5 tips to get out of a photography rut
Don’t be a boring photographer, make yourself interesting
We often find ourselves stuck in a bit of a loop, no matter what it may be in, and photography is no different. God only knows how many times I have found myself taking pictures of the same things (and how much bloody film I have wasted). This is in part to your routine in life. I, for one, am a creature of habit…I like a cup of tea in the morning and I always take the same route to the camera stores, in fact I am an assassin’s wet dream. Unfortunately, this is not conducive to interesting photography. So here are 5 tips to get out of a photography rut.
If you wish to be anything approaching a ‘serious’ photographer (whatever that is) then you have to make sure that you are not just following the crowd and trying to be another Flickreeno, but are actually taking the pictures the You want to take, because they make you feel like you have done something special. If that means taking the same ‘bokeh’ shot of a can of Coke over and over again, or wide angle shots of your dogs nose then you don’t need to read any further. In fact, close the door on your way out, as there is nothing you really need from me.
Feel like this? There there, we can make it all better
But, if you actually enjoy taking new shots and trying to build your skill and you style then you will inevitably find yourself with ‘photographers block’ from time to time. This is completely natural and there are some really simple ways to get over it.
Here are a few things that you can do to help you get over it.
1. Study other photographers
It may sound obvious, but there are a lot of great photographers out there, and looking at their books or reading about them can really help give you that nudge to do something different. This does not mean go on flickr and type in ‘bokeh’, if you do that you need a slap. Actually look for some real books. May I suggest Why People Photograph by Robert Adams and The Ongoing Moment by Geoff Dyer. Both are excellent essays that can help you understand a lot about developing your own style. As for photo books, where to start? The Magnum books by Koudelka, Parke, Davidson etc. Or anything by Salgado, Capa, Cartier Bresson etc. Go to a bookstore or library and spend an afternoon finding what suits you and then devour it. The inspiration you will get from this alone should be enough to keep you going for ages, but if you are still stuck there are other ways.
2. Put yourself in a different place
Now I know I said that I am a man of routine, but I also like to try and put myself somewhere different whenever I get the chance. Got 10 minutes spare on your lunch break? Go and explore some of those side streets next to the office. No need to get somewhere in a hurry? Take the long way, the one you have not taken before, so what if you get lost. These are the places that are going to challenge you in a different way as you will be really looking where you are going (and you should have a camera in your hand). Obviously, don’t put yourself in danger, unless you like that kind of thing. Disclaimer: Japancamerahunter is in no way responsible for you beating eaten by urban foxes or being robbed by chav zombies.
This is not ‘great bokeh’, it is out of focus. Stop saying it is great
3. Set a project
But…but..Japancamerahunter, I don’t know what to do. This is not difficult, you are an individual, with your own thoughts and ideas, you can come up with something. Again, using books can give you an idea of what other photographers have done, work from that. And no, the 365 days project is not interesting or cool, you should be taking more than one picture a day anyway.
Projects can help you develop and define your style. They make you concentrate and more focussed, which in turn help you to develop skills. Only using one aperture or a single focal distance is a good way to start. Making yourself get over your fear of flash or crowded places is good too, especially as these can help you develop as a person as well as a photographer.
4. For digital peeps, limit your shots
This says it all really. Make each shot count, think about what you are shooting and whether you need to use continuous high speed mode at 23 FPS to take that picture, chances are you do not. Unless of course you are a professional sports photographer, in which case you should just ignore me.
Seriously though, try to take a bit of care about what you shoot and you will be surprised at what you can do.
This does not count as a friend
5. Get some friends
The final one and probably one of the easiest ways to motivate yourself. If you are ‘into’ photography chances are that one of your friends is too, so why not go on a photowalk with them, or go shooting with them?
Got no mates? Join a photogroup or meet some people in the area who shoot the sort of things want to shoot. Not only do you get some drinking buddies, but you push each other to develop creatively (as long as you make it out of the pub).
Remember, Japancamerahunter can be your friend *fees apply*.
So, that is it, my 5 tips to help you get out of your photography rut and to get you taking interesting pictures again. I hope they help you, they certainly helped me.
I recently read a similar blog on the same subject, and I said that when I’m in a rut, I’ll just start shooting subjects I haven’t tried before. This reinvigorates my interest and gets me pumped. Besides, as a photographer, you always have to try and new different things to keep your skills fresh.
Ahhhhhhh this is sooooo true ! I am so fed up with this “ohhh great bokeh” and other nonsense … I just can’t stand them anymore … Same for the 365 project, so damn lame …
Anyway, I am not sure people doing/saying these kind of stuff would understand your post but serious amateurs / photographers do.
I get this way all the time so I put down all my thousands of dollars worth of professional Nikon dSLR’s and fat f/2.8 glass to spend some time with a Yashica GSN. After that, a year with the iPhone Hipstamatic. (I still used the Nikons for work as a newspaper photographer though) It did wonders. But after 18 months I grew bored of it. Luckily at that point I picked up a new X100. Granted I wasn’t turning in assignments to the paper with the Hipstamtic, but still…
Sometimes, it is not the subject matter that puts us in a rut, but rather the gear, the predictability of knowing exactly what you are going to get out of which camera (and lens) you use. There is an art that comes with learning to master a new piece of equipment, in my case, a Yashica, an X100 and a Hipstamtic that really helped break a rut.
I’m not suggesting tossing out a year old D3s for an F3Hp or anything, but it is interesting to see how different images taken from two different cameras. I believe Araki said something to the effect of, “If you want to change your photographs, you need to change cameras. Changing cameras means that your photographs will change. A really good camera has something I suppose might describe as its own distinctive aura.”
Great article. Felt completely identified.