Are You in a Photography Rut? 11 Tips to Get Out of It!

Are You in a Photography Rut? 11 Tips to Get Out of It!

Every photographer hits a wall at one point or another. Here are a few tips to keep things fresh and new.

1. Try something new, get out of your comfort zone. You’ve been photographing nature for years? Try some street photography!

2. Meet other photographers and go on photo walks. It doesn’t have to be a large group. Get together with two or three other people who share the same passion and experiment with different photography genres. Meet regularly and choose a different theme each time: Street photography one week, landscape photography the next! You will learn something new from fellow photographers and getting together will help keep the passion for photography alive.

3. If you own a DSLR, try renting a new lens for a weekend to experiment with something totally different. It can be a fisheye or a macro lens, a special effect lens or a super telephoto. They are big investments and renting for a weekend or a few days is quite affordable and the best way to know if you are ready to make the investment. Try your local camera store or any reputable online rental services such as Check for special deals.

4. Write a list of things you’ve never photographed before and make it a point to learn the techniques to achieve those shots. I’ve been doing this for a while and my list still includes a lot of interesting things to discover such as panoramic photography or time lapse. I recently discovered macro photography and it opened a whole new world of possibilities in my own backyard. I discover something new every time I put the macro lens on my camera! There are many techniques you can learn that don’t require any new equipment and such as light trails, light painting, etc. Just be open to trying new things.

I recently discovered macro photography and it's been so much fun. I can go out in my own backyard for a few minutes and come back with treasures. Shot with the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens (handheld!)

5. Get you hands on a film camera and a roll of film and limit yourself to 36 exposures for a day. You will learn the importance of getting it right in camera. If nothing else, you will realize how incredibly flexible digital really is!

6. Pick a theme and get out on your own. You can pick to only shoot things that are yellow, just feet, people with hats, dogs… The sky is the limit. This exercise will help you see things differently and the results may surprise you.

7. Mentor someone. Give a camera to a child. Take them out to shoot. You may spark a life-long passion and you may learn a thing or two about yourself in the process.

8. Give back to your community, volunteer to photograph a local event for a charity for example.

9. If you can afford it, sign up for a photography workshop in a field you are passionate about or to learn something completely new.

10. Start a project that will force you to shoot more, such as a 365 day project. Share your project through social media or a blog. The more you shoot, the more you are going to want to shoot. Push yourself and set a goal to put all those images in a book when you are done. Pat yourself in the back, it’s a big accomplishment!

11. Look at the work of others. They may be famous or unknown, the goal is not to copy their work but to draw inspiration from it.

This list is non exhaustive, please add some suggestions in the comments. Happy shooting!

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Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

Some Older Comments

  • Santhosh July 26, 2011 11:16 pm

    @ Valerie jardin - Thanks for being generous to inspire us .

  • Malcolm July 23, 2011 07:27 am

    We have been in our back yard with a macro lens 100mm f2.8 and had hope to share a picture but I can't work out how to upload a jpg here?

    But we had great fun taking pictures of butterflies, bees and other bugs. really impressed with the picture at the top Valerie. Thank you.

  • Ed Letts July 23, 2011 04:20 am

    @ Arthur Thanks! I will give that a try next fireworks we go to.

  • Bob Ogden July 23, 2011 04:09 am

    Dave Says:
    July 16th, 2011 at 3:05 am

    Regarding #5 above on using film, an alternative is to get yourself a very small capacity card, I still have my 256Mb that came with one of my cameras, don’t take extras and it’ll force you to focus on fewer but higher quality shots.

    The only thing wrong with this is that you can still delete and re-shoot. Actually, you could shoot a thousand shots in a day.
    Can't be done with film. Once you push the shutter release, you're committed. No going back.

  • KenR July 23, 2011 01:13 am

    Great tips! I really believe in No. 7. Showing someone and explaining photo basics sometimes renews your own thoughts and creativity. I recently gave an old PnS camera to my 13 year old daughter and went on a nature photo shoot to show her the basics. Her eagerness and unbiased creativity captured some amazing shots. It was fun and refreshing!

  • MandyD July 22, 2011 04:05 pm

    I loved this article, as it is easy to get into a rut and do the same things over and over. I recently bought my son a camera, and we have had some fun trying out his ideas.
    Also, a 365 day project, and even a 52 day one have been a bit much for my boy to try out (he is only 9), so we came up with what he calls 'a plant project'. He has put a bean in some wet cotton wool to germinate, and is photographing the changes every second day. When the bean has sprouted we will put all the photos on a fast slide show to see the changes.

  • Arthur LoPrinzo July 22, 2011 12:20 pm

    @ED You might want to try this for capturing fireworks; ISO 200 @ f16, set speed for 30 sec., WB @ daylight or flash or 5000K. This will record 30 sec burst of fireworks, the typical show will release 3-5 mortars in that 30 sec. time frame. With this method you can create your own finale. If mortars are being shot at a faster pace, cut exposure time to 20 seconds or less. A 20 minute show can now be captured by only taking 80-100 exposures using these longer exposure times. I've tried this method several times with good results. Of course this method requires a steady tripod. ENJOY!

  • AJ July 22, 2011 05:29 am

    Great article.

    I was pretty much hitting the rut and your article just gave me the push i needed to go out and explore further.

    Thanks a ton.

  • Sweet Ronit July 22, 2011 05:07 am

    Excellent article! Renting a lens is something that you don't always think of, but it can really help. It's super cheap at my local camera shop, and they even apply the cost of the rental to a new lens if you end up wanting to invest in it. Love tip #4 too - my next technique to master is panning.

    And thank you for #7 and #8! I've been doing those for the past year, and nothing is more inspiring:

    I also love to flip through fashion and magazines - I always get ideas after looking at images.

  • Mary Kolencik July 22, 2011 03:27 am

    When I am going on a trip, I look through flickr, tourist books, and all over the internet to find pictures of the area I'll be visiting. Then I try to find those spots to duplicate those pictures. Along the way, I find other things, other areas that I didn't expect to find. So it's not bad to try to copy what you see in photos that you like, because in the process of figuring out how to make the copy, you are likely to see your own exciting pictures.

  • Dave Heaps July 22, 2011 02:54 am

    Great article, we all get in a rut from one time to another.

    I recommend joining up with one or more of the free photography groups or clubs in your area. I belong to several and most have an event such as a photowalk or free instruction on a monthly basis which is a great way to learn and network with others who love photography.

  • Al July 22, 2011 02:33 am

    Always nice to move out of your comfort zone - thanks for the new ideas!

  • Madison Raine July 19, 2011 07:30 am

    @ Ed
    ok, thanks for telling me. Reminds me when I tried taking photos of lightning. It was very tiring.

  • Ed Letts July 19, 2011 07:21 am

    @Madison It wasn't that bad. I failed to mention that one of the other keys to getting these shots was the use of sequential shooting which accounts for the high number of photos but especially with fireworks a shot a fraction of a sec earlier or later can make a big different.

  • paul July 18, 2011 06:40 am

    I only have a 35mm slr with an old 28-80 lens. Thankfully, It's the good one with half decent optics! It can't do macro work though, and as a student I'm stuck for money! However, I have found that since ditching the digital, my photos are much, much nicer. Having only 36 shots, which cost money to process, really makes you think about the composition. I've never run out of ideas since!

  • Luke July 17, 2011 12:47 pm

    I recently did #4, Time Lapse. I had always liked watching time lapse videos and wondered how hard it would be to do. I ended up getting an intervalometer and researched how to make the videos. I wrote a post on my blog, describing how I did it: It was a lot of fun!

  • Valerie jardin July 17, 2011 01:25 am

    @Beth regarding the picture in the article: Canon 100mm f/2.8 handheld, natural light ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/40 sec. Hope this helps! If you shoot handheld, set your camera on rapid fire to avoid camera shake when you press the shutter. You will miss some but, if you are really steady, you will get some sharp shots. I use a tripod for work everyday so I enjoy the flexibility of handheld when I shoot for fun!

  • Madison Raine July 17, 2011 12:07 am

    @ Ed,
    it must of been tiring to take all those photos. I can't wait until next year to try again on taking pictures of fireworks.

    @ Richard,
    Thanks, I think I saw that article before but I'll go back and look again. Thanks.

  • scottc July 16, 2011 10:15 pm

    Experiment with different situations and settings and learn more about the capabilities of your camera.

  • Kathie M Thomas July 16, 2011 09:14 pm

    Set yourself a different theme each week or fortnight and find images to match that theme. It could even be the letters of the alphabet - a new one each fortnight.

  • Adam July 16, 2011 06:07 pm

    Posted link on my Fanpage :-) Nice ideas we sometimes forget about. Is not only about photography, but sometimes we need get out of comfort zone in our life with other things too.

  • Beth A July 16, 2011 03:15 pm


    Can you please share the settings you used when shooting the above photo of the bug with your Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. I have the same lens but am having difficulty learning it...many of my photos come out blurry. I'm a beginner with a lens that might be over my head. Help. :)


  • Richard Hall July 16, 2011 03:15 pm

    @ Madison, if you search in DPS there is a great article "how to photograph fireworks" if you search around more there are other articles on how to shoot almost anything, this is a brilliant site

  • Ed Letts July 16, 2011 01:27 pm

    @Madison It was easy just took over 600 photos using every possible setting on the camera, went home and looked through them all and found 10-15 that were good :-) As I mentioned under my favorite one the actual photos of the fireworks were pretty boring until I started to look inside the photos and found parts to crop to. Then I started finding lots of cool stuff.

  • Jim July 16, 2011 12:03 pm

    When I feel I'm in a rut, I go to my public library and start digging around in the photography, the visual art Section and The Glamour/Fashion section. Never fails, as I come out with a few new projects in mind.

  • Nicole July 16, 2011 09:01 am

    I did #10 to get out of a photography rut. It was challenging, and mostly good. However, what I found was that afterwards, my rut was actually twice as bad. I've probably picked up a camera a handful of times in the last 6 months. So, while it was good, it also had it's downside. Now I'm trying to find a new way to get out of a rut! :-p

  • Nomadic Samuel July 16, 2011 06:22 am

    These are great ideas! I think challenging yourself as a photographer is very important. If you normally take street photography, macro or landscapes try something different outside of your genre. Not only will it make you a more versatile photographer but it might rekindle the passion that has since waned.

  • oxymind July 16, 2011 06:05 am

    Great pieces of advice. Soon, I will also do my own 365 project, and i might start on my birthday, 8th August.

  • Kiran @ July 16, 2011 05:15 am

    Thanks for sharing these amazing tips. I am always trying to go above my comfort zone. I'll perhaps try street photography to change it up a little bit. And I love your idea about renting lenses. I can't wait to get my hands on a macro and shoot in my garden as well :) xoxo

  • chris July 16, 2011 05:01 am

    When I was in a rut, I made a photo scavenger hunt for myself using this website:

    The description of the words I generated and the "rules" I came up with can be seen here:

    The results can be seen here:

    (hope this doesn't get marked as spam because of the links)

  • Madison Raine July 16, 2011 05:00 am

    Actually have a bit more to add. Don't really have friends that are serious in photography.

    @Ed, I took a quick glance at your flickr page, and those photos of fireworks are amazing! How did you shoot them? When I tried shooting I turned the ISO down and had a firework setting witch was like 8 seconds of long exposure but they're nothing compared to yours, but I didn't use a SLR. But next year I will be. But how did you do that??

    Sorry if I am bothering anyone with my responses, I can't get in contact with my old photography teacher and none of my friends are talented in photography. Sorry to my friends if that's sounded mean... But everyone on here are so talented, I go to y'alls websites and are blown away. :)

  • Madison Raine July 16, 2011 04:55 am

    @ Valerie,
    well I do want to invest my money in lens next. I was worried about the MP because the camera I have now is 9.5, but I saw your photos so I think I'll listen to you. The cheapest way for me to get the camera I want I by buying a packaged deal, it comes with a lens and bag case thing and memory card. Witch all I care about is the camera and lens buy it's pretty much getting a free bag and I don't mind having extra memory cards. Thankyou again. You've been very helpful. Your photos are very beautiful.

    @Ed, that's a good idea, doing a 52 week project instead. Very good idea.

  • Ed Letts July 16, 2011 04:00 am

    A 365 day project is out of the question for me. 20 days in I'm frustrated that I'm so far behind and I abandon the project. What's been working for me now is more like a 52 week project. I try to come up with at least one photo a week worthy of posting to my flickr. For me that means shooting a bunch of photos all week whenever I can and critiquing them weekly to find one I really like. This has been much more doable.

  • Indra Dian Supitra July 16, 2011 03:49 am

    What a great Photography website. I spend hours on the net reading webs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it.
    but i think we should master our own camera first and then do these photography tips
    and don't forget to practice and practice
    I have bookmarked, Dugg, and I joined the RSS subscription. Thanks! ….
    cheers from indonesia :)

  • Valerie jardin July 16, 2011 03:48 am

    @Madison, I would not worry so much about the pixel count of the camera body to decide to buy. Good lenses are far more important than the camera itself. If you can, buy the camera body only, without the kit lens. I would recommend spending $ in a good lens, even a used one. Good luck and have fun!

  • James July 16, 2011 03:34 am

    I love these articles that encourage people to get out there and shoot more.
    It can be tough, at times, for us non-Pro's with busy schedules to shoot more.
    Great read!

  • Dave July 16, 2011 03:05 am

    Regarding #5 above on using film, an alternative is to get yourself a very small capacity card, I still have my 256Mb that came with one of my cameras, don't take extras and it'll force you to focus on fewer but higher quality shots.

  • Madison Raine July 16, 2011 02:53 am

    @ Valerie Jardin,
    thanks, I'll look into it once I get my camera. I was going to get a Nikon D3000, because all I have is less than $500 dollars to spend, and I really can't save up money, do you know where I can get the D3100, as cheap as the D3000? If you don't know, that's fine. I'm just trying to see if I can get a camera with more megapixel than 10.2.

    If anyone else can help, I will be very happy.

  • Valerie jardin July 16, 2011 02:41 am

    Thanks everyone!
    @Madison, if you are in the US, is an option. There are other reputable camera gear rental companies. Your local camera store may also be able to help you.

  • Madison Raine July 16, 2011 02:27 am

    I am in the USA, thanks, I'll look it up, I just didn't know people could actually rent lens. But I would defilently want to rent a fisheye lens or macro lens, I don't have my camera yet, due to shipping issues but once I do and have the extra money, I'll defilently do this. Thanks for the website :)

  • Erik Kerstenbeck July 16, 2011 01:47 am

    Sorry for the repeat posts - something was up with my server


  • Christina July 16, 2011 01:43 am

    I do this from time-to-time....only bugs...only diagonal lines... Alas, my job manipulates too much of my time to let me truly get out of my rut. :-/

    Not sure exactly where you're located, but my local camera shop in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, rents lenses all the time. I have never rented one, but I know people that have. Additionally, I know of a US-based website that rents lenses, too >> Check with your local shop and look on the internet . Or the US site might know of other international sites for you.

  • Carolyn Chentnik July 16, 2011 01:03 am

    Great article, Valerie! I've definitely been thinking about renting a lens.

    my page

  • Erik Kerstenbeck July 16, 2011 12:49 am


    This is a wonderful article with excellent suggestions. I opften find myself taking the same genre of images over and over...same lens, angle, vision...a Rut! To snap it, sometimes I throw all preconceptions out the window and head to the studio for some experimental fun. No pressure, no expectations other than discovery.

    The Macro suggestion is superb! There is no need to travel far, just look around you and try different angles on one subject until magic happens. I shot this simple butterfly not far from my home - I think it is just cool!

  • Erik Kerstenbeck July 16, 2011 12:45 am


    Great article with tons of super suggestions! I often find myself taking the same genre of pictures over and again. Sam perspective, lens, angle....I would call it a Rut! I often try to snap it by going to th studio and trying some experimental work. I have no expectations or pressure, just discovery.

    The Macor suggestion is great as well - not travel involved, just look around and you can find any number of things to shoot! This butterfly was from the San Diego Zoo....not too far from home! Cool!

  • Erik Kerstenbeck July 16, 2011 12:41 am


    This is a wonderful article with great suggestions! I often find myself taking the same picture over and again although perhaps different locations and subject...same technique. RUT!

    I try to snap that with a bit of experimental work in the studio - here I have no expectations except discovery.

    As suggested, looking at the Macro world helps too - no need to travel far if anywhere. It is all around! For example, this simple butterfly was close to my home at the Zoo. Cool!

  • Erik Kerstenbeck July 16, 2011 12:38 am


    I love this article and the excellent suggestions! Often I find myself taking the same genre of images over and over, same angles, lens, perspective but perhaps a different location. RUT!

    To snap out, I head to the studio for some play time - experimental stuff. No expectations other than learning and discovery. Also, as suggested, look Macro! No need to travel, just got outside and look around! This image was taken at a local Butterfly Exhibit...I think it is cool. Just look at ordinary things through with a different view and amazing things will happen!

  • Erik Kerstenbeck July 16, 2011 12:34 am


    I love this article. It is easy to find yourself in a rut, or repeating the same genre over and over. I like to travel and most of my shots are from interesting domestic and international locations. However, without an unlimited bankroll this is not possible full time.

    Often I turn inward and head to my Studio and set up some experimental shots. I can spend hours just playing around and trying new things. This is energizing since I dont need to travel and am in control of the set.

    Also, as suggested above, Macro. You do not need to travel far if at all for killer Macro shots! This one was from a Butterfly exhibit not far from my home in San Diego. Just look around, use unique angles and you will execute amazing pictures!

  • Madison Raine July 16, 2011 12:32 am

    #3 says rent a lens, how do you rent a lens?
    I would defilently want to rent one, oneday.

    #4, I actually did do, I created a list, and now I'm just waiting to get my DSLR.

    I might join a photography club next year, so I can shoot with other people. I think it would be fun.

    #10, I tried doing a 365 project, but I just couldn't take a picture everyday. But now I'm inspired to do it again, but not until Augest.

    #11, I look on flickr at others peoples work, mainly so I can see how in portraits peoples faces are lit up. And the shading and all that good stuff.

    Good article :)