Raise you're hand if you've ever experienced an artistic rut.
I think just about every artist has experienced (in one way or another) some sort of a rut. Staying inspired is pretty hard, especially if you have a busy personal life...which is pretty much everyone.
We are parents...so it kind of goes without saying that we are ALWAYS busy. Our girls keep things chaotic and ever-moving about 99% of the time.
We are always seeking moments of inspiration...and honestly, most of the time, our inspiration comes from traveling with our daughters. But obviously we can't do that every day. So what about those "mundane", routine, normal days where everything feels uninspiring to say the least?
Do you find it hard to stay inspired during these times... when the kids are in school, the daily obligations pile up, you start losing light, and it starts to get cold? (Well, here in Alaska anyway.)
That is why we decided to ask other photographers that we really admire how they do it!
How are they able to consistently post amazing work even in everyday life? And we were in awe of their answers!
Like Luciane Valles who challenged herself in an interesting way.
Or Kimberly Milano's optimistic view of artistic ruts. I've never considered ruts to lead to something positive, but now I realize that she is RIGHT.
But first, if you're struggling with indoor harsh light, we have some easy to implement tips for embracing direct indoor light .
We asked 20 amazing photographers this question:
How do you break out of an artistic rut when you're feeling uninspired?
And to see more of these photographers inspiring work, click on their name!
1. Jessica Nelson From The Gaggle Photography
Breaking out of an artistic rut can be challenging. For me, since I mostly shoot nature and wildlife, I often feel uninspired when animal activity is slowing down or the weather conditions are crummy. So I instead will try out a new creative lens or technique. Maybe I will try to shoot more still life and macro using a prism or a copper pipe. I try to use light in a different way by grabbing an external light source and I often love to freelens and even reverse macro freelens. Changing your subject and your tools can often break you out of that slump and get you shooting more creatively.
2. Susan Grimes
When I get in an artistic rut, I take a day or two break from my camera. I spend the time resting my mind and then I start observing. I look for light, meaningful moments, or new places that make me feel something. Then, whether I feel ready or not, I pick up my camera and go back to work. I start shooting and challenging myself with my camera to my eye. I go out and explore. I know I will never get the pictures I want unless I am at least taking pictures. I have to work to create.
3. Jenny Diaz
When I find myself in an artistic rut, I like to ask my friends if they would like to do a modeling session. Both photographer and non-photographer friends have been an amazing help to me creatively. The reason I adore shooting my friends so much is it takes all the pressure off of me to do an unpaid session with people I am 100% comfortable with. It allows me to try new things at my own pace and just have fun. I have found that often my images that show the most creativity and growth are a product of these sessions and help boost and re-charge my confidence once again!
4. Emily Hamson From Lavender Lime Photography
When I’m in a rut, the first thing I do is take a look at what’s going on in my life. Often I am being pulled at least 5 different ways between everything going on. If I have too many things going on, I usually take my lack of creativity as my body’s way of telling me I need a break. I will put my camera down for a couple of days, stay off social media and take time to read a book, take a bubble bath, spend uninterrupted time with my family, try a new craft, or go on long walks.
If I don’t have too much going on, I take a different approach. I get a lens out that hasn’t been used in awhile, limit myself with a single lens for a week, or try a new technique. Sometimes I’ll get on an education website or groups and just read things from others. Other times I’ll enroll in a workshop or class that I’ve been wanting to do, that usually gets me excited to create again!
Most of the time, doing something different than my norm will break me out of my funk!
As photographers we have all experienced some kind of artistic rut. Since I mainly shoot my boys in our everyday I have flexibility of what and when I shoot. To help me break out of a rut I take all the pressure off of myself while I'm shooting. I know that every time I shoot I am not going to create a ground breaking viral image (and I'm not honestly sure that I ever have). I shoot what I like and I take the pressure off by shooting images that are basically just preserving the memories of our everyday life. I also play around with new techniques when I am looking to break out of a creative rut like panning or freelensing.
6. Karen Dell From Twintage Photography
I try to break myself free from being stuck by changing the scenery when I find myself in a creative slump. I take my kids to a new location or go on an adventure, anywhere really, fresh air and sunshine always help get the wheels turning.
7. Jen Kessler From Jennifer Audrey Photography
When I’m feeling uninspired or in an artistic rut, I find it’s usually because I’m forcing it too much, or “trying too hard”. Being both a writer and a photographer, I know this frustration all too well. I find that it helps me to put down my camera (or my pen) and go for a walk, read a good book, or browse through old journals I’ve written. I also find that it can help if I bring my camera everywhere I go. Literally. Though I’ve started and failed to continue the 365 photo a day project, it has helped me get out of a rut, in a wonderful way. It has pushed me to experiment with different lighting, different subjects and different moods. I highly recommend it, even if you don’t stick with it.
Finding yourself in a rut is something that happens even to the very best of photographers. It happens to me more often than I’d like, but I have to find a way to push through it. The best thing I can do for myself is just keep shooting. Having an ongoing photography project helps with this, such as a 365 or project 52, etc. I use a rut to make myself try something new. Whether it be try a new lens or a new shooting style or just focus on a completely new subject. It can be frustrating to fall into a rut, but almost every time I come out of it, I find myself producing some of my best work.
Being a photographer that is always inspired by light, I usually get uninspired during wintertime. Locked inside with sick kids and rainy days are the worst to my motivation. But still I force myself to grab the camera and try some shots. Last year I challenged myself to find new ways to explore low light and discovered how fun it can be shot inside my house, something I didn’t know very well before. Learning something new helped me to feel better about myself and excited about the results. I think trying new things and challenging ourselves is crucial to keep us motivated.
10. Lucia From Mamaysucamara
We all have ups and downs in life and the same happens to our inspiration, we find ourselves in the middle of a creative rut.
How do I get out of there?
I forget a bit about the camera and I concentrate on myself. A bit of time to disconnect from kids and from routine.
These are some of the things that work for me:
Chilling out with some friends. Go dancing, out for dinner, hang out and have some laughs. You will recharge energy and happiness immediately.
Taking a walk, looking around and stopping to enjoy the little details.
I observe light. I watch it change and make mental notes about the best times and types of light.
Sign up for a damn good workshop online or close to your area. Meeting others is a great source for inspiration!
Listen and play with your kids. Take time to really be a part of their games. We are always multitasking, and at least in my case, not always having quality time with them. They need it, you need it.
Drawing and painting! Especially with watercolors! It's relaxing and results are totally unexpected if you let go!
As final words, it's ok to have a creative rut. Embrace it! We don't have to be creative everyday, 24/7.
11. Aniya Emtage Legnaro From Life Photography By Aniya
Creatives are on a never-ending quest to reach their artistic pinnacle. This is a blessing and a curse because it leads to the inevitable burnout.
This happens to me. A lot. The biggest inspiration for me is a change of scenery. I mean a country change. Travel is huge for me, and when I get to the point of frustration and no photo-making, I need to leave. If I can’t immediately hop on a flight, I travel through books and movies. And.. I never force it. Inspiration will always come back to me if I let it.
12. Helen Don
The routines and schedules that make a family of five run smooth-ish are not conducive for artistic inspiration. The best way to get my creative juices flowing again is to step away from my everyday life and go on an adventure. Going somewhere I haven't been before and seeing life from a different perspective has an immediate impact on my mind and soul. Our family trip to Iceland and England last year resulted in some of my favorite captures of my boys exploring the world, but we often find adventure can be just a short road trip away. A break in routine is the first step to getting out of an artistic rut.
13. Beth Urban
I find myself in creative ruts quite often. I try to think of them as growing pains, not fun or pleasant but necessary to grow as an artist. Over time I've learned that the three things that usually help me break out of an artistic funk are to experiment, collaborate and explore. I play with double exposures, freelensing, shooting with something in front of my lens, etc. I love how unpredictable the results are and usually end up with at least one image that excites me and refreshes that drive to create. Collaborating with other artists also helps, especially when I have a specific project with a deadline. It gets me brainstorming and helps me break out of shooting in my typical way. Last of all getting out into nature with my children always seems to recharge my creativity. Their excitement to explore a new environment for the first time never gets old for me.
14. Elizabeth Roy
We have all had our moments of feeling uninspired or that everything we make is just plain garbage. When you are in the middle of a rut it's hard not to feel as though you will never create anything you love-ever again! I know drama-I have teenagers! LOLFor me, I like to try learning something new when I feel the clouds coming. I was recently introduced to freelensing. I had tried before this, but not very successfully. Anita Klein taught a little half hour workshop/demonstration on how to freelens on Be Unraveled. It was amazing. Freelensing takes a little bit of time to get the hang of, but once you do it's magical. It has the power to turn the most awful, mundane image into soft, pretty, selective focus art. It's amazingly therapeutic because it forces you to slow down. Try freelensing in nature and see if it doesn't break you out of a funk too!
15. Lindsay Herkert
My best trick for breaking out of a photography rut is inspiration from other photographers. I love perusing the talent of Instagram for ideas. A few minutes of scrolling and saving my favorite photos usually has me itching to pick up my camera. My other go to for pushing through a rut is giving myself a break. Especially after a busy fall season, it feels almost necessary to put my camera down and even step back from social media for a while. When I pick it up again I try to challenge myself with learning or perfecting a new technique.
16. Melissa Lazuka
Generally, I try to never go more than a week at the most without making an image, and strive to shoot almost daily. However once in a while, I find myself falling into an artistic rut. It usually begins when I feel myself making the same image over and over, or start to compare my work with others and question the work I share. When these feelings creep up, I take a break from all social media, and spend more time alone. I find in quiet space, I can look through the art books I collect, write my thoughts down and rediscover what I love about the act of creating. I also love to experiment, and just let go of all preconceived ideas of what my images should be. I stop thinking of which of my images were the most “liked” on social media, and I make photographs just for me, for the pure joy of making. I find when I experiment the most, push boundaries with technique (multiple exposure, freelensing, instant cameras), and simply do not care at all what others may think about my work, I make the best photographs and find my way back to shooting daily. I try to remember that the way I want my work to look is like turning my soul inside out…what would it look like, what photographs would define it? There is joy in trying to discover that answer and that joy is what keeps me going.
17. Jennifer Taranto
I'm a homeschooling mom of 3. Most of my days are spent in routine - I go from home, to car, to swim practice 5 days a week, with errands sprinkled in between. Routine can quickly lead to an artistic rut. My trick to getting my mojo back - heading outside. I love to hike. Finding someplace new to roam and point my camera is my ultimate up-lifter, but even if I can't get away, just a stroll around the neighborhood can get my creative juices flowing. Light changes, flowers bloom, leaves fall, ... there's always something new to capture.
18. Beth Cagnoni
When I’m in a photography rut, I like to explore new ways of getting creative. It helps for me to take some of the pressure off of trying to be "perfect" and just see where new techniques take me. My favorite ways to get creative are using a copper pipe held in front of the lens to create a "ring of fire"effect, using a prism held in front of the lens to create reflections or rainbows, free-lensing, and using a vintage lens to get lens flares or swirly bokeh. The direction and source of light will change the effect achieved.
19. Sol Sánchez From SugarySol Photography
Falling in a creative rut is something that most probably will happen to any photographer at some point, and even more than once. It has occurred to me recently, with the end of summer season and being forced to shoot in our not so inspiring environment. What did I do to overcome it?
- I put the camera down for a short period. I focused on other things apart from photography and suddenly I felt compelled to take my camera again.
- I tried to identify where my inspiration is. I’m drawn to wide open spaces (missing them so much right now), but mainly light is what wakes up the butterflies in my stomach. I’m looking for interesting light at home and everywhere we go, to produce something new.
- Apart from photography, I love Arts and Cinema. Watching my favorite movies or TV series (from Gone with the Wind to Game of Thrones), as well as studying the masters of Painting (Caravaggio, Vermeer or Goya always inspire me) arise my creativity flow.
- I have started a new project that will force my vision: a p52 with my iPhone. Trying something new is always a challenge!
20. Tanya From TYN Photography
When I feel uninspired, I grab my camera and my kids and go for a walk. I love nature, take me on a hike or to the beach and I am the happiest person. For example, two pictures with the sun and my daughter, I was feeling emotionally drained and uninspired for a few weeks and we went on a bike ride I just put a camera in a bag just in case and when we stopped to pick up the blackberries I saw this amazing light and started chasing my kids and got those images. When I do family sessions what inspires me is a connection and emotion between people, hugs, giggles, touch. But my all time favorite that never fails to inspire me is a beautiful golden light, when you see it you just can’t waste it and gotta shoot.
Pretty amazing, huh? There is so much wisdom from these photographers who have all experienced ruts. I love how Melissa says that she tries to never go a week without making an image. Or how Lucia finds inspiration from hanging out with friends.
What about you? How do you like to stay inspired when you're just not feeling it?
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