Editor's note: This month only – Use the code july5 at checkout to buy the 5 Steps to Better Black & White Photography and 5 Steps to Better Exposure ebooks for just $5! Click the links to learn more. Thanks for reading, Andrew.
All photographers run into times when it’s hard to be creative. Sometimes it’s difficult to find inspiration, or something new and interesting to photograph.
The good news is that there are steps you can take that help you rediscover the creative muse. I have four ideas that I’m going to share with you in this article.
One of them in particular is very powerful.
1. Buy new equipment
I understand that not everybody can afford to buy new equipment. And that some readers will be looking for tips that don’t involve spending money. But there’s no getting away from the fact that sometimes what you really need to reinvigorate your creativity is new gear.
I’m a firm believer that you should only upgrade a camera when you’ve outgrown its capabilities, or need a better tool.
My suggestion refers to other equipment, such as lenses.
Lenses are important. They are like the eye of your camera. A new lens gives you a new way of seeing.
For example, a few weeks ago I bought a Lensbaby Edge 50 Optic lens. This unusual lens is a bit like a short telephoto (on my APS-C camera) tilt-shift lens. I’ve spent several hours playing with it already, taking photos of flowers (using an extension tube) and gardens.
There are a few photos below. I’m looking forward to using it for some long exposure landscape photography and portraiture.
Another example, if you just have zoom lenses, is to buy a prime lens with a wide aperture, such as a 50mm f1.8. Use it wide open and see what you can do with the bokeh. Again, it’s about giving yourself a new way of seeing as inspiration to take new photos.
This is one of the first photos that I made with a 50mm prime lens.
Do you have an old camera body that you don’t use any more? Then why not have it converted to infrared? I don’t like color infrared, but it works beautifully for black and white.
This isn’t just about buying new gear for the sake of it. There’s something a little deeper going on.
Buying (or borrowing or hiring) new equipment gives you a challenge. It pushes you to learn new techniques, and not settle for the knowledge you already have.
It makes you think, and is an excellent antidote for boredom.
2. Learn new post-processing techniques
You can also get creative with photos you have already taken. You’ll need to learn how to use your post-processing software in new ways.
Experimenting is an ideal rainy day or winter activity. It’s quite nice to settle down with some good music and play with post-processing in the long winter evenings.
Here are some ideas on how to do that.
- Download or create some Develop Presets for Lightroom.
- Learn to emulate the style of other photographers. Find the work of a photographer you like who develops their photos in a distinctive style, and see if you can figure out how to do it in Lightroom (or your software of choice).
- Download the trial version of a plugin or two and see if the new software gives you different tools and a new way of developing your photos.
- Learn new techniques by reading books and articles or watching videos.
I developed this photo in the DxO FilmPack plugin. It allowed me to experiment with texture overlays, something that you can’t do in Lightroom.
3. Go to new places
I once read a book on writing in which the author said that it’s important, as a writer, to put yourself in a new environment at least once a week. Being somewhere new heightens the senses and makes you more aware of details you might miss in places you are already familiar with.
The same applies to photography. It’s helpful to plan your year so that you can visit new places. The most obvious example is going on vacation, during which you can hopefully build in some time for photography.
But you can also think about days out and short breaks to places that are relatively close to where you live, but you normally don’t get to see.
For example, here in the UK my wife and I purchased a membership which gives us access to historical buildings and natural landscapes owned or cared for by the National Trust.
It’s been a great investment as it’s encouraged us to go out and explore nearby its properties and the surrounding areas.
I made these photos at a National Trust property in Cornwall.
4. Start new projects
If there’s just one idea that you act on in this article it should be this one – start working on projects.
Projects give you a reason to go out with your camera. They are also a great reason to get in contact with people you might like to photograph and ask if they would be interested in taking part.
Projects can be grand, complex and expensive. A good example is the Jimmy Nelson’s Before They Pass Away – a project that involved traveling to remote locations across the world to photograph tribespeople.
But they can also be as simple as photographing flowers in your own backyard, like photographer Mandy Disher does.
I have several ongoing projects that I return to when the opportunity arises. One of them is photographing craftspeople at work. It gives me a good reason to contact local craftspeople and ask if I can take photos of them.
The Creative Photographer
Learn how to be a more creative, productive and artistic photographer with our popular ebook The Creative Photographer.