How to get out of a photography rut
From time to time many of us will find ourselves in a rut, either in photography term or otherwise. Now, I am not a counsellor, so I am really able to help you with your other problems, but I can help you with your photography ones….maybe…
We all get stuck in a rut with our photography sometimes. This can be caused by a myriad of reasons, some of them personal and some caused by our environment. Whilst I cannot really help you with the why, I might be able to give you some ideas on how to battle these ‘down moments’. I am certainly no stranger to them and recently went through a long period of disillusionment with my own work. Whilst it does not make me want to quit completely, it certainly makes me put the camera down and ponder as to what I am doing and where I am going with my work.
In light of this I thought I would put together a few points that might be able to give you some encouragement and help you get the motivation that you need. These were the things that I gained encouragement from, so maybe they will do something for you. They may not all work for you, but hopefully some of them will get you back on the saddle.
1. Read a book
Books are a key source of inspiration for a great deal of photographers, myself included. Often when I am feeling a little bit off then I will have a look at the work of some of the photographers that I love, this gives me a boost and helps me get the energy to go out and shoot. And by books I mean actual books, not e-books or something like that. Real books have a quality that is electrifying, the smell, the quality of the print the richness of the colours, they cannot be beaten. Spend some cash on books, you will not regret it.
2. Make a plan
Planning is something that as a photographer you are going to have to undertake at some point or another. It is all very well just going and taking pictures whenever you feel like it, but sooner or later you are going to feel like you either cannot be bothered or you have no direction. This is when you might start becoming despondent and losing drive, as I did. A good way to get out of this is to set yourself projects. They don’t have to be grand ideas or long term things. You can even do a 24 hour project or a 1 roll project. A good one I saw recently was a a series of shots from the street that had a Disney object somewhere in the shot, non placed but seen, this was great. Giving yourself a project is a great way to give you the incentive to go and shoot. Just one thing, no more of the bloody 365 projects, you just end up repeating yourself.
3. Change of scenery
Sometimes you need a change of scenery to give yourself a kick. Taking pictures of the same thing or same place everyday is going to become repetitive sooner or later. So go somewhere that you wouldn’t normally go. This doesn’t mean hop on a plane and jet off around the globe, as this is not an option for a lot of us. But maybe you can get in the car or bus and go to another town, different part of the country or go to a place in your town that you have not thought about. I read about a chap who was walking past his local old folks home and thought “I have never been in there, even though I walk past everyday”, he went inside and ended up doing a whole project of portraits of veterans and people who society had forgotten. There are places in your town that you may have never been to, check them out.
4. Look at your old work
This may sound like madness, but trust me, it really does work. I know that sometimes you look at what you did in the past and say to yourself “what was I thinking? Fisheye dogs noses, for the love of god!” But this is a good way to see how you have developed. Really look at your work, and give it a critical eye, this will help you see where you can improve and it might actually make make you think that you are actually not all that bad and your mother would be proud. You never know, you might find that you have a whole project just sitting there waiting to be put together.
5. Choose a medium
No matter what you shoot with, it is better to stick with one thing when you are shooting a project. To give that continuity of the idea and the feeling of the project. Having lots of cameras is a wonderful thing, and I have many, but chopping and changing can fracture your work and lead you to lose direction. The whole ‘one system one film’ idea is far from overrated and is something that everyone should try at least once. This may sound funny coming from me, as I test lots of different cameras and films, but for my personal work I only use one camera, one lens and one type of film and I have been doing that for about a year now. It really gives a sense of continuity to my work and it gives me focus. Maybe it can for you.
6. Get away from the computer
Now this one must sound really funny from me, as I want you to come and visit my site, but you have to draw the line sometimes. We spend an awful lot of time in front of the computer nowadays, and with our devices we spend even more time staring at a screen. This is time that we could be using to look around us and see what we are surrounded by. Using a computer is fine and can be useful too (unless you fall into the depths of Tumblr, I swear that place is a time thief), just make sure that you get away from it everyday and get out there. We are slowly becoming programmed into looking at a screen and I think now more than ever it is important for us to be aware of our surroundings. So get out there, there is a whole world to see.
7. Friends and family
These are important. Now, unless your mum is Nan Goldin (highly unlikely), everything that you produce is a masterpiece. She is being nice of course, but she is also giving you encouragement. Same for other family members. If you are fortunate enough to have a family that are supportive of what you do then don’t take that for granted, it is positive re-inforcement and that is important. Friends are a better litmus test, especially if they are photographers too, they can give you encouragement and criticism which isn’t too scathing. Sometimes when you are feeling a bit despondent about your photography your friends can give you the push that you need. Shooting with friends is a big help too, and when you shoot with other people you can learn a lot.
8. Go to a show
These things not doing it for you? Then go to a show. Seriously, going to a show is a big boost for me. To see the prints and see how the people interact with them is a very inspiring experience. Every time I go to a show I feel like I have gained something and it often gives me the desire to shoot something for myself. Perhaps it is the idea that someday I would like to have another show of my own, I don’t know, but there is a definite correlation to me visiting a show and my desire to shoot.
So, there you go, a few ideas to help you get yourself back on the saddle. I hope that they inspire you and give you some confidence to go and shoot. Do you have any ideas or suggestions for shooting? If you have then tell us in the comments. I love to hear your comments and I am sure other people can gain encouragement from your ideas too.
Thanks and happy shooting