How to Stay Out of a Creative Rut in Photography

July 12, 2017

LLT Group


Having a career in any creative field, whether its painting, graphic design, or music, you’re bound to get into a rut where no ideas come to you and the last thing you want to do is pick up that paint brush or guitar. Photography is no different. It is the best feeling when you’re in the zone – when you can come up with a creative idea, find a subject, and nail a lighting scenario. But how do we stay out of this rut and keep on creating?

I would imagine that it’s different for everyone but there are a few things that keeps me with the camera up to my eye and excited about what I am producing. I feel interests other than our art form is what actually makes us great artists. If you’re not an interesting person, your work isn’t going to be either so I feel that you have to have other interests that you can spend time doing rather than pouring all of your time into just one thing. It is good every once and a while to leave the house without the camera and dust off the cobwebs of that bike that’s been sitting in your garage.  Biking not your speed? Flip through the cookbook that you have on your coffee table and see what you can come up with. It’s really beneficial to switch gears once and a while and have your brain think about things other than photography.

On the other hand, you can also take something else that you are passionate about and merge photography with it. If you’re interested in cooking, do a personal project where the main focus is food photography. Personal projects are something that you put your soul into, something where you’re the one that calls the shots and the sky’s the limit. If you want to have everything in grainy black and white while using only your grandfather’s old 35mm camera, you absolutely can. If you want to focus on food that only comes out of your garden, that is another one of your interests that you can tie in and no one can tell you no. What makes you excited and what gives you that fire when you think about it? That is what your personal work should focus on even if it’s in the completely opposite direction of the work that you are getting paid to do.

Personal projects are a way to completely let your creativity run wild and see where it leads. A lot of people in the photography industry that I speak with say they don’t really do too much outside of work and when they say it, they usually seem like the winds gone from their sails and they kind of hunch their shoulders. I then ask them what they used to shoot and then they light up and they’re super excited to tell me about it. They tell me about how they would hike for hours trying to find new spots to capture the sunset or how they would stay up all night breathing in the night air capturing the downtown nightlife. Usually after they tell me about what they used to shoot, a realization happens and then they smile and tell me that they really have to get a project going again.

For me, the trick is to always try to stay inspired. There are definitely going to be times where you really have to dig deep and really have to make something happen but everyone goes through these times, even all of the photographers that you look up to. One of the best ways to keep the inspiration flowing for me is to look at other people’s work in all different types of mediums. You can get posing techniques from painters, lighting diagrams from great charcoal artists, and abstract ideas from illustrators. When you see other people doing cool work, it should light a fire under you making you want to run home and make cool work yourself. Take the feeling that you get when you look at a painting that one of the greats created and put that into your own piece of art.

So get fired up and pick up that camera and start creating something great! Once you start working on your own bodies of work, you’re going to find that each idea will come easier than the first one. You definitely have what it takes to keep creating!

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