It’s not uncommon to be stuck, feeling unsure, bored or just plain uninspired as a photographer. Hell, I feel like that at the moment, and the light in my city has been looking incredible recently. I feel guilty that I haven’t taken the time to do photography on those beautiful days, but at the same time, I’ve felt very uninspired and unsure.
Many of us creatives go through this. It’s not rare to hear of an artist feeling stuck with their craft. Many describe it as painful and debilitating. I’m currently experiencing it and what often causes it for me is the abundance of styles, locations and cameras I can go to and use to do photography. A large number of options basically paralyses me from freely walking out of my home with a camera to shoot. This impacts my vision, motivation and interest and leaves me not doing any photography for weeks on end.
My personal style is quite simple, really. The elevator pitch for my photography style is “I look for geometry and an element of illusionism and surrealism”. More simply put, I look for shapes and weird illusions that are as coherent as possible.
Often those photos are hard to compose in candid situations and even harder to get right when they do occur, so I tend to come home empty-handed after many of my photo walks. This also inhibits my motivation because I’m worried about spending time without an outcome. I suspect many of you out there have felt the same.
Alongside having too many options, many can also be plagued with the fear of not meeting their own expectations. The photos they produced may not align to their ‘brand’ or meet a standard they usually are creating. So with the crushing weight of choice mounted with the over-stimulation of planning and the fear of failing, it can be debilitating overthinking these things into inertia. I’m often stuck here too.
Unfortunately, society doesn’t help this either because it has developed into this state of providing us with and making us realise that we have so many options available to us that we get trapped wasting our time overthinking about what we want to do instead of just doing the thing we want to do. This becomes problematic and can even crush dreams. Well, maybe not crushing dreams, but the point is it can be an issue which places weight on the creative debilitating our creativity and stopping us from doing what we love.
So how do we get past all of this and focus on what we love doing most? In the article, I listed above, it outlines a book you can read, “The Art Of Choosing” but there are lots of them of the same style of keynotes. It’s almost debilitating trying to figure out which one is the best for you to start out with, so rather than being trapped by choices again, here are a few notes on how I deal with, what I call, photographers block.
You always have a camera and it has many uses
I use an Olympus Mark iii Mirror-less Camera as an easy go-to carry around camera. It’s not the best on the market, but it makes photography easy due to its compact size. I use the kit lens that comes with it, and I haven’t invested into it beyond the stock kit. The camera fits in my carry bag quite easily, but sometimes I take it out to charge the battery or forget to pick it up on my way out to work which leaves me camera-less.
Luckily smartphone technology has dramatically improved and continues to grow, and the camera tech that comes along with them makes for a fantastic backup point and shoot camera. I have an iPhone XR, which does photographs just fine, and I tend to use my iPhone to take pictures strategically.
As fabulous as the smartphones are, I don’t really take photography as seriously if my Olympus isn’t in my hand, but what is useful is using the iPhone to test out ideas and scope out locations to come back to when I am out and about. I can take photographs at new areas I’ve discovered, use the in-built GPS tracker to relocate the location and head back there when I do have my camera on a day that suits the situation.
Your iPhone is a powerful tool and given its capabilities, there are apps such as Lightroom mobile and even Photoshop mobile which allow you to edit and test new ideas to the level of editing that you are comfortable with, with the photos you take. So not having the inspiration to do photography as a more serious level, this strategy should at least allow you to continue developing your photography while you work through you photographers block period. Hey, who knows, you may even find a new style or process which you turn into a photo project.
Stick to one thing
Getting swept up into what is trending in photography can easily be a debilitating trap. It’s critical to make sure that your focus is positioned to one style or a few styles which relate to each other. For example, I love geometry and ‘illusionism’.
Not all of my photographs work out to meet the criteria of those styles, but it’s usually my aim when I’m on a photo-walk. When I move through crowds and city streets, my focus is on finding those scenes which grab my attention and cause my imagination to bubble. Just focusing on that alone allows me to remove any concern or worry that I may not go home with anything worth sharing or adding to my ongoing projects.
Ignore the pull of trends beyond learning a new technique, and just focus on what you like and don’t count the likes on social media, focus on achieving what you’re most interested in producing.
Plan the time to take photos, but don’t try and plan the outcome
I call this ‘No braining’. Often I crush my motivation by overthinking the outcomes I want to achieve, and how quickly they need to come to be defined as success and how popular they are going to be when I put them all out there. This gets me nowhere and leaves me mentally exhausted, so I’m unfocused and disengaged when I’m on a Photowalk if I even make it out.
‘No Braining’ is essentially me putting my thoughts to one side, allowing myself to grab my camera and go without any expectations of the walk itself. It also allows me to focus on things like the exciting colours and shapes around me and further allows me gently looking and inspect for features in those shapes to highlight in a photo genuinely and curiously, rather than an expected one.
It’s hard to ignore the nagging voice in the back of your mind making harsh judgements of the outcome, sometimes I’m able to use it to try and take a better photo, but more often than not I have to ignore it because it’s what Ru Paul calls the inner saboteur.
It’s something I need to push past and overcome rather than listen to, so it may be something you need to do too. It’s not easy, and there are mountains of books dedicated to helping people get past it (my personal recommendation is ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck‘) but ultimately it comes down to aligning your focus to what you are doing, and not worrying about whether it’s good enough or not.
Mark Manson does a better job than me explaining it in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, which is why I highly recommend it. It’s done wonders for me. So your goal should really be to go out and take photos, and not worry about what those photos will be until you’ve taken them.
So, those are my three recommendations for getting past photographers block. I hoped they helped you find motivation to go out and shoot!
Thanks for reading