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Here are four steps to rebooting your creativity and desire to do more photography with some 15-minute simple exercises.
I get it, you’ve been at work all day, and it’s been stressful. Maybe there are kids to look after and dinner to cook as well. Perhaps a dog to take for a run or a family dinner to attend. There are all kinds of reasons why you don’t have the time or energy to pick up your camera and shoot.
When we don’t want to do something, we focus on all the reasons why it’s too hard – it takes too long to drive somewhere, the light is wrong, it’s raining, the battery is flat and so on. It’s easy to tell ourselves a story that allows us to talk our way out of doing something, especially when there aren’t any major consequences. Don’t get up early in the morning and miss the spectacular sunrise? Life goes on.
But the longer you leave your camera sitting in its bag gathering dust, the easier it becomes to talk yourself out of picking it up again. Months or even years go by. Maybe you think about it now and then and feel a niggling guilt or just sad.
Well, there is good news. With a small amount of effort, you can take steps to reboot your creativity and enthusiasm for photography again.
So here are the four simple steps I promised earlier.
Get your gear out, clean it, and charge the batteries. Check that it’s all still working and present. Wipe the memory cards clean.
Do everything you need to do in order to have your gear in peak working condition so you can grab it and go. The trick here is to remove the first mental block stopping you from shooting. If your gear is all prepped, then you don’t have anything stopping you there.
Keep it simple and find some space at home where you can shoot. Work with objects you have at hand. Put together a small still life studio, maybe using window light or a flash, whatever you have nearby.
By keeping it close to home and working with what you have close at hand, this removes the mental block about having to go out, needing to take the time, or spending more money. Making a small still life studio doesn’t need much, a neutral background and a base surface, some light and shadow and you are done.
Having something quick and easy to put together (maybe a couple of sheets of white cardboard or foam core) that you can easily store out of the way reduces the resistance to setting up a shoot. Even better if you can leave it set up for a few days while working on this project.
No one has enough time in the day, there are always things to do, places to be, demands on our time. However, for this exercise, I challenge you to give yourself a calendar appointment every day for a week. When you get home from work, instead of sitting down in front of the TV, or immersing yourself in social media or whatever it is you do to chill out, instead make a date with your camera.
If you have done Step One and Two, you have everything you need in place but the hardest is Step Three. Give yourself permission to take just 15 minutes out of your day and shoot. This length of time is long enough to be able to create some images but not so long it will interfere with your day too much. Let’s face it, by the time you make yourself a coffee and drink it, that probably takes just as long.
Here is the really critical thing – IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT! In fact, it will be really hard for the first couple of days. The point of this exercise is for you to have your camera in your hands again, and to get you shooting something, anything.
If it has been a while since you’ve done any photography, you will probably find this quite hard. Shooting still life isn’t everyone’s cup of tea either but it is the simplest combination of factors to get you up and going. Maybe you decide to shoot the same item in different ways or using different lighting. It doesn’t matter. No one else needs to ever see these images, you just need to do it.
Maybe you decide to shoot all the different kinds of cutlery and utensils in the house. You could do close-ups of labels on wine bottles. Maybe you have some smooth white eggs and one brown freckled one. Or maybe you make up a bowl of ice cream and pour chocolate sauce and sprinkles on it.
Your cat or dog is asleep in the sun and you do close-ups of their noses or paws. Maybe your kids are building something random with Lego. Maybe there are some flowers in the garden or some stones found on the footpath. If you have a macro lens or setting you can experiment with things up close and abstract. Maybe you go for a walk around the block or to the park instead.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter so long as you take the time to point your camera at it and take time to do it every day for a week – seven days.
By setting yourself both an achievable goal and a reasonable limit, it is easier to trick your brain into saying, “Okay we can do this” instead of thinking,”Oh this is just too hard”.
The point of this exercise is simple, get your camera in your hands and get in the habit of shooting again. More importantly, it also helps overcome the mental blocks you put in place when you think something is too hard or will take too long. This puts some structure in place and makes it easy for you to allocate a small achievable time slot every day to just shoot, and not care about the outcome. Just the fact you are shooting is what’s really important.
It doesn’t really matter if you follow the framework laid out here, or do something completely different, so long as you take some time every day for a period and commit to picking up your camera and shooting.
Perhaps it helps you to share your process with a friend or via social media. You might choose to set a goal of posting one image a day for a week and let your friends know so that if you miss a day they can hold you accountable.
However you do it, in whatever way works for you, go through the steps, and set yourself up to be as prepared as possible. Make the commitment in your mind of “just 15 minutes” and see what happens…I bet you spend a lot longer and have more fun than you expect.
Once you overcome the inertia of sitting on the sofa, the challenge and fun of creating a composition in a small time frame begins to bubble up again.
A couple of years ago I undertook a 21 Days of Creativity course, which laid out steps to remove distractions from our lives, prepare both our physical and mental spaces, clean out the cobwebs and make creating a fun and easy thing to do, rather than a chore. This “15 Minutes A Day” exercise was the most valuable step I got out of the course. I shot every day for a month, as after the first week I was enjoying the challenge too much to let it go. Plus the added bonus of making some really good and fun images, several of which I have included in this article.
Once you have done the preparation, got your gear sorted, and a space to work in, the only thing you have to do, is pick up your camera and shoot. Just for 15 minutes.
Go on, give it a try, I dare you.