Keep a record of your ideas
Inspiration can strike anywhere. In the daily rush, those brilliant ideas can get lost if we don’t record them. Whether you keep a sketchbook, an ideas journal, or use the reminders or notes app on your phone, get into the habit of recording ideas when they occur. While you might not be able to shoot all of them immediately, creating a backlog of ideas can tide you over if you find yourself in need of future inspiration.
Look at other art
Some photographers love looking at what others are doing in the industry. Yet, it can also create an overwhelming sense of comparison. But looking at other art helps keep your own creative instrument sharp. Whether it is contemporary art and photography, or from the history books, exploring creatives with different aesthetics and visions to yourself can help you become a better artist.
This doesn’t mean that you need to limit yourself to looking at photography. Challenge yourself to take in other genres. Visit a nearby museum, watch a movie and observe the camera angles and framing or consider taking an art history class to see if you can gain a new perspective on your photography practice.
Immerse yourself in nature
Nature, with all its colour combinations and varying lights, can be one of the best sources of inspiration for any creative. Try visiting a local park or nature reserve to observe the seasonal colours and lighting, shapes and textures of plants and foliage, or reflections in lakes, rivers and ponds. Taking a closer look at nature in all it’s glory is sure to get the creative juices flowing.
Social media platforms like Pinterest are built with curation in mind. Why not use it to create a board dedicated specifically to inspiration? If you don’t want your board to be visible to your followers, you can create a secret board. Or you can create multiple secret boards, using each one as an inspiration or mood board for future projects.
Instagram and Facebook also have curation built into their platforms and you can save content into collections. Unlike Pinterest, these collections are private by default. So if you are working on a collaborative project, Pinterest might be a better platform to share curated inspiration.
Give yourself limitations
Contrary to popular belief, you can find immense creativity in limitations—constraints shape and focus problems and provide clear challenges to overcome.
So if your creativity has been lacking focus, try giving it the challenge of constraint. Limit yourself to a single lens, a single location, or a limited colour palette. Another way to give yourself constraint is to limit yourself to a certain number of shots, as though you were shooting a roll of film. Imagine having only 12 shots, like on roll of 120mm film, or 24 shots on a 35mm roll. These kinds of constraints will force you to consider your photography from a new perspective where you may find unexpected founts of creativity.
Explore new lenses or techniques
If you find your creative reserves drying up, it might be time to change the way you see through your camera. There are several different lenses, and lens techniques, that can create unexpected and inspiring results. For example, try a pinhole cap for your lens and see what kinds of interesting photographs it creates as a result.
If you have an old twin-lens reflex camera, you can try a technique called ‘Through the Viewfinder’ (TTV). This is where you shoot into the viewfinder of the old camera. The quality of the glass in both the lens and the viewfinder can create unexpected results in your photograph.
Vintage and second-hand shops are great places to find old lenses with which to experiment. If you find old film camera lenses, an adapter can make them usable on your DSLR. While the results of the old glass might inspire enough, you might also try techniques like putting Vaseline around the edges (only do this on lenses you don’t mind otherwise parting with) or try less intrusive techniques such as coloured gels, or wrapping the edges of the lens to create interesting vignettes. Experimenting with lighting equipment can also be a fantastic way to create a different mood in your imagery.
Reprocess old images
Over the years your artistic voice and editing style evolve. When you feel a need to reinvigorate or push your creativity, try revisiting old images. If you’ve saved unedited versions, try reprocessing those images in your current style. This is a great way to refresh images for your portfolio and to find old ideas you want to reshoot. You may find yourself inspired to recreate old setups with a new perspective, or ready to take on a new idea inspired by that old work.
Set yourself a project or join a challenge
If you find yourself struggling creatively, one of the best ways to overcome this is to push yourself to make image-making a daily or weekly practice. Setting yourself a personal project or joining an online challenge is a great way to get into the habit of creating regularly. This forces you to work your creative muscles, even when you’re low on inspiration.
Take a class to learn a new technique
Sometimes we don’t feel creative because we have mastered the techniques we know. If you find yourself in a rut because you’ve nailed a technique, it’s time to get back into the mind of a student. Enrol yourself in a class to learn a new technique such as macro photography or astrophotography. Being back in a learning mindset can also take some pressure off to get everything right. Let yourself embrace both the fun and the potential failure that learning brings. You might surprise yourself by how much this invigorates your creativity.
Giving yourself the time and space to curate ideas, create with constraints or try new tools and techniques is an investment in your craft. The longer you practice photography, the more important it is to keep feeding your creativity. By taking the time to nurture the creative side of your photography, you’ll become a better photographer and find yourself with a wealth of inspiration to draw upon in the future.
About the contributor
Feature Shoot showcases the work of international emerging and established photographers who are transforming the medium through compelling, cutting-edge projects, with contributing writers from all over the world.