As photographers, we’re hard on ourselves when we feel like we’re not creating the shots we want or when we are feeling like not even picking up our cameras. The reality is it happens to all of us.
Here are some things you can do to work through this downtime.
Helping others is a great way to motivate and get inspired. You never know what bit of information, a way of seeing, shooting location or processing tip might help someone over that next little hurdle they have to make in order to get better. In turn, you’ll feel so good about helping someone it will make you want to get back out and take images.
Get out and photograph anyway
Too many times I hear photographers complain about the weather, the bad light, the blue sky and on and on with any excuse to not shoot. The thing is, and I know you’ve heard this before, there is no bad light, there are no bad sky days, the weather is the weather. You can’t change it so you may as well make the best of it. Don’t like blue skies? Focus on the details and create images that don’t include the sky.
There is always, always something to shoot. If it’s that bad outside, explore your home. You’ll be amazed at what you can find if you just look. Do you use textures in your post-processing? Look around your house — there are textures everywhere, shoot your own. Use bad weather days to learn about lighting — set up in your kitchen, or anywhere with a light or speedlight, and play. Always wanted to try macro photography? You can do macro photography anywhere. Don’t have a macro lens? Try the reverse-lens method or extension tubes, two very inexpensive ways to experiment.
Maybe it’s your mood that has you not feeling like getting the camera out. I find when I’m feeling like that the best thing I can do is to get the camera out. Go wander a park, walk down the street, shoot self-portraits in your basement or garage. I can almost guarantee after about a half hour of playing, you’ll start to feel better.
This image is a result of playing with the reverse ring method of macro using a feather and a water drop.
Be where you are
This phrase is overused but put the camera down, take in the air, the beauty, sights, sounds and smells around you. Don’t be so quick to put that camera up to your eye. What do you see? What do you feel? Take some time to think about what it is in that moment and place that is compelling you to create an image?
Limit your choices
There are so many factors to consider when out photographing. Which lens, camera, filters, flash, f-stop, ISO, shutter speed, processing, software, location…the list goes on. And on. And on. How can you be inspired to shoot when you have to make so many decisions first? Try limiting those decisions. Take your camera out, take one lens. That’s it. Make a decision to only shoot at a particular setting for an hour. Spend one hour in the same location. Spend five minutes standing in one spot, literally stand there and don’t move your feet. Only shoot what you can get by not moving. Spend one hour with one subject. How many ways can you photograph the same thing in an hour?
It won’t take you long to realize how limiting yourself pushes you to get creative, it opens up your mind to other possibilities that you wouldn’t have typically seen. It might even be fun.
These four images were taken in my backyard, using one lens and standing in one spot.
Experiment with different equipment if you can
There are plenty of equipment rental companies out there. Try something different, for instance, a different camera or lens. Sometimes just having to learn a new piece of equipment can spark our motivation. Can’t rent something? Find someone who uses a different system and go out and shoot with them for a day, but swap gear.
Go to a museum
You don’t even need your camera for this. Why? Be inspired by artists. Take your time studying the compositions, colors and use of light in the paintings and sculptures of the artists in an art museum. Go to a children’s museum (not in a creepy, stalker sort of way please). Observe the wonder of the children and how they see things. Pick any type of museum, learn about different cultures, different eras and think about how you can take that back to apply to your photography.
Go out with another photographer (or a group of photographers)
Shooting with other photographers is an excellent way to expand your way of seeing. Pay attention to what the others are seeing and taking photos of. Maybe even put your camera away and just follow along. Be inspired by others.
After all of this, if you’re still not feeling it, then don’t shoot. Take some time to reflect on your work, where you’re heading and what you want to do with it. Spend some time learning, brushing up on techniques or editing skills. Learn new editing skills. Still not feeling it? Take a break.
Remember inspiration can come from anyone or anywhere at any time. Be open.