I’m not sure about you, but I believe everyone is a creative being, with moments of brilliant inspiration. At times we’re unstoppable—regardless of the outlet through which we find freedom of expression.
That’s one side of the coin anyway.
The other is when absolutely nothing happens. The times we can’t seem to drum up an ounce of imagination—instead, we’re stuck in the doldrums. We dig deep but come up with nada…zilch…a big fat zero.
I think we’ve all been there. I know for sure I have. Below you’ll find seven ways that help me break through a photography rut and land on my feet again.
1. Choose a location
Choosing a specific location can act just like a shot in the arm. Force yourself to stand in one place for an hour, and snap a single photograph every three or four minutes. Some images may have people walking down city streets, while others highlight architecture and rush-hour traffic.
2. Pick a time of day
Light makes all the difference when capturing an image with your camera. Depending on the time of day or weather conditions, it can be harsh, uneven, flat, golden, or blue. Sometimes, the best photographs happen when we play with shadows. Take your camera out when the sun’s going down or coming up and see what fun you can have. Even in the middle of the afternoon, practice with f-stops and shutter speeds to achieve unusual results.
3. Look upwards
A friend of mine takes her pictures straight-on. Every single time. Her photos are lovely, don’t get me wrong. Many of them are frameable. I like to look up though. What’s over my head? What’s below my feet? What happens when I turn around and take a photo of something behind me? Trying different exercises like these will help you capture an entirely different picture than anyone else does—even the person standing right next to you.
4. Think about copy space
I sell hundreds of photos on stock sites—places like Dreamstime, Shutterstock, Bigstock, Alamy, Adobe, and others. Many buyers are advertising their business. They need what’s known in the business as copy space—room inside the frame where they can place words describing a product or service. Placing your object in the left or right-hand corner, or at the top or bottom of your frame leaves plenty of negative space.
5. Concentrate on patterns
Patterns and textures are all around us. We just don’t pay attention to them. Set a time limit—maybe a day, a week, even a month—where that’s the only thing you photograph. Get up close and personal with brick, stone, shadow, light, lace, silk, coffee beans spilled onto an old farmer’s table, the inside of a grape, the skin of an orange, rose petals, wood grain, an old lock on someone’s front door, cracks in the sidewalk—I think you get the idea. When we pay attention to these little details in life and nature, we end up with wonderful pictures. Fine art often comes out of projects like this.
6. Walk down a new street
I love to ride my bike. I used to jump on my 24-speed and spend hours exploring. I always seemed to turn right at the end of my street, which made friends laugh at me all the time. “You know that this street goes left, too, right?” they’d tease. I guess it was a habit of mine, something I was comfortable with.
One day, surprisingly, I turned left. It was as if a whole new world appeared in front of me. I noticed things I hadn’t before—because I was always riding away from them. By simply changing my direction, I had a plethora of brand-new material to photograph. Today, I make sure to walk down a different street, turn a new corner, find interesting paths when I’m out with my camera.
7. Favorite or least favorite color
What’s your favorite color? Mine is red…I think. I sure photograph enough of it. My least favorite colors are yellow, orange, and brown. It’s hard to photograph colors I’d rather stay away from, so this exercise is a tough one for me.
I learned, with practice, that yellow and orange are everywhere around me, and that they’re pretty colors to work with. Now, they remind me of a sunrise on the beach when the promise of a new day is in front of me.
With the color brown, I learned more about patterns and textures than ever before. A tree trunk in winter looks like death warmed over. When newly fallen snow is tucked between the grain of its bark though, I think of sleep, hibernation, a solitude that brings peace and quiet to my world.
Here’s the thing: Everyone comes to a point in life when things become a little stale. When we take the time to shake things up, turn things around, try something we’ve never tried before, magical things can and do happen.
What are you waiting for? Grab your camera, go make your own magic. You won’t be sorry.
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