5 Things To Do When You’re in a Photo Rut

October 20, 2009

I’ve recently gone through a bit of a rut when it comes to my photography – feeling unmotivated to take pictures, and when I do, just feeling rather “meh” about the results. And so, here’s my list of suggestions on what to do when this happens to you.

1. Look through your old photos

Chances are, you’ve learned something about editing in the best month-year. Try looking through some of your old photos, find a photo that you liked before, but couldn’t seem to get to “pop” and re-edit it. For instance, I found this photo I took back in the winter of a pair of leaves:

Photowalk 2 - One last leaf

I opened it up, adjusted the layers, played around with the vintage scripts and added a texture to end up with this:

Playing around with an old photo

Added bonus of this is that you might see things that you’ve taken a photo of that you’d like to go back to. I was looking through photos I took at the beginning of the year and found this one:

365.11 - Photowalk2 - Snowy field

So I decided to go back now that it’s fall:

Photowalk 42 - Look Familiar?

What a difference a few seasons make.

2. Work on a blog

If you don’t have a blog, consider starting one. You don’t have to spend a lot of time – just get a free wordpress or blogger one if that’s all you feel like doing. Once you have a blog, start writing. Maybe no one will read at first (not too many people read this first entry here, believe me.), and start coming up with your own style. Maybe you want to just post a photo a day and talk about how you took it. Maybe you want to write tutorials about how you edit your photos. Maybe you just want to show off some of your favorite photos. Maybe you don’t want the blog to have anything to do with photography – whatever you want, do it. It’s a release, I promise.

Not only is writing in a blog a nice distraction from the photo taking and editing that you’re probably burnt out on, but it’s also a creative activity. I’m a firm believer in needing to exercise your creative juices. If you just sit and watch tv and play video games, you’re not exercising your creativity and it’s going to be harder and harder to pick that camera back up again.

3. Start a new project

I’m sure a lot of you found this website through the article I posted on DPS entitled 7 Photography Projects to Jumpstart Your Creativity. And there’s even more than what I mentioned there – challenge yourself to a new project.

4. Try master something

Whether it be capturing a certain type of image (like light trails, panning, or silhouettes) or a certain style of editing (high key, textures, or black & white), instead of getting overwhelmed at all your possibilities, instead focus on just one thing to really master.

5. Just walk away

Not forever, please. But, it’s ok to take a break. I was doing a 365 project this year (taking a photo every day for a year), but I realized it was hurting me more than helping me. I was bitter about having to take my camera out every day instead of actually enjoying it. I took a break. I didn’t take a single photo for almost a week (I’d taken at least one photo a day since getting my dSLR back in Feb ‘08).. and, it felt amazing. When I picked it back up again, it was to take photos of things I wanted to take photos of. I stopped resenting the camera and embraced it again. I know it sounds stupid and cheesy, but it’s true. Sometimes taking a break is what you really need.

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  • Some helpful ideas for working through creative block, thanks - and this site is a very useful resource too.

    I post my ideas for making pictures on my blog. If you're interested, follow the "Archives" link on the right hand side, then select "Technique" from the Categories listing under the dates, on the left.




  • Selene

    just popped by to say that your website is very inspiring and helpful, so I would just like to say thank you...

  • Luke

    6.) Have kids! - not for everyone I know but they seem to provide great motivation for keeping that camera in hand.

    Great post.



  • My favorite way out of a rut is to intentionally break all the rules for a while. It lets my brain breathe. I find that "normal" shots are easier afterward because I've let the creativeness flow a little.

    Another way to say it would be "when in doubt, go all modern art on it!" If you want to wear a beret, that's your choice.


    "Keep the Camera Steady"

    "Focus on your Subject"

  • Indeed - great suggestion AND examples. Especially that "keep the camera steady" one!

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