Being constantly inspired is impossible, just like it’s impossible to always be happy, or always be well rested. Losing and gaining inspiration is natural and a part of the ebb and flow of life. However, working as a photographer, or in any creative line of work, going through a longer period where you lack inspiration and that creative flow can leave you desperate, stuck and overwhelmed.
The more overwhelmed you feel, the more it feels like you’re stuck and it’s impossible to find inspiration and get out of your current state. This then leads to feelings of not being good or talented enough and the negative spiral just spins faster and faster.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but when this happens to me – and it has happened many times, I have found a few ways to break free and find my way back to inspiration and productivity.
Bring back the fun!
Instead of going out with the intention “I am going to take a picture of a foggy morning” and the light just isn’t right which makes me frustrated and sad, I just go out. I go out and I sit down and I just enjoy whatever is happening in front of my eyes. I try as long as possible to not take any photos, because the goal with this is just to bring back some positive flow and energy towards what’s happening in front of my eyes. A lot of the times lacking inspiration for me comes from a point of pressuring myself and having this very narrow view of what the photos should look like to be of value and good enough. And this only hinders me to see what is actually happening around me. I am chasing moments and photos that are not real which leads me to miss the beauty around me.
If you don’t shoot nature or other more “natural elements” but perhaps food, interior details or product photos I recommend choosing something that will look great during 24 hours. Like flowers in a vase, cinnamon buns from the bakery or similar. Then; chose 4-8 locations in your studio or home where you’ll be shooting different types of shots of whatever it is that you’ve chosen to work with. Chose spots with different light and different styling props and backdrops. Then for 1-2 hours in each spot take as many different photos that you can. Try and include different perspectives and angles. For example close ups, from above, details and photos with other styling elements. Try and shoot a really ugly photo, style it the way you never wood and shoot form an angle that feels completely wrong and look at the photo. What could you do to make it less ugly? Change something and take another shot. Keep on doing this process step by step and notice, without judgement and from a viewpoint of it being a fun exercise, how the photo change from frame to fram. Is there something you liked that you didn’t think you would like? Do you realize that you’ve never tried a specific angle before? Keep moving to different spots through out the day. Then let the photos “be” without looking at them for at least 3-4 day, preferably a week. When the week has passed by, transfer the photos to your computer and analyze what you see. A lot of the times we’re much more judgmental about our own photos when they are fresh out of the camera. The result is compared to the photos that we have in our brain and we often miss amazing photos just because it didn’t look like what we’ve picture beforehand.
Those two approaches can of course be combined. The same procedure that I described with food or product photography you can do in nature as well. Just chose a few different time slots and locations in nature and repeat the same process. What is beautiful in that spot? If everything is brown, can you work with patterns, details or can you find an ant and do a macro shot of that one ant? What does the petals look from below, is it possible to shot in an angle that you haven’t tried yet.
Most of the times those exercises in combination with accepting that this is the ebb and flow of creativity, makes all the difference. And if I feel that I am totally exhausted and that I cannot take one more photo, I don’t. Sometimes when you’re in between assignments and instead of resting, engaging with some self care you keep on stressing and pressuring yourself to create more, to venture out and to evolve your skills when your creativity and productivity would benefit more from resting. I hope that this will help you a little bit along the way, remember, feeling like this is natural, and your inpiration will come back, I promise!