Ideas for Getting out of a Creative Rut

by Karen Foley

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I mean look at Groundhog’s Day. Every year furry aficionados gather on Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in the freezing cold at sunrise and look to a cute little rodent named Phil to tell them if there will REALLY be 6 more weeks of winter. Trust me folks, regardless of what Phil wants you to believe, there is still 6 weeks left of winter, and nothing he says or does is going to change that!

As photographers we have a tendency to fall back on our favorites too – a favorite lens, a favorite subject, or a favorite style of shooting – and then we cannot understand why our art is not growing and evolving as fast as we would like.

To break free of the creativity hamster wheel (get the rodent reference?), use this Groundhog’s Day to try something new to spur your artistic growth.

Imitation is flattery

We all want our art to be original, but the idea of finding inspiration from the past is an age-old tradition. Every art student studies art history and is encouraged to go to museums to view and even sketch masterpieces of old. Use that same concept to study other photographers to hone your skills and gather some inspiration.

Look here on Dreamstime.com at the Editor’s Choice area, or choose your favorite topic and sort by best selling images. Study your favorite pictures and ask yourself:

1)What is it about this image that I like? This could be the composition, lighting, color scheme, special effects, etc.

2)How can I use that in my next image?

3)How could I recreate this image?

4)What would I like to do differently to this image?

5)How could I cover the same topic in a completely new way?

Enter Assignments

Every month Dreamstime.com hosts a new assignment focusing on a different topic or theme for stock photos. Challenge yourself to cover every single assignment from as many different angles as possible – you have up to 10 entries in each contest. Then go back afterwards and look at how others covered the same topic – see which ones won and look at those that were voted highly by the contributor community and ask yourself the same questions as above. If you have the time, try your hand at recreating your images using the answers you glean.

Challenges

Speaking of challenges, try your hand at a 365-52-12 challenge this year.

365 Day Challenge is just what the name implies. Challenge yourself to take a picture (or video or illustration) a day for 365 consecutive days. Some people have taken this to mean take a picture of the same place/theme/topic everyday, while others take it to mean just create an image of SOMETHING everyday.

A 52 Week Challenge takes a little of the daily pressures off while still providing a creative jolt to the system. In this challenge, you have a new theme every week designed to motivate you to shooting or drawing.

Dogwood Studio has created a 52 week challenge that can be started at anytime during the year. Choose the original version, or the advance challenge or combine the two to meet your own needs.

Or make up your own list of weekly themes entirely. Shoot a single image, a series of images over a few days, our use this as your guide to shoot daily around one theme or topic for a full week.

Create your own 12 month challenge. Having a full month to cover each different theme allows for lots more time to develop and explore the theme or concept. Google the topic of 12 month photography challenges to get a suggested list of themes – or make up your own.

Every month has one or more holidays, falls within a season, is either hot or cold, will have food/drink specific to that time of year, etc. etc. etc. Anything can be used as your monthly theme. Try shooting through out the month to tell a more complete story. See how creatively you can cover one single topic or theme.

Exercises

Creativity is a lot like muscles in your body – the more you use it the stronger it will get. So set up a schedule to try one or more of these creativity exercises on a regular basis.

1)Take 12. Stand in one spot and take 12 unique images of what is around you without moving.

2)Take 10. Choose one small object and take 10 unique or abstract images.

3)Take 4. Shoot one subject framing it in each of the four corners of the image without moving locations.

4)Make it artificial. Try restricting yourself to shooting for a week (or day or month) with a lens, or in a location, or at a time, or using a composition style, or any other restriction you can think.

5)Shoot a roll. Limit yourself to shooting only a “roll of film” (24 or 36 exposures) during any outing.

6)Take baby steps. Choose a number of steps (5,10,100) and shoot one picture for every step you take.

7)Take your subject. Take the same object to different locations and see how creatively you can shoot it.

8)Use a Favorite. Recreate your favorite photo. Or take a photo from an ad or a magazine and see if you can recreate it exactly.

9)Shoot only B&W.

10) SOOC. Shoot only straight-out-of-camera without post processing to force yourself to control all the aspects of the image in camera.

Hopefully one or more of these ideas can get your creativity juices flowing again for this Groundhog’s Day and beyond.

Photo credits: Gow927Karen FoleyKeantian.

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