5 Ideas To Help Break Out Of Your Photography Rut

to be creative takes courage how to break out of your photography rut

So you’ve found yourself lacking motivation with your photography lately. It’s not uncommon. It’s happened to all photographers at some time I’m sure.

So how do you break out of your photography rut?

It is probably helpful to consider what being in a photography rut really means. Well – what being in a rut generally means.

One formal definition of being in a rut is “to not have changed what you do or how you do it for a very long time so that it is not interesting any longer”.

Does that ring a bell with you? Do you get to the point where you don’t like the photographs you’re taking? Are you afraid to step outside your creative comfort zone? Are you always trying to take photographs to try to get likes on Instagram or Facebook?

If you answer yes to any of those questions you are in a rut – and it’s time to climb out of it.

Been there – done that – I answered yes to all of them….

So why not start a project?

Here are a few ideas to kick off with. All of these are either totally free – or very cheap, and I have tried all of these at one time or another.

1. Break Out Of Your Photography Rut – Start a Photo-A-Day Project

Often referred to as a 365 Project, one of the ideas behind shooting a photo a day, and sharing it, is to get you to start looking at everyday things differently.

This type of project also disciplines you to make sure that you carry a camera with you wherever you go.

But don’t fall into the trap of thinking it has to be your “number 1” camera. You can take your photo a day with your cellphone camera – and get outstanding results most of the time. Remember that old adage often attributed to Chase Jarvis – “the best camera is the one you have with you“.

Don’t be fooled though. Completing a 365 Project/Photo A Day can be a big ask.

I know because I started a daily photo project on July 1st, and after only 14 days there have been times when I have been out, camera in hand, while walking the dogs, and have not really seen much to inspire me some days.

But – in my view at least – there are other options to help complete your daily photo challenge.

One I like, is to revisit old photographs you took some time ago. Reprocess them using a different technique; use a different editing package; crop differently; alter the aspect ration, then present it as something totally new.

The benefits of this are two-fold:

  1. You don’t need to beat yourself up for missing taking a photo; and
  2. You can learn new processing techniques, or learn new apps, and still make everyday things appear in a different light (pun intended…).

There are variations on the daily photo theme too.

For example, you could adjust it to a 52- Week Project – one photo a week; or make it a 30/31 day (month-long) project; or any variation of timing.

Create projects by colours, but subjects, by using your cellphone camera only for a month – whatever – but at least keep at it.

One variation I tried was a Nifty-50/50 Minute/50 Photo Challenge.

Why 50 minutes? Because that’s the average time it takes me when I take the dogs out walking.

50 minutes – take 50 photos – using a nifty 50 prime lens.

Here is the result…in YouTube format – something I’ve not done before.

That was fun…

2. Break Out Of Your Photography Rut – Use a prime lens only for a while

If you primarily use a zoom lens, may I humbly suggest it can make you lazy.

It is too easy to just stand in one place and zoom in or zoom out until you (think) you have the correct framing/composition. Speaking from experience – I know!

Using a prime lens makes you think more about your photograph’s composition. You’ll find that you start looking for different angles, different light and different shadows on your subject.

Other benefits are:

  • Usually better quality from a prime lens;
  • Normally they are faster than (kit) zooms, with a maximum aperture of f1.8 or thereabouts;
  • They are lighter than your average zoom;
  • Often they will focus closer than your zoom;
  • Nifty-50 lenses are generally inexpensive – but of course your prime lens doesn’t have to be a 50mm (equivalent) kens;
  • You’ll get more exercise as you walk around to achieve the best composition.

3. Shoot black and white only for a while

When I say shoot black and white only for a while, I don’t mean take your everyday colour images and convert them to black and white.

Black and white photography is about light, contrast, shadows, textures. Go high-key, go low-key. Break some rules!

Set your camera to shoot in black-and-white mode. If your digital camera is like mine (not my cell phone camera) you will get black and white jpeg images but will still have colour version available from your raw images.

If you like the jpeg image you see when you take your shot, maybe you can convert the raw image to black and white to get a better result using something like Nik Silver Efex. And while I don’t personally recommend tweaking jpegs, you can still do that too.

4. Break Out Of Your Photography Rut – Use full auto mode

This suggestion may sound a bit sacrilegious to those photographers who claim they only ever shoot in manual mode because it is the best option, but modern digital cameras are very, very clever and can produce stunning results with little or no input from the person who actually presses this shutter button.

My thinking behind this is that the camera may produce results that you have been striving for but not achieved. When you get images that you like, check the EXIF data to see how the camera achieved it.

And if you want some more “creative” outcomes, use some of your camera’s creative modes – toy camera, classic/retro look, bleach bypass, art mode, and so on.

And of course, don’t overlook “P” mode whereby the camera does most of the work, but still allows you to adjust some of the parameters manually.

5. Break Out Of Your Photography Rut – Shoot some film

If you’re older – like me – then shooting film can be a real nostalgia trip for you.

If you’re a youngster, then shooting film offers a whole new fun experience.

And shooting film needn’t be expensive.

Beg, borrow or even buy a film camera. Ask friends and family if they have an old camera tucked away somewhere. It doesn’t need to be an all bells-and-whistles camera. Just one that works – or at least is capable of being fixed.

Very often you can buy an old film camera cheap in a second hand store, from an op-shop, at a car boot sale, or online.

If you are a Mr (or Mrs) Fix-it person, then make sure you pick up a manual (i.e. no fancy electronics) camera. They are generally easy to get going again. I have, for example, brought a couple of Olympus Trip 35s back to life, also a Zenit ET, and am currently refurbishing an old Practika and associated lenses.

Bringing an old camera back to life and successfully shooting film with it is extremely satisfying.

Don’t buy the most expensive film at first… try black and white…use a lab close to you to develop and scan your film…just enjoy.

Try it.

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