If you're a photographer or any creator for that matter, there's an incredibly high chance that you've experienced a creative slump at one point or another. The good news is that it's normal to feel uninspired from time to time. Don't stress too much!
There are ways to overcome it and pull yourself out of that pit. We have four tips for getting out of a creative rut and getting the creative juices back flowing into your photography work.
Take a break from social media and give yourself some time to disconnect
Sometimes less is more! When feeling an absence of a spark in the creative process, we sometimes dig out heels in feeling that doubling down on social media consumption will get us inspired. While this may be a remedy for some, for others it's counterproductive. Stepping away from consuming creative content may seem counterintuitive, but is a step in the right direction to getting you back on track.
Taking a break from social media is the perfect reset for both your mind and body. Giving yourself a reset will allow you to come back to the online creative space with a clear head and feeling refreshed. Our brains our supercomputers that sometimes need a reboot.
At The Photographer Mindset, we recommend to people that they take a planned full week off completely from social media at least 1-2 times per year. In addition, we recommend unplugging from social media at least once per week.
These recommendations are regardless of whether you're feeling like you're in a slump or not. Prevention is the best medicine!
Taking a break from social media will prevent your attention from being consumed by the number of messages coming through your inbox. It is near impossible to get into the creative zone when you're constantly being pinged by notifications and DMs.
If you're being distracted every 5 minutes by someone or something grasping for your attention, you'll never be able to enter a deep state of focus or flow. On average, it takes 20 minutes of uninterrupted work before your brain can begin to enter a deep state of flow. Disconnecting and being unaccessible is often just what you need to refuel your creative mind.
In addition, abstaining from social media will allow your baseline dopamine level to properly reset. You will be forced to get your dopamine fix from other sources (hopefully healthy ones like exercise, meditation, and in-person social connection) as opposed to instantly gratifying ones like your phone.
It is 100% true that boredom sparks creativity, so embrace boredom when it arises. Sit with it and use your time away from social media to invest your energy into something else. Unplugging in a disciplined and consistent way will be one of the best decisions you can make for your mental health and for strengthening your creative muscle.
Get inspired by other photographers' work and innovate your unique style
One of the most exciting aspects of photography is that everyone has a unique style. Two people standing in the exact same spot at the exact same moment will come away with two entirely different images or stories.
Seek out creators that inspire you. Instead of getting bummed out by the level of talent on your explore page, get energized. Decide that you're going to adopt some of their techniques. Great artists copy the styles of others and then add their own unique twist.
This is innovation and evolution at its finest. Consider the way other photographers frame shots, how they colour grade, how they caption, and how they convey the overall visual story.
Again, we can't stress this enough; a great photographer knows how to copy but also knows how to innovate to create their own style. So if you have a healthy relationship with your phone and social media, scroll away through other artists' portfolios for inspiration. Save or screenshot any ideas you like.
Bring your camera everywhere you go
Bring your camera everywhere you go. Every minute, moments arise that will never happen again. Sometimes those moments are mundane, but other times those moments are epic. As a wildlife photographer, I can't tell you the number of times I didn't bring my camera while driving and missed photographing a beautiful animal subject.
Bringing your camera everywhere also allows you to find artistic moments in your everyday life. It's also a great way to discover some other genres of photography.
Maybe you're at the beach for a walk and a stunning sunset occurs out of nowhere. Maybe you're out driving and see a rare exotic car and you ask the owner to photograph it. Maybe someone on the street is wearing a one of a kind dress and you feel you must shoot it.
Make sure your camera is always by your side and you'll always be ready when an artistic moment arises. This is such a useful protocol because instead of forcing creativity and going out solely to photograph, you let the ideas present themselves and come to you without a sense of rush.
Treat your eyes as the viewfinder
No camera in the world can view and capture scenes with more resolution or clarity than our own eyes. The human eye has roughly 576 megapixels. Compare that to the newest mirrorless cameras which are regarded as phenomenal and you'll see that they trounce those 50-60 megapixel devices.
Our eyes showcase the beauty of the world every day. A really useful and abstract tip is to consciously imagine that your field of vision is the viewfinder of your camera. When you get into this headspace after a couple of days or weeks, you begin to notice scenes that would make for great images.
If you combine this tip with tip number 4 (bring your camera everywhere) you'll never miss the mark. If something looks great to your eyes, it will more than likely make for a great final image.
Treat your eyes like the viewfinder of a camera and search carefully for those iconic moments. Don't worry about perfect lighting or capturing every detail immaculately. Subjectively identify the perfect moment that speaks to you.
Maybe it's the fog rolling through a field during sunrise. Maybe you're with friends and one or two of them share a moment you want to remember. Constantly treat your eyes as a viewfinder. Simply reminding yourself of this will put you on the lookout for great moments.
We've just discussed four tips to help you elevate your photography skills and get you out of creative downturns. Whether it be taking a break from social media, getting inspired by other photographers' work, bringing your camera everywhere you go, or treating your eyes as the viewfinder — these are all helpful pieces of advice that can massively boost your creative output.
As a photographer, keep innovating and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Also, embrace what boredom can bring — that is when the most creative work is made. And if you needed extra motivation and support, don't forget to give us a follow on Instagram (@thephotographermindset).