How to Break Out of a Photographer’s Rut and Take Your Photography to the Next Level

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Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in a routine with your photography? That all your photos appear to look identical no matter how hard you try to change them up? Maybe you feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over. If so, you have found yourself in a photographer’s rut. A photographer’s rut is a vicious cycle that traps you and your photos in a state of dullness and routine.

The secret to getting out of a photographer’s rut and taking your photography to the next level is to tap into your inner creativity. A rut happens because we are in a routine. When the mind works on routine, it is no longer able to think creatively and the imagination slowly fades away. To free yourself, you need to bring back that imagination and allow your inner creativity to shine.

Here are 7 ways to break out of a photographer’s rut and unleash your inner creativity to take your photography to the next level.

Photo courtesy of chantrybee.

1. Take a Break


meditate_by_lisadragon.xlargeMeditate by Lisadragon: 
Clearing your mind with meditation is a great stress reliever. Photo courtesy of Lisadragon.

This sounds counter-intuitive, but is perhaps the best thing you can do. When you’re stuck in a rut, the pressure to get out of it can be so great that it actually inhibits forward progress. It is the same idea behind why panicking in stressful situations can be so dangerous (think stampedes).

So if you find yourself with built up tension to “escape;” if you have a strong urgency to fix something “before it’s too late” – then take a moment to do nothing. Give yourself a break –  relax for a minute, unwind. Recognize that operating from a “stressed” mind will restrict the creative results you desire.

What I find works well for me is meditation. I simply lie or sit down and focus my mind on nothing except for my breathing. It is a technique I picked up while practicing Vipassana meditation and it is quite effective at clearing my mind and refreshing my creativity.

2. Learn a New Subject

A great way to improve your photography is to learn a new subject. Think science and photography are totally unrelated fields? If so, can you explain how a camera works without using science? Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the greatest minds of all time, was not only a painter, but also a scientist, musician, inventor and sculptor just to name a few. His studies of human anatomy greatly influenced his paintings.

Imagine what learning about music, philosophy, biology, or physics can do to improve your photography?

3. Try a Different Field of Photography


abstract_by_the_o.xlargeArchitectural Abstract: 
Trying a different style of photography, such as abstract photography forces you to view things in a different perspective. Photo courtesy of The O

Practicing a different style of photography will teach you to look at things from a different perspective.
If you are primarily a portrait photographer, then give landscape photography a shot. If you are a street photographer, then take a look at still life photography.

Different photography fields, require you to learn different points-of-view. This effectively opens up your mind to different possibilities and outlooks. When you go back to your primary photography field, you will find your creativity has expanded.

4. Ask For Feedback

When you’re too immersed in your work, you develop tunnel vision. Like a horse with blinders on, your field of view is limited. We all know what it’s like to be emotionally attached to a piece of work. This is a good thing, but sometimes it can cause us to lose sight of what’s relevant and important.

By asking for feedback, you are removing yourself from, freeing any biases. Other people can offer you points of views which you may not have noticed. Sometimes the advice may be useful, sometimes not, but either way it is of benefit: you can expect to find your point of view is either confirmed, or a better one is acknowledged.

It is important, when asking for feedback to find someone you trust, who will give you a valid and honest outsider’s perspective. This someone may be a best friend or a colleague. The point here is to really listen to what this person is saying. Sometimes this can be tough, especially if the advice is not something you want to hear. However, the truth is not always nice. So give yourself the opportunity to get of your rut by truly taking the person’s advice to heart.

5. Get Physical


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Exercise such as yoga helps to stimulate your inner creativity. Photo courtesy of Lululemon Athletica.

It’s really no secret, improved health greatly improves your success in all other areas of your life. And let’s face it, photography is not renowned for it’s physical hardships. If you find that, your physical fitness may be on a bit of a downward spiral, then doing a bit of physical activity can enhance your photographic creativity.

Exercise increases your heart rate which in turn increases your body’s overall metabolism; your oxygen use increases and your body kicks into a higher, more efficient gear. This increases your mental alertness which in turn, increases your creativity.

You don’t need to start a new fitness regiment to reap the benefits of physical activity. Just by getting off your butt and moving around and stretching for a minute or two, you will feel the positive effects.

6. Stimulate Your Other Senses


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Stimulating your other senses will fine tune your sensory perceptions. Photo courtesy of fensterbme.

Photography is such a visual medium that when we work for long periods, we overrun our visual senses to the detriment of our other four senses. By doing something you enjoy besides photography, you will rev up your sensory awareness.

Listen to your favorite songs. Get a massage. Eat your favorite food. Practice aromatherapy. The point is to allow your other senses to be enhanced, which in turn, will have a positive benefit on your creativity.

7. Get Inspired


yosemite_by_jon_higgins.xlargeSunrise, Banner Peak: 
Ansel Adams was the source of inspiration for this great photo. Photo courtesy of Jon Higgins.

Inspiration is a wonderful  feeling. When we are inspired, we tend to give our best efforts. We move into a realm where effort is no longer strenuous or difficult, but smooth and easy. The secret with inspiration is that you don’t have to wait for it to come to you. Go out and actively search for things that inspire you.

For us photographers, we are inspired by other great photographers. I know that whenever I need a bit of a creative spark, I search for inspiring photos online through any photography sharing service. When you come across something that inspires you, take a bit of a moment to ask yourself what it is about this work that inspires you. See if you can identify the photographic elements that stand out and then try to incorporate that into your own work.

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