Every photographer hits a wall, or draws a blank at one point or another. I did so just recently. Here are a few tips that just might help you get out of that rut you’re in.
1) Walk Away: Not quit photography, just walk away and totally stop taking photographs for a few days. If you’re passionate about photography, the urge to start again will come back to you.
2) Work on your backend: What I mean by “backend” is the following. Work on items that are photography related, such as taking the time to update any software that you use on or PC or Mac for photography. During my rut I spent a day dedicated to updating my Canon camera’s software. Programs that I have currently on my Mac for my Canon camera are EOS Utility, Digital Photo Professional, and Image Browser. Programs usually have automatic update setting. But at times you have to manually check for updates either via the active program or via the camera’s manufacture’s website. As well I use Aperture for Mac and I had discovered at the time that it was due for a software update as well. Once I updated all my software I had discovered that the various programs worked better that before and made things a lot easier for me when processing photos. There are more programs that I use; I’m just listing the ones that needed an update during my rut.
3) Rethink your plans and goals: I had to revamp my photography goals and projects; the plans I had originally were ok. But could have been better, so after some thought and going over my current situation I had reprioritized what I wanted to do and get done. Some items got pushed back from my original timeline. And that is totally fine for it gave me more flexibility and room to work with. Better to push a project back than to totally abandon it I say. A perfect example of this is the following. One project that I was working on was that I was looking into getting a new external hard drive for my Macs backup system that I had originally set up. It’s a robust system that involves three (yes… three) external hard drives. One main/master back up drive and the other two drives are mirror copies of the back up drive. Basically it’s a back up for the main/master backup drive. If the Master back up drive fails, I have the other two drives that would take over in the process. In layman’s terms… No data or photo lost. Recently one of the back up drives had failed and crashed. Mind you of course the other two are still working. And took over the role of the failed drive. So my photo files and my entire Mac’s files and settings are still currently safe. I manage over 10,694 photos, and over 80 documents. Call me paranoid about my back up set up, but this current failure that I had did prove my point that it could happen. I was going to get a replacement drive a few days after the failure happened. But after some thought, I thought it would be best just to wait a few more weeks to get it. After all the other two drives are doing well, so no major rush on replacing the failed drive. Matter of fact I plan on getting two drives for a total of four. One main back up drive and three mirror drives will be my upgraded back up system.
4) Make the time to work on unfinished photography projects: An example of this is the following. Some time back about over a month ago. I purchased a used Canon EF 80-200 mm f/4.5-5.6 lens, at a very low price. I cleaned it up and thought to plan on testing it in the next couple of days after I purchased it. Well guess what? I never got around to testing the lens. And that fact alone totally pissed me off. It was basically never tested because I never took the time to do so. So I did exactly just that, make the time to test out that lens. No agenda, no particular item to photograph. Just go outside take a walk or a bus ride to any random location such as a park and just start shooting. To my pleasant surprise the lens works quite well and I did manage to capture some good photos in the process.
5) Use Instagram: In a recent blog post that I had written. I said. “When I post photos to Instagram. It’s usually a preview of an actual photo that I’m about to take. I gauge how well a photo is going to be responded to or “liked” by the amount of people that comment or like the Instagram photo. The responses to my Instagram posts are always a gauge of how well I did with my personal styling in selecting the subject that I choose to photograph.” This still holds true and as well the feedback that you get from liked photos does in a way tell you how good your photography idea was when you photographed the subject and posted it to Instagram.
6) Flickr: Use Flickr to review other people’s photography work, or get an idea of what you would like to do photography wise. Don’t copy the style the person used, try to kick it up a notch and use your personal style to what you had seen.
7) Redo your photography filing method: I had currently revamped my inventory ID number format. Granted… Not everything. Just start the new format on and after a certain date that you want to use as a starting point. On my Flickr page I now use a new photo inventory ID number that I had created. The Inventory ID number format was changed from IMG_xxxx to MMDDYYLC-IMGxxxx or MMDDYYLC-IMGxxxxF. “MMDDYY “ is Month, Date and Year. “LC” code is artist, author, and or creator initials. “IMGxxxx” code is image and four-digit sequence number. “F” code is “Final” for edited photos. And the image description is now within the exif data.
8) Photograph different items and subjects: Mix it up a bit. One day photograph random people, the next trees and birds in a park, or even do some street photography. The mix of different styles will keep you interested and makes a photography outing challenging and all the more fun to do.
9) If the photo that you had just taken is not to your liking, don’t worry about it: It happens… We all make mistakes. Lean from your mistakes and just try again, or go back to that location another day and just try again. No rush or worries about the process.
10) Sleep and rest: I had discovered that my best photography ideas come from a good nights sleep. Once you’re awake and ready to start your day. You just might have a new or better idea that what you had before you had gotten some rest.
11) Make a photography stylebook for yourself: A style guide or style book/manual is a set of standards for the writing and design of documents, either for general use or for a specific publication, organization or field. The use of a style guide provides uniformity in style and formatting within a document and across multiple documents. So why not make a stylebook for your photography? You like to take photos a certain way? Jot down notes into your stylebook on how you created the photo you just took. Shutter speed and ISO settings and so on. That way you have a quick reference to use if you forget a step when preparing to take a photograph. Some people will call it a “photography cheat sheet” too. Cheat sheet or Stylebook different name but it serves the same porpoise, and that porpoise is to be your personal style reference guide. I actually have two stylebooks myself. The first stylebook is a blank large soft cover notebook from Moleskine. I have reference notes, charts and so on all about photography in this book. It’s my personal guide if I need to review something. My second notebook is a much smaller, pocket-size soft cover notebook. This is the book that I take with me in my photography journeys. It too has reference notes, charts, white balance settings and notes on astrophotography that I use. And as well it’s good for writing down quick ideas on photography if one does come to you.
12) It happens: My final tip is probably the most simplest thing to remember. And that is “Getting into a rut happens to all of us.” We all hate it with a passion, but just remember that it will and does end all in good time.
It happens to the best of us, no one is immune from it. Or it may never happen at all. But once all is said and done and you get past your photography rut. As a good photography colleague once told me. “Keep shooting.” Everyone had different ways of dealing with a photography rut. The twelve steps that I posted are what I did to get out of mines.
So with that said. “Just do what you feel is right for you, and remember that being in a photography rut is not the end. If anything it’s the start of something new and fresh once you get out of it.”