More Ways to Unblock Your Photographic Creativity

More Ways to Unblock Your Photographic Creativity

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.

How to unblock photographic creativity

How to unblock photographic creativity

How to unblock photographic creativity

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.

How to unblock photographic creativity

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.

How to unblock photographic creativity

Learn more: Why I Did an Infrared Conversion to My X-Pro 1 Camera

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.

How to unblock photographic creativity

Learn more: How to Develop Portraits in Lightroom With The Vintage Portrait Presets

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.

How to unblock photographic creativity

How to unblock photographic creativity

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.

How to unblock photographic creativity

How to unblock photographic creativity

Learn more: The Power of Personal Photography Projects

Learn more: How to Unblock Photographic Creativity

The Creative Photographer

Hopefully the four ideas here inspire you to try something new and reignite your creativity.

My new ebook The Creative Photographer explores these concepts, and ways you can be more creative, in much more detail.

The Creative Photographer ebook

About Andrew S. Gibson

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer, publisher, traveler, workshop leader and photographer based in the UK. He started writing about photography while traveling in Bolivia, and has been published in many prestigious photography magazines including EOS magazine, where he worked as a Writer and Technical Editor for two years. He is inspired by meeting new people, seeing new places and having new experiences. Check out his photography ebooks here.

Comments

  1. Thank you for these great ideas to unblock my photographic creativity. I particularly liked the suggestion to learn new post-processing techniques.

  2. Andrew, I have one suggestion – “never leave home without one”! – apart from the fact that all too often, you can find yourself staring at the photo opportunity of a lifetime and DAMN! – you’ve left the camera at home! – the mere fact that you have a camera with you tends to make you more aware of the opportunities that present themselves. So it becomes a bit like starting new projects – it switches you on, as a photographer, and helps develop “the eye”, which is tremendously important to the process of improving your photography.

  3. I have online camera club friends who have Lensbaby lenses and have seen their photos. I have asked what makes the Lensbaby so appealing. No one can give me a real answer, other than its being something new to play with. You also seem to be enamored of it, so can you give me any definitive reasons for its utility? I am primarily a landscape photographer–it seems to me that sharpness is of the sssence, rather than softness. Any thoughts?

    1. Author

      Hi John, as a landscape photographer you probably wouldn’t find much use for a lensbaby, although the edge 50 (the one I have) might be an exception. I going to try some long exposure photography with the edge 50 and I think it has some good potential for that. I’m also looking forward to making some portraits with it.

      The lensbaby is what I think of as a fun lens – something you use every now and again because it gives you a different way of seeing and taking photos. It’s a tool like any other, and up to the photographer to find ways of making strong images with it. It’s easy to overuse a lensbaby, just the same as it’s easy to overuse a prime lens by shooting everything at the widest aperture.

      Hope that helps explain the appeal.

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