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8 Places to Find Photography Inspiration If You’re in a Creative Rut

February 19, 2019

The rut… we’ve all been there. That inspiration wasteland where creative ideas can seem like a cruel mirage. It happens to writers, painters, and photographers–just about anyone who creates art. Working through creative ruts takes persistence.

8 Places to Find Photography Inspiration If You’re in a Creative Rut

  1. Brainstorm at a Coffee Shop
  2. Change Your Scenery
  3. Go on a “Photo Walk”
  4. Take a Trip
  5. View the Work of Other Artists
  6. Join a Collaborative Photography Site
  7. Visit an Art Gallery or Museum
  8. Enter a Photo Contest or Photo Challenge

Inspiration and Creativity

Creativity has been defined as the making of something new from original or new ideas. All serious-minded photographers strive to be creative. But what nurtures and promotes creativity? Michael Vance, former Dean of Disney University said, “High-level creativity occurs when people feel free to have fun.”

Having fun does fuel our creative energy. But fun is just one facet of the creative process–you need inspiration, as well. With the right inspiration, you can turn a mundane photography task into the most fun you’ve ever had. For the creative photographer, life is like a roller coaster. Some days are energizing, and some are downright awful. Often, it seems great shots just seem to happen, while on other days, you can’t seem to take a decent photo.

Here are nine helpful strategies for the next time you fall into a creative rut. Ignite your photography inspiration, and let the fun begin again!

1. Brainstorm at a Coffee Shop

Head to your favorite local coffee shop for a relaxing brainstorming session. While you can brainstorm by yourself, you’ll probably come up with more ideas if you include a few friends. The old saying is always true, “Two heads are better than one.”

Grab a sheet of paper and in the middle write what it is you want to accomplish and circle it. Then explore all the facets of that idea you can come up with by jotting them down around the goal. Connect related ideas with lines to create a sort of “idea web.” Each new idea becomes a section of the web moving outward from the central goal. You’ll be amazed at what you and your friends can come up with as you make new connections between previously unrelated ideas. You might be surprised how many potentially great photo ideas emerge.

2. Change Your Scenery

If you’re struggling to come up with a creative idea, a change of scenery can work wonders for finding a healthy dose of photography inspiration. Get up and go for a walk– and leave your camera behind. Give yourself a break and allow your brain to reboot. Psychologists tell us that one of the best things we can do when we’re stuck in the creative rut is to think about something else. While you’re focused on something else, your subconscious mind will do its thing and continue working at the problem at hand.

Whether you’re walking along a nature trail in the mountains, strolling along a sandy beach, or making your way through a busy metropolis, the change of scenery will do you good. If you truly can’t bear the thought of not having a camera with you, use your smartphone to capture any inspirational subjects you may encounter as you walk. You can always come back with your gear later.

When will the breakthrough come? Sometimes in that very moment, sometimes days later. Often, it happens in your sleep. Keep a notepad handy to jot down any creative ideas that come, and inspiring photos will follow. Changing your scenery and focusing on something else can be one of the best ways to climb out of a creative rut.

3. Go on a “Photo Walk”

A photo walk or “photowalking” started more than 100 years ago. The Camera Club of New York sprang up as early as 1884. The proliferation of Eastman Kodak’s Brownie camera in 1900 is responsible for the birth of many photography clubs around the world. In the traditional sense, a photo walk is a group of camera enthusiasts who gather and walk a given route to practice the art of photography by shooting anything that looks interesting.

A photo walk can be much more than a gathering of photographers walking together and taking pictures. The social aspects are as important as the walk itself. Rubbing shoulders with other photographers creates opportunities to learn new techniques and share experiences and ideas. And, it can help the creatively-blocked photographer get out of a creative rut. Someone you walk with may provide just the inspiration you need.

One of today’s most popular photo walks is the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk. During the first week of each October, up to 50 photographers meet at a chosen meeting site. A Photo Walk leader guides the gathered photographers on a leisurely walk that lasts about two hours. Everyone takes lots of photos. After the walk is completed, the group heads to a restaurant or pub. New friends are made and lots of ideas are shared. You can visit the Worldwide Photo Walk website to find a walk in your area.

4. Take a Trip

There’s nothing like travel to spark inspiration. Jump on a plane and spend a few days in Paris, Florence, or Copenhagen. New cultures, unusual sights, fresh tastes, and unfamiliar smells can be the quintessential cure for boredom– and the perfect stimulus for inspirational photography ideas.

What? Don’t have the money or time for an adventurous European getaway? Fair enough. Not many of us have the financial resources or the free time for serious travel whenever our creative juices run dry.

Instead, how about visiting an area of your town that you’ve never explored? Or consider visiting another nearby city or town. New and inspiring places can be close at hand as well as across the world. With a little effort, you can find undiscovered beauty and adventure– the kind that can lead to a magical, inspirational moment.

5. View the Work of Other Artists

Whether you’re into wedding, landscape, portrait, or flat lay photography, looking through the lenses of other professional photographers can help get you out of the rut and back on the path to your own inspirational photography. It’s one of the best ways to generate new ideas. Mimicking the photography masters can be an effective way to start creating your own inspirational photos.

Where can you find really great examples of the art of photography? Almost everywhere. A great place to find inspiration is in your neighborhood bookstore or library. You’ll find inspirational books and magazines featuring landscapes and gorgeous scenery of mountains, deserts, seascapes, and even cityscapes. Browse photo books for examples of beautiful wedding photos, black and white photos, and striking examples of street photography and still life images.

Don’t forget the technical side of the art of inspirational photography. Brush up on guides and tutorials on shutter speed, f-stops, lens focal lengths, and exposure methods. Expert advice on these subjects can help trigger inspiration for trying a new technique.

Another good place to browse inspiring photos is on photography blogs, and social media website like Instagram. Pinterest also hosts wonderful photography, as does Flickr, Imgur, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr.

6. Join a Collaborative Photography Site

Spending a few hours perusing collaborative and free photo sharing sites for photographers is a great way to blast away the creative blockage. ViewBug is one of the best and most popular websites for photographers. It’s a collaborative website where photography creatives can share their best images.

Another popular collaborative site for photography inspiration is Behance. Owned by Adobe, Behance allows photographers around the world to create and build profiles containing photos (and other digital content) centered around a particular theme or creative process.

Behance members can follow each other, and any changes or updates will appear in an activity feed that you access when you log into the site.

No matter your skill level (amateur, professional or somewhere in between), you can share your best work and follow the inspirational photos of your favorite photographers on collaborative sites like ViewBug and Behance. Whether you’re into fashion photography, wedding photography, family portraits or any other photography category, inspiring pictures that can trigger your own imagination and creativity can be found on collaborative photography websites.

7. Visit an Art Gallery or Museum

For a jolt of creativity, spend an afternoon in an art gallery or a museum. Surrounding yourself in the creative work of others will lead to a flood of new ideas. Stop stressing about the rut you’re in and take a deep breath of the inspiration that surrounds you in these artistic and creative venues. You’ll find centuries of photography inspiration ideas hanging on the walls of galleries and museums.

8. Enter a Photo Contest or Photo Challenge

Taking a photo challenge or entering a photo contest is another way to help push you through a creative dry spell.

Photo challenges can be time focused, like taking a photo every day for a specified number of days. 30-day photo challenges are popular. When you have a goal to take a new photo every day for 30 consecutive days, you will begin to see the world with new eyes. Expanding your horizons will expand your creative abilities. Focusing on a photo challenge will lead to more inspirational photography and help you take more interesting shots.

Photo challenges can also be theme oriented. Themes vary from landscape photography, pet photography, and hundreds of others. Choose a challenge that appeals to you, and your creative juices will start flowing. If you’re willing to move out of your comfort zone, shoot something that requires learning a new technique for an extra inspirational push.

Entering a photo contest can motivate you to dig deep for inspiration. Many photography websites sponsor frequent photo contests. Often great prizes are offered for the winners, including money and new camera gear. The right awe-inspiring contest entry will stretch you and help hone your photographic skills.

Find Your Inspiration

Being stuck in a creative rut is no fun at all. But there are ways to break free and recover your creativity. Inspirational photography is the product of perspective, experience, and sometimes, serendipity. By exposing yourself to these new environments and fresh experiences, you can tap into sources of unending photography inspiration. By visiting new places, brainstorming with friends, and pushing yourself with new challenges, you’ll find that your photos are once again inspirational.


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