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Not having the motivation to do something you love is demoralizing. And unfortunately, stagnation in photography is all too common. I’ve experienced crippling creative ruts, and been left wondering if I’ll ever pick up my camera again: that’s no exaggeration. I’ve also seen so many talented photographers not create for months, later sharing how they have zero motivation to go out and shoot. All this would suggest stagnation in photography is unavoidable. But there are ways to snap out of a creative rut sooner rather than later.
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Why Do Creative Ruts Happen?
Creative ruts happen due to several reasons. The most common tend to be burnout, a lack of self-confidence, and boredom. Burnout means you have pushed yourself too hard. In this situation, taking a break is a good thing: it allows you to recharge and return with a fresh perspective. When a lack of self-confidence evolves into a creative rut, it’s tricky to get out of it and return to making images. Conversations with friends and deep reflection on your work can help, but often time is the best thing to let that lingering self-doubt pass. As for boredom, well, that’s much easier to resolve.
Make Photography Exciting and Leave That Creative Rut
When I think about when photography was most exciting, it was the beginning. Picking up the camera for the first time, the feel in my hands, the sound of the shutter, it was all a new experience. It was a thrill. Of course, we can’t recreate that moment, but there’s something we can always do: educate ourselves.
The process of learning about photography is so enriching. And no matter how skilled or experienced you are, learning never stops. I remember first learning about street photography. Going out onto the streets for the first time, making candid images; it felt amazing. Ten years later, and after learning so much about the craft, shooting street does lead to stagnation and creative ruts. I know many of you can relate to this. So what can we do in this situation?
Rediscover Photography to Leave That Creative Rut
It’s simple. We can go out and start learning a new genre of photography. I’m happy to admit I know very little about landscape photography. Sure, I know enough to make a decent image. But if you put me up against any landscape photographer who shoots regularly, I’m losing that fight 10 out of 10 times. Which means I have a lot to learn. And going out and learning feels like I’m at the beginning of my photographic journey once again. Sure, it’s not a genre of photography I’m passionate about, but that doesn’t matter. I’d rather be out making photographers of some kind than sitting on my couch staring at my camera, feeling sorry for myself.
Put That Ego to One Side
There’s a certain level of security that comes with being an expert in one genre of photography. While learning is fun, there’s comfort in knowing what you’re doing and sharing that with others. It can be tough to let that go, and in my opinion, it relates to the ego. Many photographers, myself included, struggle with returning to being the person in the room that doesn’t know anything. You can no longer influence or create with authority. Guess what. That’s okay, and there’s no problem with being green and vulnerable again.
So, if you’re struggling to deal with returning to novice status, manage your ego and put it to one side. Limiting yourself to save face only decreases the experience you can have on your photographic journey. As I said, there are many benefits to starting from scratch: the main one being you don’t lose interest in what you love.
A creative rut may be unavoidable, but you must take action to get out of it as soon as possible. Making photography fun and exciting again isn’t a mammoth task. You just need to look beyond the genre you love and find enthusiasm in something different. And shooting another genre of photography can make you appreciate the one you love the most, helping you to return it quickly and continue making photos.
What helps you move past a creative run? What genre of photography would you like to try that you haven’t before? Let me know in the comment section below.