So you are experiencing a creative block? Your interest in photography is changing, things aren’t as exciting as they once were, your camera is collecting dust and guilt over unfinished projects is piling up.
Maybe it’s a three-year itch, maybe a creative block or maybe you’ve found other things that interest you more. Let me reassure you first, it is okay if your interests change. In fact, we are continuously changing throughout our lives (and that’s great!) and maybe at this point in time, photography isn’t what you want or need. That’s fine.
You might come back to it later. Photography is a hobby that you can easily go back to at any point in your life. All you need is your own eyes and a camera. Even if you never return, you’ll still have a lot of nice images to look back to.
This article, however, is for those who don’t want to wait for inspiration to come flying back and want to battle their creative block right now. Here are five tips to get in the mood again and reclaim your photography interest.
1. Go through your photography archive
Do you remember those first images you took when you started getting into photography? They might embarrass you because, looking back now, they seem clumsy, rough and amateurish. Of course, that’s a good thing, because that just shows you how much you’ve grown already.
However, don’t discard these first images just yet. They might be the key to battle your current creative block and getting your inspiration back. Those first images can tell you why you got into photography in the first place and, when comparing them to your most recent images, they might give you an insight in what got lost along the way.
When I looked back into my own archive, I found that I miss the freedom of these beginning experiments. Double exposures, movement, weird camera standpoints, awkward posing, very saturated colours, over editing, I tried all kinds of things. I didn’t work on conceptual projects yet, so the images never had to fit in. Moreover, I didn’t follow any photography course, didn’t take part in contests or exhibitions and just had a lot of fun making my own random and somewhat weird images.
2. Do whatever you want
Don’t listen to the ‘SHOULD’ s. If you’re like me and you are not dependent on photography for your main income, don’t let yourself be forced (by yourself, by your teacher or your environment) to make certain kind of images. If you don’t feel like working on a project anymore, just lay it aside for a while. Don’t feel forced to turn every project into a tangible end product (book, exhibition, etc.) because you think that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Instead, just follow your interests, that’s where your inspiration will be. Maybe you’ll find a way to incorporate photography in these new interests too, even if it is just for documentation purposes. For example, at the moment I am interested in minimalism, adopting more physical activity into my life and learning how to cook vegan and vegetarian dishes. Google any of these things and beautiful imagery is everywhere, so lots of options to practice photography within these interests as well.
3. Edit your unprocessed images
If you are like me, chances are there are a lot of unprocessed images waiting for you to be rediscovered. Go through your SDcards, hard drive and negatives and find images you didn’t have the time to process yet or discarded at first sight. Spent some time editing, sharing or printing them. You might be surprised of what you find. Also, seeing all the things that once caught your eyes, makes you find hidden photographic gems in your daily life again too.
4. Try a new outlet for your photography
If you’re not used to sharing your images with others, try it! It might be a great way to overcome your creative block. You might be tired of seeing your own photographs over and over again, but they are fresh and original to someone else. Getting recognition from others can mean a lot and might make you confident again in your own photography. Others can also point towards aspects of your photography you didn’t notice yourself (a certain light, feeling or composition), which can inspire future images. And it’s a great way to connect with other photographers, who can be a great source of inspiration.
However, the opposite might also work. If you are overwhelmed by too much feedback, judging your photography by the amount of likes or comparing yourself too much with other photographers, it might be good to take some distance and start photographing for your primary outlet again, yourself! What images would you take if no-one else was watching?
I am trying a combination of both now. I am trying out Instagram as a new outlet for my photographs. It’s a low threshold platform for posting single images, even when they don’t fit within projects. Finding this new outlet is also inspiring me to do some of the steps above. On the other hand, I will try to cut down on classes, workshops, competitions, etc. and focus on making more ‘free’ images.
5. Go through your photography shelves
This is probably the quickest and easiest thing to try. You don’t even have to leave your house. Just go through the photography equipment you have at home. Hold your cameras in your hand and look through them, clean them, fiddle a bit with settings and lenses and admire the beauty and complexity of these machines.
Also, go through some of the first photobooks you bought or borrowed from the library. Set some time apart and reacquaint yourself with these sources of inspiration and just enjoy looking at photography. All these things might bring the beauty of photography back to the foreground of your thoughts and your creative block will be long forgotten.
Game plan to battle your creative block
In conclusion, these are the five tips you can try out to battle your creative block:
- Feel free to photograph as if you are a beginner again
- Follow your interests
- Go on a treasure hunt in your own unprocessed photographs
- Share… or don’t
- Shop in your own photography shelves
I hope these tips can blow some fresh air into your photography and help you go past that creative block. I know they are working for me at the moment. Everyone is different, of course, and there might be many more great ideas out there. If you have any other tips, feel free to comment below.