How to Overcome a Photography SlumpApril 30, 2017
It’s impossible being creative all of the time, isn’t it? As a photographer, you’ll often find that you have days where you’re bursting with fantastic ideas. On the flip side, there’s bound to be days, weeks, or potentially even months where it seems as though inspiration just won’t come to you.
This period is referred to as a ‘photography slump’ and every single photographer is certain to experience it from time to time. While the good news is that you’re certainly not alone, the bad news is that it can take a little time and additional effort to break out of this inspiration-free zone.
Today, we’re going to cover all of the most effective (and fun) ways that you can get out of a photography slump. Hooray!
Firstly, the slump isn’t all bad…
Professional photographer Nicole York perfectly sums-up the surprisingly positive aspect of a slump. She explains:
“The slump can become the catalyst for your biggest season of artistic growth…Artistic pursuit moves naturally through seasons of change; seasons of learning, of practice, of growth, of success, and of failure. The slump is nothing more than another season, much like winter, that performs an important task.”
So while the slump might have you stressed, fear not! See this period as a natural occurrence that will soon pass once your mind is ready to be creative again.
Spend a weekend without your camera
One of the first ways that you can try to overcome a photography slump is to actually spend a weekend or a few days without touching your camera. Once you begin to go about your day without the pressure of taking photographs and capturing moments, you’ll soon begin to notice the little things that you may not have before.
Focus on different smells, sights, feelings, and sounds. You never know what might stir your inspiration, and often a small break from your craft can work wonders.
Shoot with film using a toy camera
Do you own an analogue camera, particularly one considered to be a toy camera such as a Holga or Diana? While we suggested taking a break from your camera above, sometimes all that’s needed is to continue taking photographs but in a very different format.
But why a toy camera, of all analogue cameras, you ask? Professional photographer Mark Olwick sheds some further light:
“Okay, this one is my favorite [method] simply because it worked for me. What’s a Holga? It’s a plastic film camera with only one aperture and one shutter speed, and even those are approximate. The rangefinder framing is approximate is well. Focus? Well, there are a few symbols on the lens that are roughly 3 ft., 6 ft., 9 ft. and infinity. That’s basically your only setting – and that’s the creative freedom. No menus, no histogram, no expose to the right, no nothing. Just the pure creative process.”
Using film also takes away the privilege of being able to shoot the same thing multiple times in order to get the best possible photo. Instead, you won’t be able to view the image once you take it (until you get it developed of course), so you’ll focus more on getting your desired image the first time, without unlimited attempts.
If you don’t already own an analogue toy camera, feel free to search for one online through platforms such as eBay or Lomography.com.
Use it as a period of growth and education
Remember how we said that going through a photography slump needn’t be a completely negative experience? One way you can put a positive spin on your predicament is to use your lack of inspiration and motivation as a great excuse to sit back and learn more about your field instead.
Think you can become better at shooting in natural light? There’s thousands of YouTube tutorials to help you with that. Want to find out how the big-name photographers came to be so successful? Listening to a podcast or TED Talk about that very topic will do the trick. Thinking about branching into fashion photography but don’t know where to begin? There are a number of paid and free online courses that you can undertake.
We’ve even put together a list of must-read, educational photography books if you fancy learning a thing or two!
Trust us, sometimes simply learning about photography or further educating yourself about photography-related topics can spark that much-needed inspiration and motivation within you.
Keep a creative moodboard or collection online
This is one of our all-time favorite methods for overcoming (and potentially even keeping away) photography slumps, mostly because it’s been tried-and-tested time and time again!
As we go about our daily lives, there will be things that ignite a small flame of creative inspiration within us. It might be a blog post, a particular editorial, or even a single random photo, but nevertheless they are all important.
Your job (if you choose to accept it) is to keep a collection of these idea-generating pieces so that you can come back to them whenever your imagination needs that extra boost.
Professional photographer Anthony Tripoli is a huge fan of this method for overcoming photography slumps, and he recently revealed to Fstoppers:
“A little over a year ago I started to bookmark these ideas I came across. I started a tumblr blog and there I would post the images and videos I came across. Some months I update it much more, and some months it goes untouched, but it is always there as a reference for things that moved me once, when I need to feel motivated again.”
Find inspiration in other art forms
When your mind simply needs a rest from photography, it can be useful to turn to the other art forms to serve as creative muses. Look at artworks, watch movies, listen to music, and read poetry. Visit places such as art museums, libraries, or the theatre. Sometimes a sentence or something as simple as a color scheme in a painting will help you find that spark again.
Study the work of your favorite creatives in other fields and assess how it makes you feel. What are you particularly drawn to? How might you be able to communicate these ideas through your own photography?
Join a photography group
There’s nothing quite like sitting down with a group of other like-minded photographers in order to get your creative juices flowing again. A photography group is also a great excuse and motivator to get out with your camera and partake in photography-related activities – even when you don’t feel like it. Plus, your groupmates will encourage you and make it more worthwhile.
If you’re not part of a photography group yet, then a simple way to find your perfect group would simply be to Google photography groups in your local area. If you already know plenty of photographers and would much prefer to create your own group with them, then simply get on the phone and organize a catch-up! It could really work wonders for your photography slump.
If you fancy starting your own photography group and are interested in meeting new photographers, then we have a really helpful article all about that here. The options really are endless when it comes to creating your own, plus you get to plan all of the fun activities!
Go on a daytrip somewhere new
Speaking of fun activities, how fun are daytrips? Rather than paying for accommodation and having to plan days off work, you get to visit a fantastic place all within a few hours’ away from home.
Daytrips are even more exciting when you’re visiting somewhere you’ve never been before, and this is also a really effective way to overcome a photography slump. By opening yourself up to a new place, you get to experience a new journey and feast your eyes on buildings, people, food, scenery, and products that you possibly never have before!
Whether you bring a camera or not is totally up to you. The main thing is that you try to experience as much of this new place as possible.
Look through a photography book or magazine
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes just looking at the work of other photographers can really spark your creativity and help you to overcome a slump. As a photographer, it’s highly likely that you have a collection of photography-related books and / or magazines that you adore, so get them out, dust them off, and have a good look through them.
If you’re after some new ideas for photography-related books, then we recently compiled a stunning collection here.
Start a photography project
Whether your photography project spans across a week, a month, or a whole year (or anywhere in-between…there are no rules!), it really is a wonderful trick to helping you overcome a photography slump.
Photography projects give you something to concentrate on, as well as something to work towards. If you’re especially diligent and make yourself work on it a little each day, then it will gradually get you back into the habit of creating (that’s the goal!).
Depending on what your project is, it can also open your eyes up to other aspects of your creativity or daily life that you may not have been aware of before. Plus, by the end of it, you should have a body of work (or at least something) that you can use in your portfolio.
This recent article from our blog will help you to choose a photography project if you’re stuck for ideas.
Have a bath
This might sound like a strange idea, but we read it time and time again: creative people often have some of their best ideas whilst taking a long, hot bath.
Perhaps it’s the peaceful retreat, the relaxingly hot water, or the fact that you can just let your mind wander until the water gets too cold. Either way, try out this method and see if your quiet time of brainstorming helps you to overcome any creative battles going on in your head.
Take the time to also ask yourself some important questions: what’s currently frustrating you about your photography? What’s holding you back from wanting to create? If given the chance, what would you do differently about your work?
Write a list
List-making can be such a creative exercise within itself, especially if you’re brainstorming particular things which get you excited about producing work again.
One idea is to generate a list filled with all of the things that usually inspire you. You might think of particular elements or themes that you think are especially pretty or fun to work with.
After a little while you should have built-up a fairly lengthy list of words, themes, concepts, and more that will work to generate ideas in your mind – and ultimately – get your creative juices flowing again.
If you’re currently experiencing a lack of inspiration and creativity with your work, we hope the tips and tricks above will teach you how to overcome your photography slump!