7 Ideas for Overcoming Photographer's Block and Staying Inspired :: Digital Photo Secrets

7 Ideas for Overcoming Photographer's Block and Staying Inspired

by David Peterson 4 comments

If writers have writer's block, artists can have artist's block and photographers can have photographer's block. The bigger question is how do we overcome these frustrating blocks? Worst case scenario, they can make us feel like we've lost our edge. Like we'll never find anything interesting to photograph again. There's no magic purple, green or yellow pill to clear the fuzziness and allow for a breakthrough of ideas to emerge. Staring at your camera for answers probably won't help either. When you're experiencing photographer's block, it seems you need to either dig deeper or take a complete break in order to recharge. Below are seven ideas for overcoming photographer's block.

#1 Seasons are a Reason

If you live somewhere that has more than one season (i.e. not the Caribbean and not Antarctica), sit down and write out the seasons, such as the obvious: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Underneath each season, make notes of what you like to photograph in each. For example, under winter you might have: frozen lakes with fog hovering over them, icicles hanging from trees or roofs, snow drifts on a barn's roof, or twirling ice skaters. Be as specific as you can because the deeper you can go with the image and the specific details, the more excited you'll be about the forthcoming shoot. Even if it's the middle of the summer, it will have you looking differently at winter and will be excited for its arrival. For fall, you might list: kids in a leaf pile throwing the leaves in the air, tree foliage along a hillside at sunset, pumpkin patch, or a county fair. Spring leads all sorts of ideas from waterfalls to flowers. Be creative and include all of your sense when thinking of ideas!

The idea is to get you thinking outside of your current season. Doing so takes you to another world where options are plentiful. Though those winter images can't be captured in the heat of summer, it may spark an idea that could lead to a summer photo shoot. That lake in the summertime might have a weeping willow dripping into it. That's a good time to test drive a new zoom lens. There's a reason to think of the seasons, and you'll discover it by making this list!

#2 Pick up a New Filter or Lens

As a photographer, you know there's always something you can be buying to add to your repertoire. There's nothing like a new lens to drum up excitement for a shoot. If you bought a DSLR with its kit lens, like an 18mm-135mm, perhaps looking into a 50mm 1.4 to use for portraits (learn what the MM means on a lens. The 1.4 will gain you a nice shallow depth of field. Add a polarizer filter to it for some landscape and sky or water shots, and you'll be heading out the door before you know it.

Alternatively, adding new programs and filters to your computer might just be the boost you need. Topaz Labs has some great filter add-ons for Photoshop CS, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom that are fun to explore. They're reasonably priced, ranging from $29 (USD) to $79 (USD).

There are plenty of other options, some less expensive than others, but if you look beyond the scope of what you're working with and add to it, the results could be exciting.

#3 Go to a Gallery

Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, NM

Sometimes visiting an art gallery that features photographers can be inspiration enough. If you can't physically go to one, check out some of them online. The Weston Gallery in Carmel, California (USA) features Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and other greats. This is a great example of an online gallery that shares images on their site that are sure to inspire you.

#4 Frame it Up!

One way to shake off the photographer's block is to get one of your favorite images enlarged and framed. Lots of labs either online or in town offer the service of printing your digital image in all sizes from wallet or 4" x 6" for your office desk to poster size for your largest wall. Select from glossy, matte, lustre, metallic. Then choose your mounting, such as canvas, or framing. A project like this is still focused on your photography; it's just another part of it. You may find you've enlarged a print and aren't happy enough with the image as say a 16" x 20". That's okay! It could inspire you to think about all you've learned since taking that shot and maybe, if possible, you can go back and reshoot it.

Once framed and ready to hang, you'll feel inspired to get out there and capture more images!

#5 Take a PhotoWalk

PhotoWalks have become very popular. PhotoWalks are a predetermined time and location for photographers to meet and join together in a photo shoot. The famous HDR photographer Trey Ratcliff of Stuck in Customs is known for his worldwide photowalks. But, there are several others out there. If you've never been on one, do a search and see if there are any in your area. Going on vacation? Search ahead and see if there's one in your vacation destination. PhotoWalks are a great way to collaborate with other photographers, to see your local area through the eyes of others, or to get to know a destination you're visiting. There can be dozens of people on these adventures, and you're sure to bond with at least a few since you have one thing in common - photography!

#6 Take a Class

There are so many photography classes online or as continuing ed classes in colleges. CreativeLIVE is known for their amazing classes. They bring in expert photographers from all over the world to teach weekend classes online, which are available for purchase if you want, but you can watch the class for free as it airs. Spending a weekend watching these classes can not only be educational, but incredibly inspiring! The tips and techniques they discuss will have you looking at your camera in a whole new way. Even though they touch on a lot of topics, these classes are often really good for learning more about lighting because that's a universal theme no matter what you're photographing!

An in person class might also be the boost you need. You're sure to get personal, one-on-one help from an instructor or even other classmates. Check with a local college or local studio to see if they have any upcoming classes.

#7 Take a Break

Sometimes we just need a break and to not force an issue. If we walk away for a bit, put the camera down and do something else, often times something will spark and get our attention when we least expect it. It's worth having your camera handy just in case, but without the pressure to seek a photo-op. Let it come to you, and be ready when it does! Often times that's when we produce our best work!

Bonus: Start a 52-week project

A final idea for getting past photographer's block is to commit yourself to exploring a certain theme for awhile. I like the 52 week project because it encourages you to take at least one creative photo a week. And because they are all a similar theme, after the first few weeks you are forced to start thinking outside the box. And that's usually when inspiration (and the drive to take more photos) hits!

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  1. Claudette says:

    Love the 52-week project idea. Thanks

  2. Tim says:

    Like your challenge to us. Good points.

    One method, which I share with students, is to take an analogue dictionary (yes, one you can open and touch), open it to any page, point to the nearest adjective, and then try to shoot that word. Too often we shoot nouns (persons, places, things) and not the adjectives which make the nouns unique. Try shooting "fast" vs "runner", or "quickly" vs "responds". A good challenge.

  3. Marius says:

    Thanks David

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