Slumps are nothing new to me. In fact, just yesterday morning it was snowing here in Portland and Chris stood in shock as I passively watched the fluffy flakes fall, not even glancing towards my camera. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break and not be the constant photographer — to just sit back and enjoy the moment — but if it ever turns into a slump I know I’m in the danger zone.
Whether you’re just coming out of a short break or fell face-first into a slump, I put together this list of photography tips for anyone who needs a little help getting back into the saddle. That means me, too. And because I know all too well the pitfalls of lofty goals, the following list is of things you could do today. Like, right after reading this post.
So let’s get to it!
1. Take your camera everywhere! — And I really do mean everywhere. Even to the bathroom. Often times when I leave mine at home I’ll find myself wishing I hadn’t, especially when I think to myself, “Oh, it’s just a walk to the market.”
2. Change Your POV — Shoot from the ground, the hip, the tabletop or above. Look up in the sky (No, literally!), look down at your feet. Get a step-ladder and look down on your subjects. If you’re feeling blah about photography, the worst thing you can do is just hold your camera to your eye and click.
3. Go Monochrome — One thing I love most about shooting in black-and-white is how it forces me to really hone my composition; I start looking at light and shapes a lot differently when I know there will be no colors to carry my photograph.
4. Grab a Friend — I’m 99% more likely to get out of the house and capture great images if I have someone to go out with. Even when I just get together for lunch and talk shop with very little actual shooting, I always come home feeling refreshed and not just ready, but eager to pick my camera back up.
5. Be Bold — I know a lot of photographers are shy about shooting in public, which is exactly why you need to go out this week and do that, exactly. It’ll only stop feeling awkward when you start doing it regularly. Once you conquer the fear of shooting in public you’ll literally have a whole world of photographic possibilities opened up to you.
6. Makes Friends with a Beginner — The thing we lack most when we’re in a slump is exactly what a beginner is brimming with: Passion. Their excitement is infectious and you’re more likely to have your heart set ablaze again if you take a beginner under your wing. It’s a 2-in-1 deal because they make for great models, too! If you don’t know anyone who’s just starting out, you can use my preferred method of just shoving a close friend down the photography rabbit hole yourself. :)
7. Look For Themes — My theme is pretty obvious: I love cats. I also love graffiti, light and shadow. Organized collections are great fun, too. Whatever interests you, try to center a theme around it, even if it’s as simple as shooting your feet or what you eat for breakfast every morning. That way, the question of what to shoot is already answered and the problem now becomes where, which is much easier to solve.
8. Start a Project — There are loads of projects photographers take part in every year, each ranging in commitment from year-long photo-a-day challenges to weekly scavenger hunts. The first I ever took part in was a 365 self-portrait project and while it was tough, it taught me a lot about photography and kept me going even when I wanted nothing to do with taking pictures.
9. Get out of the House — I’m naturally inclined to stay inside, so most of my slumps occur in the winter time when I’m extra likely to not leave the house. Sometimes all it takes is a walk through a neighborhood I’ve never been through to reignite my enthusiasm.
10. Get off the Internet — Google Reader and Flickr can do you just as much harm as good. For me, it can get to a point where I’m too busy fawning over other people’s work to make my own. You guys rock, but sometimes you just need to shut the world out and do your thang.
11. Start a Photoblog — You don’t have to post every day, but having somewhere to collect your thoughts and see your ducks lined up a row will help motivate you to keep going! This could even be something as simple as a Flickr, if you don’t already have one.
12. Open Up the Vault — Dig deep into your archives, to a time when you weren’t in a slump. What was different back then? Did something physical change (like your location)? Emotional? Granted, the latter will be much harder to tackle, but looking back to a time when you were happy with your work will help you figure out what the problem is.
13. No Pressure — Sometimes the only thing that makes a creative rut worse is the constant stress of trying to get back in the game. Just relax, and realize you’re not alone in this. Take a big, deep breath and erase the word ‘failure’ from your vocabulary. The more you worry about being creative, the harder it’ll be to get your groove back.
14. Shoot For You — And nobody else. Be brazenly unapologetic about what excites you, even if it excites no one else or everybody else.
15. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot! — Go hog wild! You will probably be unsatisfied at first but the goal is to work through those feelings and keep going. If you need an extra kick in the pants, watch this animated speech by Ira Glass. I pull it up on my browser at least once a month and it almost brings me to tears every time because it’s just so raw and so true.
That’s all I got for today. If you have any other tips to share, drop it in the comment box below — I’d love for this list to grow.
Great advice! I love #10. I have a bad habbit of this. My goal is to really get out there and start shooting anything and everything that I find interesting and get away from the computer! Thanks for the list. It’s very inspiring!
How quickly do our motivations slump when we start comparing ourselves to others! Thank you for writing such inspiring words.
I am ridiculously happy to have found your site today. Having only started taking pictures a year and a half ago, I know that there’s so much to learn. So thank you for presenting this challenge In such an adventurous and positive light.
Also, thank you for being so dang approachable. How refreshing!
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Love this list, Kim. Especially as January was a tad bit slump-y. I’m coming out of it, though!! February is all mine.
These are excellent suggestions! I find exploring a new niche is something that charges me up as well. Also, take off the beloved lens and try one that’s been gathering dust! (or in your case, camera too, haha)
I looooved reading this, so many great tips… and thank you for reminding me of Ira Glass, his words are so inspirational.
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I needed this post, Kim! I’m fearful of shooting in public by myself. If someone is with me or I’m a tourist in a new city I have no problem. Weird. I need to start thinking of myself as a tourist in my own town. That was one of my goals for this year. Lose the fear.
I’m with Jonathan on the book. Your words always inspire me to get shooting.
By the way had a browse through your posts, love your style of shooting and adore the locations, a veritable treasure trove methinks.
May I suggest another use one camera and lens only, be that conventional film or digital. I have owned over a period several ricoh grd’s fixed but stunning lens macro to die for and a real do it all focal length. Just saying…
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Thanks for your kind words, Shooter! And that’s a great tip, too — Sometimes sticking to one camera/lens can help foster creativity, whereas having too many toys will stretch your creativity thin.
What great tips! Thank you so much for sharing! I love your photos, btw.
Sometimes, I think you read my mind. Just when I’m feeling there’s no hope, you post something brill like this. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Kim. Usually I find myself almost straying away from my archives, thinking the work I do now is what matters, but you’ve got me thinking. I want to go back and see what it was about the time/place/mindset my favorite pictures were taken in that made them my favorite…. gosh, so much food for thought here! Thank you for the words of wisdom.
Thank YOU Katie! Knowing that these posts are helping others has been an inspiration to me, too.
And there most certainly absolutely definitely IS hope! It’s been great seeing you post more in the New Year. I hope you keep it up, you’re one of my favorites!
Very well written as usual. #12 struck a chord with me. I recently went through my archives and was surprised that I was actually garnering some inspiration from…my old self. Hah! By the way, if you wrote a book, I’d buy it. Hopefully a signed copy… =)
You’re too kind, Jonathan. :) I find myself going back through my archives lately, too. Even if I cringe at some of the photos, I always walk away remembering how utterly in love with photography I was. Instant kick in the butt!
This is exactly the reason I decided to start a 365. I’ve already fallen in love with so many shots that I’ve taken that I would have otherwise never had the opportunity to make.
I loooove that Ira Glass bit. It’s so easy to lose track of that when you see those who have been doing this (or any other skill) for 15+ years and make it look easy. It’s fair to say I’ve been in a bit of slump myself, and I’m definitely working on getting out more. It just makes it easier if you have something new to look at! But also a regular photo challenge forces you to see your everyday surroundings differently, which can be incredibly helpful.
These are incredibly helpful tips! I find myself in photography ruts way too often. You are right, it is all about being bold. I am terrified about being judged when I photograph in public, so I usually only go to places where crowds/people are lacking. I need to get over that!
I know how you feel. I went to Lovely’s Fifty Fifty for the first time recently and the tables are so close together it was impossible to not feel our neighbors look on as I snapped away! Shooting my food didn’t make their pizza taste any less awesome, though, so it’s all good. :)
But I think it’s a lot easier to get away with photographing in a city like Portland — a couple weeks ago Chris and I stopped at Broadway Florist and we both had cameras out. When we went inside the lady behind the counter said she could’ve sworn we were European tourists! I’m sure lots of people think I’m just another tourist whenever I’m snapping away. On our walk home we talked about how assuming that kind of role play could be helpful to overcome the fear of shooting in public, until you’re comfortable to just say “To heck with it!” and go for the gold.
Thank you so much for this post â™¥