A Guest Post by Andrew Gibson
Have you ever had the feeling of being stuck in a rut with your photography? It happens to all of us at one time or another. Sometimes it’s difficult to find inspiration or to think of new subjects to photograph.
Here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing again. Pick one or two that interest you and take the opportunity to learn some new skills and challenge yourself. Afterwards, you can look back at what you’ve achieved with a renewed sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
1. Read a Photography Book
The photography book (both printed book and ebook) publication industry is booming and there is no shortage of inspiration. You don’t have to buy a new book either – your local library should have plenty in stock.
Try reading a photography book written by an author you’re unfamiliar with or who is writing about a genre you’ve never tried before. Then go out and put some of what you’ve read into practice. The great thing about the best photography books is that they have both beautiful photos to inspire you and the practical information you need to try out the same techniques.
Don’t limit yourself to photography books. I spent time yesterday looking at Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook. The quality of photography is breathtaking and makes me want to try out food photography for myself (as well as the recipes).
I learnt the toning technique used in this photo from a book about black and white photography.
2. Use a New Lens
Buy (or borrow) a new lens – then use it. Or you may have a lens in your kit that you haven’t used for a while. Lenses are the eye to your camera’s system and using a new lens (or rediscovering one you have’t used for some time) can give you a new way of seeing.
Try this. If you normally use a wide-angle lens, then try a telephoto lens instead. Or if you normally use a telephoto, try a wide-angle. If you usually use a zoom lens, then how about a prime? You get the picture. It’s all about using a new lens to force yourself to take a fresh approach.
New lenses don’t have to be expensive. There are plenty of inexpensive wide-angle and normal prime lenses around. Another option is to buy a Holga lens for your digital camera (they are available for all the major camera manufacturers at). These are inexpensive and great fun.
A simple image taken with a Holga lens on an EOS 40D.
3. Take a Photo Holiday
Sometimes all that is needed to re-energise your creative self is a trip to somewhere new. Even a short trip for a day or a weekend can help. What’s important is that you dedicate it to photography. That way you can concentrate on exploring the most photogenic locations and making sure you are then when the light is best.
You don’t necessarily have to travel far. But it helps if you’ve never been there for a while so you see it with fresh eyes. It should also be visually exciting and inspiring.
Who could fail to be inspired by a trip to Venice? But any trip to somewhere new has the power to re-energise your creative vision.
4. Be more Critical
Look at your work through fresh eyes. What are your favourite images? What photography and post-processing techniques do you like to use? How can you improve?
Editing your photos ruthlessly. What are the ten best photos that you have taken in the past 12 months? Don’t be afraid to ask someone else’s opinion. It’s often difficult to be objective about your own work. Does a style emerge when you look at your best images? Does this suggest fresh ideas for future projects?
Imagine that an art director or magazine editor is looking at your portfolio. What might they say about your photos? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Don’t be over critical. It’s just a thought exercise that may help you obtain a clear idea of your strengths and the skills you’d like to develop.
Here’s an idea. Once you’ve selected your best photos why not send them to a photography magazine? They may be published, earning you some money or a prize. Seeing your images in print is always a good feeling, especially the first time.
Photos of mine used in a spread in EOS magazine.
5. Enter a photography Competition
There are plenty out there. Just beware of competitions that are rights grabs (there is a list of approved photography competitions here). Most competitions have tight briefs that can inspire and focus you. The prizes can be pretty good too.
6. Set a photographic project
Set a project, something you can return to again throughout the year. Projects give you direction. For example, this year I’ve been experimenting with long exposure photography. This new way of taking photos has encouraged me to view my local area with new eyes, evaluating different locations for their photographic potential.
Projects are good because they give you chance to develop your skills in a certain area. The photos taken at the end of the project will be better than the ones taken at the beginning. You’ll also need a good variety of images to create a cohesive set of photos. Thinking long term gives you time to think up ideas and execute them.
A long exposure photo taken a few minutes walk from my front door. Choosing a project that you can carry out close to home can save you time and motivate you to complete the project.
Have you ever been stuck in a creative rut? How did you get out of it? Leave your comments below, I’m sure we will see some good ideas.