At one point or another, we all stall. Whether it is because we are drowned by our daily routine or because we simply lose interest in doing what we love. We stall and it’s not quite that simple to get back on track. On the contrary, we dig ourselves deeper. We sit cozily in front of our computers, read about gear and people we admire. Why do we admire them? It’s because they keep on doing while we stall, while we stay put and touch nothing unless absolutely necessary. It’s because they do everything we don’t.
So how about you stop doing nothing? It’s time to start admiring yourself, because you can be just as creative and successful as anyone else!
1) Go (to) Places
Matthew Jordan Smith, one of the best known Beauty, Fashion and Celebrity photographers in the USA, once said you should never, ever stop yourself from going somewhere. It doesn’t really matter if it’s an exhibition you don’t want to visit, or a free concert that you would rather avoid even if the band paid you to come. The reason is simple – we get ideas by experiencing. As long as you keep an open mind, you never know just what can throw some crazy, amazing idea at you – it could be the hairstyle of the lead singer, or a piece of art you don’t understand in the exhibition. Maybe, on your way out, you will bump into a ballet dancer and hurt her ankle, which will obviously make her very angry, as she had a rehearsal planned in an hour, which will push you into photographing angry performers. Or flying dogs. Maybe she will swear at you so violently, you will make a series of photographs about two-faced people. You never know just what will make that awesome idea pop up in your head. It could be something completely irrelevant, but if you’re not out there, one thing is sure – nothing will happen.
2) Go Through Your Old Work
You may think that everything you’ve done up until today is completely useless and your best days are ahead of you. Most of the time, you will be right. But it’s so worth it to be, even if very rarely, wrong. You may find that a particular photograph has, over the years, matured like a bottle of good wine – maybe because people dress differently, or because people themselves are different than the ones in your photograph. Some work gets worse with time, some gets much, much better. We call it context. And it can mean a world of difference.
There’s another reason, too. Just like with other photographer’s works, or even artists overall, your old photographs are likely to give you ideas, and while not all of them are guaranteed to be good, a start is all you need to get back on your creative feet. Try it. Don’t throw something away just because it doesn’t look that good on the back LCD screen of your camera. You may be surprised by what you’ve done before, and even more so by what is still ahead.
3) Look Through Other Photographer’s Work
It is often that I hear photographers don’t want to copy something that has already been done, and I believe it is something to respect for. However, ideas are viral. They spread like viruses, ever changing, ever adapting. Whatever the idea you saw someone bring to life, you would do it differently, and it would be a different idea. It works much like going to places, really – all you need is to see, to experience something strong. Do you really think you are so much like the author who’s work you are looking through that you will come up with the exact same feelings and thoughts when you analyze his work? Our analysis are based on our experience, and our experience is never the same, nor are our conclusions. You are different, and with these differences new ideas are born.
4) Try Out Something New in Life
Ideas come with inspiration, inspiration comes with new experience, and new experience comes with… well, something new. Just as you must go to places and meet people, you should also treat yourself with new activities, whether it’s jogging or taking up yoga classes. Not only will that bring more happiness, activity and people into your life, it will also fill you up with even more ideas of what you can do. It works much like a roller coaster – every time you try out something new in life, even read a book or go to theater instead of cinema, you’ll find yourself picking up speed as you fly over ground, but in order not to stop and stall again, you need to keep yourself busy! So how about those yoga classes and jogging?
5) Stay Busy
Activity brings more activity, but as soon as you stop, it is again quite hard for many of us to get busy once more. Having your day planned helps a lot – you know what you must do, and then you know when you have time for everything that’s a pleasure, like photography or (I must write this, I’m sure all of you will understand!) spending time with your wife and kids! Think of it as an investment, though. You cook dinner today, you get a trip to mountains tomorrow. Put all of that together and you get more ideas than you initially thought you were capable of coming up with, and I bet something will come up in your head while you cook that meal (because it’s just that boring and you don’t need your camera to do it)!
Have you noticed your style change with time? Your taste, your preference towards one or another look of your photographs. With time, you search for different things than before, and you notice different things. It is a natural progress, influenced by what we see and what we experience. However, this process is often quite slow, so why not try to change deliberately? Try out what you haven’t before!
Experiment before, during and after taking your photograph, go to different places and meet different people. Maybe you’ll find a passion for minimalism, or maybe street photography? Experimenting leads to new experience, which in turn leads to new ideas, so keep an open mind and see what you are capable off! Even if your experiments turn out to be a complete waste of time, in truth it’s not. Professionals make mistakes and amateurish photographs, too, and lots of them (we just try not to show such photographs)! Not everything turns out the way you want initially, but the point is to keep on trying and not letting yourself feel bad if you think you failed. Failure, often, teaches us more than success.
7) Don’t Read About Gear Too Much!
We’ve talked about this, of course. And then we talked more, and more, and here we are talking about it again. Why? Well, it’s rather simple, really – you still love reading about gear, don’t you? I thought so. It’s nothing to be ashamed of – we all read reviews before buying something. Heck, we all read reviews even if we are never going to afford that piece of gear! And that is OK. After all, we are photographers, we are supposed to know these things.
The point is, however, to stop when it’s enough. Don’t make it a daily habit to read each and every review you can find, each and every one you’ve read many, many times before – it is a waste of time. Instead, go through other photographer’s work, or your own, or just go out and spend time with your friends shooting or fishing, which, you guessed right, will give you more ideas, or help you relax a little and fall in love with photography again, passionately.
8) You Don’t Always Need an Idea
Some think everything you do should have a very deep, hidden meaning. Some important idea. While it’s true very often, there are days when the last thing we need is more problems and deep meanings, more things to think about. We get tired – work, routine, everyday problems wear us out again and again. Then, feelings come in. Simple aesthetics, beauty therapy, photographs that make you feel better just because you’re looking at them – they trigger your emotions and personal associations, memories, instead of thoughts and need to analyze. They are like fresh air, a trip to a forest or a marvelous sunset on a beach.
Some will say such photographs are worthless and shallow, empty almost. But maybe, before filling up with ideas and thoughts, you need emptiness, some air to breathe easily, some happiness? Just go out and shoot. Don’t think, don’t worry about your camera settings and lens choice. Admire what’s around you and, every now and then, take a picture. Keeping your mind clean is a good thing, you don’t want to burn out.
Nothing changes unless you make it change. None of this will matter if you stall again. The only reason to have ideas is to be creative, and being creative, in our case, means photography. Got your brand new D700 or D800? The menus have not changed. The autofocus still focuses, and pixels are still pixels, even if there’s more of them than before. Ideas are fueled by ideas and one often leads to another – remember why you need your camera and get to work! It’s that easy. You’ll be full of ideas in no time.