There was a time when I was stuck in a rut for eight long months and didn’t pick up my camera once.
It all started with a dreary winter. Dark, cold, wet days in the PNW are not conducive to productivity for this summer lovin’ natural light photographer!
When spring hit, I was so used to having my camera set aside that I went another couple of months without it. Let me tell you, this is not a good strategy to get out of a rut!
If you’re feeling those winter blues, my first suggestion is always to pull your camera out of hiding, battery charged, and leave it out in an obvious, high traffic area. Spring is such a refreshing and inspirational time of year. Here are some suggestions and exercises to help you “spring” right out of that winter rut!
1. Take advantage of the extra daylight hours.
The days are longer! The light is prettier! Step one, take your camera out of hiding and put it out in the open in a room with beautiful light.
Challenge yourself to take one photo every day at the same time. Document 7 days in a row of your kids getting ready for school, your husband getting home from work, your kids sleeping, or any other time that can inspire you to tell your family’s story.
2. Photograph yourself in the outdoors.
What about an environmental selfie in the great outdoors?
Pick a quiet location or challenge yourself to a busy place and capture yourself within it. Don’t worry about whether or not you’ll be able to use it as a profile picture or share it on your Instagram. This one will be just for you.
The best self portraits connect to the viewer. Remember that you are just picking yourself out of a rut. For this selfie, the intended viewer is YOU and you can use it to reconnect to yourself.
Now that the weather is getting nicer, let the sun inspire you to pop on a dress and create.
3. Go on a location scouting mission.
Scout a new location and show others how you create an image. Perhaps your new favourite spot is downtown where you can start challenging yourself to street photography?
Capture a pullback and a final image from a new favourite spot. Drag out friends or family, hire a model, take a landscape, or self portrait.
Sometimes it’s harder to learn and easier to teach. We all do things differently, so it’s refreshing to see a new perspective. Share your pullback to inspire yourself as well as others.
4. Stop and smell the roses.
The flowers are blooming! Bring two of your favourite lenses and challenge yourself to photograph a flower in 10 completely different ways.
Switch up your perspective, shoot for black and white, take a pullback, take a close up, and wait for a little bug to stroll by! I just gave you 5 possibilities, so you only have to come up with 5 more! This is a great activity to get that brain firing and force you to think creatively.
5. Play outside again!
Photograph your family at the park or in the backyard and try to create a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Use the same strategies you practiced when shooting the flower in 10 different ways to creatively document your family. There is no right or wrong way to do this.
6. Switch things up and put the camera down.
If you’re already doing a 365 or picking up your camera but still feel like you’re lacking creativity and inspiration, try putting your camera down.
While it’s contrary to my very first suggestion, it really can work! The trick here is to keep an allotment of time that you dedicate to photography. Don’t fill that time slot with chores or work. Instead, talk to other creatives in a video chat, read photography books, and jump on the forums.
Remain dedicated to photography in a way that doesn’t involve shooting. I bet that within the week, you’ll be inspired and itching to up your camera again!
7. Time for spring cleaning! Sell some gear.
My last suggestion is to change up your gear. Sell some lenses or other items you never use and purchase a new lens.
You don’t have to go all out. I recently purchased a vintage Sigma Mini-Wide II which is a manual 28mm f/2.8 macro lens for $20. Being manual focus, I am forced to slow down and be intentional. I love the bokeh and flare I can create with this lens!
Sometimes ruts can freeze our action. Especially with photography, an art where there is always something to learn, we can be pressured into continual tangible growth. We set big goals and get discouraged when we don’t feel like we are achieving them.
But the thing about big goals is that they are made up of many smaller action items. As long as you’re taking even the smallest step forward, you’re still growing and changing!