5 Ways to Get Out of Your Creative Slump

me in sunglassesA few days ago I posted a question on Facebook and Twitter. That question was, "As photographers, what do you do to get inspired when your creativity is going stale?" The response was fantastic. At first I didn't know where I wanted to go with the information I gathered from that question. However, I put more thought into it and realized I didn't have to pick a direction, the information itself was invaluable and the interaction from the submitters was remarkable as they shared suggestions and bounced ideas off each other. Based on that, I decided that I would share the ideas with you as my way of giving back and inspiring the creativity of the photography community. That having been said, lets get underway:

1. Just Shoot. A lot of the photographers I talked to said that they simply go shoot something when they are feeling stuck. There's no creative release like shooting for yourself with no clients to impress and no deadlines. Some of the suggestions were:

(more after the jump)

• Shoot random things around you at any given time. One photographer even mentioned he spent an hour shooting burst shots of his feet as he walked. Shooting random or seemingly boring things will help hone your photographer's eye.

• Move to different surroundings and take photos. If you're from the country, head into the city to shoot, and vice-versa. The point here is to break out of your environment and try shooting things you don't see on a daily basis.

• Take up macro. Often time's we're too busy to appreciate the little things or stop and smell the roses, so this is your chance to stop and shoot them. Try taking photos of flowers, insects, rain drops, tree bark, and other intricate textures up close. Control your depth of field and capture the fine details.

• Change your genre. If you're a portrait photographer, try shooting landscapes. If you're a pet photographer, try taking pictures of people. If you're a wedding photographer, try shooting seniors or babies. The goal is to broaden your range and increase your versatility...which will help make you a better photographer.

• Make a photo game. These suggestions I found really interesting because they involve no planning and are completely improvised. One idea was to grab an egg timer, set it for a pre-determined amount of time, then start driving. When the egg timer goes off, stop the car and take a picture of something within 10 feet of your vehicle. Another idea was to grab a random book off the shelf, pick a random page, go to the second word in the second paragraph, then spend the afternoon shooting that word. These two games should disrupt your thought pattern and force you to think of something different...definitely some great advice.

• Have a contest. Grab some photographer buddies, a model, lighting equipment, camera body, and one lens. Tell each photographer that they have 30 minutes to set up the equipment any way they like, shoot the model, and edit one photo for a final judging. Have some impartial friends do the judging...best photo wins. This contest teaches you to work quickly under tight deadlines to make a great portrait which is an invaluable skill as a professional photographer.

2. See what other photographers are shooting. Go on the internet and take a look at the websites of some of your favorite photographers. Take a look at what they are shooting and how they are shooting it, then go out and shoot the same thing. Obviously you shouldn't copy their work, but instead find your own way to shoot it. Try a new environment, experiment with composition, and use another lighting set up so your shots look completely different.

3. Read a book or a magazine. Often times, throwing your mind into a different medium will help your mind relax, allowing the creativity to come back in one big flood. The submitters suggested many things to read including cook books, stories, and magazines (other than photography magazines). Some of my favorites magazines are ones that revolve around travel, outdoors, and lifestyle/fitness. One photographer listened to "Charlotte's Web" on tape with her kids and when it ended there was a great synopsis of the photographers life and his accomplishments, which inspired her a great deal. This just goes to show that inspiration can come from anywhere, so keep your eyes (and ears) open.

4. Listen to some music. I don't know about you, but when I listen to music I get really into it, like I'm connecting with the artist. Some of the music I listen to has a lot of emotion, snappy beats, bizarre sound effects, or a powerful mood that just gets my mind working. Often times I can listen to a song and see an image in my mind I would like to create that goes along with the melody. As a result, I'm always on the lookout for a new song or artist to help me relax and start the flow of ideas.

5. Spend time with your family. A surprising number of photographers said they got inspiration by putting the camera down and just spending time and spending time with their family – most notably, their children. Since children naturally have a vivid imagination, playing with them can often cause our minds revert back to simpler times and kick-start our imaginations as well. One thing I like to do is play with my dogs. I love rolling around on the floor, wrestling with them, and playing fetch. There's just something about watching those slobbery mutts that makes me smile and really takes the edge off.

So there you have it. I hope something in this post inspired you or gave you some ideas. I learned a lot talking with other photographers and I'll definitely use some of these suggestions to spark my creativity going forward.