Last week I was speaking with an amateur photographer who told me that he’s been struggling for photographic inspiration and ideas lately.
He reflected that he felt like he’d become something of a lazy photographer and was in a bit of a rut – always photographing the same things in the same ways.
I shared a number of ideas from my own experiences of seeking photographic inspiration (some of which I’ll share below) but it struck me halfway through the conversation that a lot of the ideas I was suggesting was actually about him limiting himself in his photography in some way – in order to find inspiration.
Let me explain by looking at 5 photography ideas that I shared with him.
Note: by no means am I suggesting that these are the only ways to get inspired – they’ve just helped me at times.
5 Ideas to Kick Start Your Photography Again
1. Fixed Focal Length Shoots
I wrote about this recently in a challenge here on dPS. The idea is to choose a focal length and only shoot at it for a period of time.
While many of us have become used to (or reliant upon) shooting with a zoom lens – there’s something about shooting with a prime lens (fixed focal length) that makes you think about the composition of your shots a little more.
So choose a focal length that you don’t shoot at much and stick with it for a week and see how you go (and if you don’t have a prime lens to do this with – use your zoom but simply stick at one end of its range for a week).
Variation: another option for this is to choose a lens that you may not have used much before. Many photographers buy multiple lenses but then stick with one, ignoring others. Alternatively swap lenses with a friend for a week or even try renting one for a short period.
2. The 1 Roll Rule
I was out shooting with a photography enthusiast friend recently and was amazed at the number of shots he took. At one point we were photographing his son (who was quietly playing with lego) and my friend shot off a burst of 20 or so shots at 4 frames per second.
Considering his son was sitting still and only really moving his fingers for those few seconds I did wonder at the need to shoot so many shots.
Of course I also know the temptation – shooting heaps of shots is easy to do. It doesn’t really cost you anything (although fills up hard drives pretty quick) and some might think it increases your chance of capturing the perfect moment.
The problem is that when you rely upon the quantity of your shots to improve the quality of your images that you can easily become lazy and complacent.
Here’s my challenge – next time you go out on a shoot – limit yourself to 36 shots (the number in a roll of film). In doing so you’ll find yourself really thinking about your shots. You’ll time them better and make sure each shot counts!
3. Turn Off the Live Preview/Review
Speaking of old school film photography – do you remember that feeling when you got to the end of shooting a roll of film and wondering how your shots would turn out?
You’d put the film in for processing and wait a week or so for them to be ready and then go to the photo lab with anticipation… rip open the package and go through them one by one – reliving the moments you captured a week or so ago?
I love that digital photography gives us instant access to the images we take – but sometimes I wonder if by having that little screen on the back of our cameras we might be missing something from the experience of photography?
There are certainly advantages of being able to quickly review our shots or compose them on a larger screen – but similarly to my point above on shooting lots of shots I wonder if the instant review could be making us a little lazy? We’ll just keep taking shots till we’re happy.
I personally also find myself looking at my camera a whole lot more than I am looking at the scene in front of me and wonder if some of the joy of the moment could be lost.
So try this – turn off your LCD screen. Some cameras let you do this in your settings while others might take a little self discipline to do this – but I’d be interested to see what impact it has.
4. Manual Focus
Shooting recently with the Leica M9-P (a fully manually focused camera) reminded me how little I shoot with manual focus these days.
I admit it – I’ve become lazy and have relied too much upon Auto Focus.
Shooting with the M9-P also reminded me how focusing manually can open up all kinds of possibilities. Just thinking about your focus rather than relying upon those 21 auto focal points your camera has (or how every many there are) puts you in a different frame of mind.
I find shooting in manual focusing mode makes me slow down a little, consider my shots and get a little more creative.
So switch to Manual Focusing and see what impact it has on your photography! I’d love to hear how it goes for you in comments below.
5. Limit Yourself to an Aperture
I was flicking through some of my shots recently in Lightroom and as the images opened in front of me I noticed something that I’d not considered much before. Almost every shot I’d taken over a month or so had been taken at the maximum aperture of the lenses I was using.
I was shooting wide open almost all of the time.
There were a number of reasons for this – partly I shoot a fair bit indoors where the extra aperture lets more light in – but I guess it is also part of my style. I love narrow depth of field shots – bokeh is my friend.
However I wondered whether by shooting wide open so much I perhaps was ignoring other possibilities. Perhaps some of my portrait work would have been better if I shot with a smaller aperture and included more in focused backgrounds to give my subjects context (environmental portraits).
For the next week I began to shoot with a smaller Aperture – it was challenging at first and I wanted to give up – but at the end of the week I realised I was again being more thoughtful with my shots and had expanded the possibilities of styles at my fingertips when shooting.
Share Your Ideas for Finding Photographic Inspiration
These are about half of the ideas I shared with my friend – I’ll write up the others in the coming week – but in the mean time I’d love to hear ideas from others too. What do you do when you find yourself in a photography rut needing inspiration?