like the Strobist that work to show you ways of creating great images with just a few strobes. Take a look at what is out there, and try to do some of the projects they recommend you do.
As with these sites, you will see a lot of people whose work is out there on the Internet. Try to duplicate a style or learn a new one. I am not saying to duplicate the image that someone else has taken, but rather the style in which they take images. For instance, a lot of flare is really popular in images today. In two years, it won’t be and some other style will be popular. Also, if you can, work with an off camera strobe (flash). Both of these will spur lots of new ideas and concepts in your mind. Even working on longer exposures, shallower depth of field, pin hole technique, etc. will help to spur your creativity.
Not everyone has a lot of money, but this is also an option: buy a new piece of equipment. If you have some money, buy something new. If you are a business, know that the equipment should be something you constantly use to be worth the investment. If it is something cheap, then it might not need to be something you use constantly. Don’t throw common sense out the window and buy equipment you won’t use or have no intention of using ever again after a few times. Always weigh your return on your investment before buying anything expensive for equipment. Besides, photography isn’t about the equipment we use. It is about the vision of the person behind the camera and their skill as a photographer.
The last thing is to change your medium – if you are a photographer, do some other artistic work. Sketch, paint, create something like a scrap book, etc. Again, this will stimulate your creativity and the way you see things. I personally do a lot of sketching and making jewelry when I am able. These other mediums present different problems than you usually run into and cause you to think differently about your subjects.
This should give you some ideas on how to get out of a rut you may be stuck in with your own creativity. Everyone is different in their vision. I hope this post provides you with some things to try the next time you are stuck.