Have you lost your zest for photography? Feeling you’re in a rut, with no inspiration to get out and shoot? It’s a challenge every photographer has faced at some point in their lives.
So, what’s the solution? Leave your camera in its bag and hope that inspiration will randomly strike at some point? Not a chance! I’ve been shooting and blogging new photos every single day for almost ten years now, so I’ve been through many patches like this. My answer – keep shooting and your motivation and inspiration will soon return.
Here are some of the things I do to keep my photographic motivation and inspiration alive along the way….
1. Always Carry a Camera
This one’s a no-brainer if you’re going to find your photographic mojo! How are you going to take great photos if you don’t have a camera with you?
It’s so easy these days, as virtually everyone has a camera built into their mobile phone. My choice though is to always carry my mirrorless camera with at least a small prime lens attached. It’s compact and lightweight and capable of much greater image quality than any camera phone.
2. Visit Somewhere New for Photography Inspiration
If I want to refresh my photography inspiration, one of the simplest ways is to visit somewhere new with my camera, to give me fresh scenes to photograph. This doesn’t have to be a major expedition to somewhere exotic, like Antarctica. It could be as simple as going to a nearby village you’ve never visited before, or exploring an unfamiliar area of the local park. Of course, if you have the budget to travel to Antarctica, go for it!
What’s your favorite genre of photography? Perhaps wildlife, or landscapes? Why not refresh your inspiration by photographing something different? It’ll make you think about how you take your photos and may make you think in a different way about your regular subjects
4. Get out of Your Comfort Zone
Of course, if you really want to stretch yourself, why not pick a subject that wild horses couldn’t persuade you to shoot under normal circumstances?! Personally, portrait photography is completely out of my comfort zone. But on the occasions I’ve tried it and had good results, it’s given my confidence and motivation a huge boost.
5. Shoot for a Theme
If you feel your photographic habits lack focus why not set yourself a theme to shoot for? It could be something as simple as going for a photowalk and shooting subjects of a particular shape or color. There’s a new photography challenge over in the Photoblog Forum every week. Why not take part? It could be just what you need to refresh your photography inspiration!
Alternatively, you might choose an ongoing theme that will sustain you over several weeks or months. You could commit to publishing at least one photo a week for a year, or perhaps pick a subject you can document over time. I’ve been working on a project to photograph the churches in the City of London over the last three years – you can take a look at my progress so far here.
6. Start a 365 Project
If you’re up for something more expansive, why not consider a 365 project? This is the ultimate in photographic dedication and it isn’t for everyone. However, as I’ve shown, once you get into the routine it can be a great way to sustain your photographic inspiration. I shared some of my 365 project tips in this article a few months back.
If you’re really up for this, why not take a look at the Photoblog 365 Photo Ideas calendar. It’s chock full of great subjects to shoot and is really handy for those days when inspiration just doesn’t strike. Remember, you can start your 365 Project any time – it doesn’t need to be the 1st of January!
7. Try Some New Camera Gear
Yes, I know it’s easy to say new gear is the solution to everything, but sometimes it really can work! I’m not advocating you go out and spend a fortune on an expensive new camera. But perhaps there’s a lens you’ve been meaning to try? You could buy an inexpensive 50mm prime lens second hand on eBay or even hire your dream lens for a week if purchasing is out of the question. I think all photographers are prone to GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) at times, but sometimes a new piece of equipment can be just the boost you need.
8. Try a New Technique
Think of a photographic technique you’ve never tried before. It could be long exposures, shooting underwater, time-lapse photography – the possibilities are endless. If you’re stuck in a rut, why not use that as an excuse to try something new? To get you started, here are some great articles on shooting long exposures, bokeh photography, Rembrandt lighting, photographing the Milky Way, HDR photography and light painting!
9. Read Your Camera Manual
This might not sound like a hugely inspirational thing to do, but you may find it enormously helpful. Modern cameras are chock full of settings and tools, most of which we either ignore or have no idea they exist. Spend a few minutes each day reading a page or two of your camera’s manual and you may well find it has abilities you were unaware of. Don’t forget to keep your camera handy while you’re doing this so you can try things out!
10. Take an Adventure in Post-Processing
The huge array of options in photo processing software, be it Lightroom, Photoshop or anything else, can be overwhelming. The best way to find out what works (aside from self-education – see tip number 21) is to play with the different tools and just have some fun! If you’re trying things out on a crucial image do make a copy before you start to avoid making any changes you can’t undo. From there, the world is your oyster.
Related Article: Lightroom Tutorials
11. Watch a Film
Are you wondering what this has to do with photography? While the Director always takes the glory when it comes to the Oscars, the unique look of every film is also down to the Director of Photography, or Cinematographer. They often select the lenses used for each scene and make creative decisions about how they’re shot. Next time you watch a film, look for details such as the framing, depth of field and lighting – you may spot something that inspires you to translate this into your own photography! Here’s a good list of movies for photographers on our forum.
12. Deconstruct an Image That Inspires You
Think for a moment about the pictures you admire the most. Have you ever considered how the photographer created them? Take a moment to deconstruct how your favorite image was made. For instance, what sort of aperture was used? How was the scene lit? Did the photographer use a fast or slow shutter speed? Once you’ve done that you’ll have learned a lot and it may inspire you to move onto my next tip….
13. Reinterpret a Well-Known Image
Is there an image that particularly inspires you? It doesn’t even need to be a photograph – it could be a painting by an old master. Now go and reinterpret the scene using your camera. You might choose to recreate it faithfully, but you could also add your own personal twist. Glyn Dewis has written a great book all about this concept and how it can help you to find your own photography style.
14. Do Some People Watching
The human race is an eternal source of photography inspiration and fascination. When you have some free time, go somewhere that’s well populated and do some people watching. Look at their behaviors, characteristics, and activities, noting which of these would make great photos. Think about how you might go about capturing this on camera, then have a go yourself! If you’re after tips on street photography do take a look here at KeenanRIVALS’ great article on the subject.
15. Find Photography Inspiration in the Work of Others
One of the simplest ways to find inspiration is to look at the work of other great photographers. Places like Flickr, PhotoBlog, and 500PX are excellent resources but you could just as easily take a look at the Magnum Photos website. Moreover, you can browse the local library or bookshops to see which photography books they carry.
Alternatively, you could seek out an exhibition to attend. It doesn’t have to be photography either – the work of painters and sculptors can be just as inspiring.
Whichever source you choose, don’t just hurry through images quickly. Take time to really absorb each one and think about why you do or don’t like it.
16. Change Your Shooting Habits
It’s so easy to get into fixed habits when it comes to shooting. Perhaps you always tend to shoot at the same time of day. Or it could be you use one lens most of the time and always photograph from a standing position. Any of these things are easy to change so try experimenting with different styles and settings. If you habitually shoot in Aperture Priority mode, why not try Shutter Priority or Manual next time you’re out with your camera?
17. Share Your Images with Others to Receive Feedback
Social media is a fantastic way to share your pictures with others. PhotoBlog, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and 500px are all excellent outlets for photo sharing and feedback from fellow users can be a great boost to your motivation.
18. Start a Blog
If you’re really serious about sharing your photos, why not start a blog? Services like Blogger and Photoblog are ideal for this. It’s entirely up to you whether you choose to compose text to accompany your pictures, or simply let them do the talking without words. Many blogging sites have a community section too, where you can strike up inspiring conversations with like-minded people. I’ve recently written an article taking you through the simple process of creating a blog on Photoblog, so what are you waiting for?!
19. Join a Camera Club
Photography can be a solitary pastime and it’s easy to feel isolated, especially if your inspiration is waning. If this chimes with you, why not seek out a local camera club to join? Meeting up with other like-minded souls can be so inspiring and it’s a great way to make new friends too!
20. Be Inspired by Bad Weather!
Are you a fairweather photographer? Does your camera stay in its case if the rain comes down? If so, you’re missing out on some great opportunities. Sunshine and blue skies may be very pleasant, but bad weather can offer much more inspiring and dramatic photo opportunities. So, pull on your waterproofs and find some protection for your camera (a free hotel shower cap can be handy for this!) and get out there!
21. Further Your Education
If the weather is really bad and you just can’t get out with your camera, why not indulge in a little self-education indoors, in the warm?
There are so many options out there on the internet these days. If you prefer to learn visually there are services like Kelby One and Lynda, as well as a multitude of YouTube tutorials to learn new techniques. For folks who learn best through reading, there’s a vast array of books available, but I would strongly suggest you stop by Craft and Vision where photographer David DuChemin has curated a wonderful collection of inspirational photography eBooks. What if you spend lots of time commuting to work? Well, then I would suggest you try some of the many photography podcasts out there. I’ve curated a list of my favorites here. I listen to all of these and they offer an endless boost to my photographic inspiration.
22. Print Your Pictures
With the advent of digital photography, it’s become normal for most people’s photos to live on their computer or smartphone. Gone are the days when we habitually printed all of our photos, and I think the world is a poorer place as a result. There’s something so inspiring about seeing and handling one of your own pictures, printed on paper, canvas or any other medium. If you don’t own a photo printer it’s so easy to use an online service to upload your pictures and receive the prints in the post. Why not make a pledge to print your best photo each month for a year? You’ll have an amazing collection to show to friends and family afterwards.
23. Join a Photowalk
While sometimes it’s good to treat photography as a solitary pastime it can also be great fun to join up with others for a group photowalk. Now’s a great time to consider this as the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk is coming up on the 6th October. There are photo walks planned right across the globe so why not hop over to the website and see if you can find one near you?
24. Take a Serious Selfie!
Pretty much everyone who has a smartphone has taken a selfie of themselves at some point but there’s a limit to how artistic these can be when you’re shooting at arm’s length or with a selfie stick. Why not crack open your tripod and camera to create a more serious self portrait instead? It’ll make you think about the settings required for the right exposure and how to achieve accurate focus so it’s a great intellectual exercise too. Take a look at these self portrait ideas for some great advice on how to capture your dream selfie!
25. Become a Journalist for the Day
Is there an event coming up near you that might be photographically interesting? If so, why not try your hand at a little photojournalism? It could be your local village fete or carnival, or even a demonstration. Try to find multiple ways in which to shoot the action – perhaps some wide shots of the scene, followed by some closer images of the individuals or groups involved. The buzz of shooting in an evolving situation can offer all sorts of photographic inspiration. If it’s a demonstration or march, be careful not to put yourself in danger! You could even submit your photos to your local newspaper and perhaps find yourself in print.
26. Shoot a Location Through the Seasons
Do you have a favorite location you like to visit regularly? Why not take your camera along and photograph it through the year? Creating a body of work, showing the changing seasons can be very inspiring. You could even make a book of your pictures at the end of the year.
27. Seek out Inspiration in the Mundane
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking everything you photograph needs to be extraordinary. This is far from true. Take some time now and then to seek photographic inspiration from ordinary objects and scenes around you. Look for a new angle on something you’ve photographed before or go in really close with a macro lens to find hidden textures. Or you could even try the next tip….
28. Take 50 Photos in the Same Place
It’s best to save this one for when you have a bit of spare time as it could take a while…
Pick a location – absolutely anywhere. Don’t think too hard about it. You could pick a room in your house or a spot outside on the street. If you want to go really random, travel a couple of stops on the bus or metro, get off, then walk one hundred paces away and stop there, no matter what you find! Now challenge yourself to take fifty photos of whatever you find in this location.
You’ll get through the first dozen quite quickly, shooting whatever is most obvious. Then it becomes harder. Look for unusual angles on what you find. Go in close or shoot from far away. Lie on the ground (if it’s safe to do so, of course!) or shoot from above. Your aim is to wring every last photo opportunity from your location. As the obvious options are used up you’ll have to get more creative to find new angles. You may not end up with photos you’ll want to hang on your wall but it will teach you a huge lesson in how to find photography inspiration absolutely anywhere!
29. Limit Yourself
It’s easy to go out shooting with a huge bag containing your entire kit, just in case you need it all. This may feel like a sensible thing to do, as it gives you endless options. In all probability though, half the gear will stay in your bag unused, or else you’ll end up paralyzed by the vast array of choices… not to mention having an aching back from all the weight!
A better, and more inspirational, choice is to limit yourself in some way. This could mean using a single prime lens (or shooting at one focal length with a zoom), or even simply using a single aperture all day and making your creative choices accordingly. I frequently go out with just a 50mm lens. Whenever I do this I generally find I feel more inspired than if I allow myself too many choices.
30. Just Shoot!
If you’re in a bit of a creative rut and have lost your mojo the most important advice I can offer is this last tip – just go out and shoot! Leaving your camera in its bag at home will get you nowhere, and it’s much easier to photograph your way out of a drought than wait for photography inspiration to strike. In the nine years I’ve been shooting daily I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had that ‘can’t be bothered’ feeling. Once I get out there with my camera though, the creative juices start flowing and I almost always find something that inspires me and refreshes my motivation.
If I can do this for nine years, what are you waiting for?! Go on, try out some of the tips I’ve shared and if you find one of them particularly helpful, do share your experiences in the comments below. Perhaps you may even want to blog about your photography adventures and share with all of us.
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