Burnout. We all face it at some point in our life. In photography, it can ebb and flow until you don’t want to pick up your camera. Ever. I can only speak from experience, but I know that every December, after the craziness of fall, the last thing I want to do is take another picture. I struggle with this at other times during the year, but I think that the winter is by far the worst. Not only do I feel stagnant and uninspired, but the weather is typically gloomy which for means zero beautiful golden light and zero inspiration. This year, I decided I wasn’t going to
get in the burnout slump, so I set out from December on doing certain things to avoid it…. the results: so far it is working!

1. Read A Book

It doesn’t necessarily have to be photography related, it can be inspirational or even a fictional book that gets your imagination going. I read several books the last few months: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, The Artist Rule by Christine Valters Paintner and a fun novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. Each one of those books helped me in some way to either escape a little or to do a some soul searching. If you aren’t into books, maybe try a magazine. There are lots out there from Click to Kinfolk (both of which have fabulous eye candy to get those inspirational juices flowing).

9 tips for pulling yourself out of a creative rut by photographer Jennifer Dell

2. Join In

Either online or in person. I love visiting Clickin Moms daily to check out what’s going on with all the photographers there. I also have a network of photographers locally that I love to meet up with and share ideas, stories or just chat about being the mom of two crazy kids. Having those relationships when you are feeling low about your work, can do wonders. I have a very close photographer friend that I can count on for this and having her friendship definitely gets me through the burnout stages much quicker. We meet for lunch and even plan projects together. Try it. Don’t be afraid to branch out and meet new people, you never know when someone you meet might inspire you to greater heights.

3. Start A Project

I have started several projects for this year. A 365, a monthly blog circle and a personal project that I’ve given myself. I may or may not share the work publicly from my project, but I have assigned myself specific themes that are things I need to improve on. I started a pinterest board with gorgeous art work and photographs and I chose 12 things that I loved about the work and I divided it up into monthly assignments. For example, I’ve been wanting to get more movement in my images, so one month I am going to work solely on showing movement through photos. I also want to be more of a rule breaker (this is the thing I struggle with most) so that is another month… You get the idea. By having a project you keep momentum and drive and it’s hard to break that, even when you feel uninspired.

9 tips for pulling yourself out of a creative rut by photographer Jennifer Dell

4. Learn Something New

If you take the time to learn a new technique or to study a new concept you are going to push yourself and broaden your abilities. Maybe start with a simple concept that isn’t directly photography related, like color theory. There are so many concepts out there that can definitely help you to break the funk and be excited to apply your new findings to your work.

5. Keep a Journal

Write, draw, doodle, whatever. Just keep a notebook full of things that you want to do. Whether it be far off dreams that you want to accomplish or maybe just an idea for your next shoot. By writing or drawing it out, you are putting it out there officially and acknowledging your goals. Speaking of goals…

9 tips for pulling yourself out of a creative rut by photographer Jennifer Dell

6. Set Goals

These don’t have to be strict goals. Maybe you want to be published one day. You will never do this if you don’t set the goal and put yourself out there. Do not be afraid of rejection. I face that on a daily basis as an artist and a business owner. Take it in stride and move on โ€“ meet your goals and once you do, you will feel this amazing sense of achievement that can only inspire you further.

7. Go Somewhere

Visit a museum, take your kids to the zoo, make a picnic or even take a short vacation. There are places out there that will inspire you, you just have to find them. I know that I feel the most inspired at the beach. It is my happy place and when I feel blah, I schedule time at the beach… both for myself and to shoot. I always come away feeling refreshed and ready to go. Also, every January I go to Imaging USA and this is always a great way to start off the year.

9 tips for pulling yourself out of a creative rut by photographer Jennifer Dell

8. You Time

Take some time for yourself. Make it a practice to set aside time each day or week that you focus on yourself. Being a Mom, a business owner, a photographer, etc can take its toll and there is no better way to beat that than by getting some quality time with yourself. Maybe go to a coffee shop and read (see #1) or go see a movie, whatever it is, make sure it is something completely and totally selfish and makes YOU feel better. When you feel better/happier your work is sure to reflect that.

9. Inspiration boards

I have a board on Pinterest that is full of inspiration for shoots. From color palettes to textures and locations. I pin artwork, color swatches, feelings, quotes, clothing, you name it, if it inspires me, it gets pinned. If you aren’t into Pinterest you can still make an inspirational board on your own! In college we would just take poster boards and cut out photos, draw, create typography and more and then glue it all down together. Anything goes. You might find this exercise so rewarding that you do it quite often. By having a visual display of your findings you can more easily channel your creative thoughts and be more productive which leaves little time for burnout.

9 tips for pulling yourself out of a creative rut by photographer Jennifer Dell

So the next time you are feeling like you are teetering on burnout, try some of the above tips. It is important to feel refreshed and renewed, both personally and in your work… take time to nourish your soul and you will see the results in your work as well!

9 tips for pulling yourself out of a creative rut by photographer Jennifer Dell