Many photographers tend to find themselves photographing the same subjects over and over. This is definitely not a bad thing, since finding a niche and being good at it is how most photographers make their living (some examples would be weddings, portraits, food, commercial, etc.). Yet when we limit ourselves to one type or style of photography then we tend to think inside the same set of rules, exposure, composition, etc., and often times find that we are in a creative rut and don’t know what to do.
Last week I was asked to attend a demolition derby in Fairview, Utah with some friends. I’m a stock photographer and primarily photograph people, so taking photos at a demolition derby is, well, not really my forte. But I went and had a really good time, ended up with a few good photos, and most importantly I switched my brain into thinking about photography and using my camera in a different way. I used settings on my camera I don’t usually play with, and the entire experience even got my creative juices flowing and gave me some ideas for future photo-shoots! Being in a completely new environment and culture forced me to alter my photo-taking thought-process which, in turn, will help my overall photographic ability in the long run.
Now, you don’t have to run out to a demolition derby to stretch out your creative muscles; there are many other ways to branch out photographically. Try tagging along with another photographer when they go out shooting, or go on photo walks to locations you have never been to before. You could even try using a different or unique lens to change your perspective. No matter what you do the important thing is that you are out there exercising your artistic ability and pushing yourself beyond what you would normally want to photograph.
Going out and taking pictures of subjects that are out of your comfort zone or beyond what you typically enjoy shooting is very similar to an athlete who is cross-training: you will strengthen your skills as a photographer and learn new things every time, which will, in turn, help you photograph the things you enjoy the most.