We’ve all experienced that moment when everything feels stuck. It feels like everything you do either turns out bad, or just turns out the same as everything else. You feel like your creativity has vanished, and you’re completely stuck in a rut. When this happens, there are some things that you can do to break out of it – besides just waiting for it to go away!
1. Admire the Masters
Who are the photographers from history that you admire the most? There are plenty of old masters out there who everyone knows. Ansel Adams and many other masters can provide an amazing source of inspiration. All you have to do is look at their work to understand something more profound about the landscapes they photographed.
Study the style of one particular master who you are drawn to the most. Look at how they shot, what equipment they used, and how they framed their compositions. Try a few exercises of attempting to emulate their style. While you should return to your own style after this exercise, you may find that it gives you the inspiration to try something new and develop the way you photograph.
2. Study Yourself
If studying someone else doesn’t work, how about turning the lens inwards? Gather as much of your own work as you can, and print some notable works if possible. Try picking at least one shot from every year that you have photographed, or every month if you can.
Look at the images that you are most proud of, the ones that mean the most to you. Why do they mean so much? What were you thinking about when you took them? What inspired you to pick up the camera in the first place? Find that inspiration again, and you might be off to a great start.
3. Follow Prompts
If you can’t find creativity within yourself, then look to someone else to provide the inspiration. There are plenty of lists of prompts on the internet, from monthly themed compositions through to random collections. You can choose prompts which are designed for landscape photography, or you can pick any prompt list and try to make your landscapes fit in some way.
The challenge is to interpret each prompt fully, so don’t skimp on any entries: try your hardest to make them all work, even if they don’t make sense for your current location. If you had a prompt about the sea, for example, but you are in a landlocked country, you can try finding a smaller body of water and shooting from down low as if to pretend it is a vast ocean. After you try all of these prompts, your imagination will be filled with a new lease of life.
4. Shoot Something Else
If you are in a rut with your landscape photography, maybe there is something else you can try. How about doing some portraiture, or photographing a local event? Whatever it is, pick something that you don’t normally do. Really interesting results can happen when photographers cross genres.
If you photograph a person like you would a place, what will it look like? These exercises can help you to break out of your rut by forcing you to ignore it for a while. Once you have a go at a different genre, you’ll be refreshed when you return to landscapes. Think of it like a palette cleanser.
5. Put the Camera Down
If you aren’t on a tight schedule, or you aren’t employed full-time as a landscape photographer, then you can always take the option of taking a break. This is a great way to let yourself recharge. It could be that you are stuck in a rut simply because you haven’t given yourself time to breathe, relax, and unwind.
Your brain works in funny ways, and sometimes it’s taking the time to stop and do something else that allows new thoughts to work their way in. If you’ve ever had a “eureka” moment when laying in bed or having a shower, you’ll know what this is like! Put your camera down for a week and see how you feel about it when you pick it back up.
6. Try a Different Medium
Why not switch things up by trying a different kind of art? You could get some charcoals, sit down in front of a beautiful view, and try sketching what you see. Or you could print out some of your own photographs and try painting directly onto them. You could either cover them up with matching paint colours, or transform them into something new.
How about taking up sewing, or playing a musical instrument, or sculpting clay? Whatever you try in a different creative field, it could have the desired effect of putting your mind onto a different track. When you return to photography, you are likely to find that you have new ideas.
7. Take a Course
Whether online or in person, photography courses are a great way for you to develop your skills (or attend a workshop). They will help you to learn the parts of your craft that you don’t already know. If you think you already have the basics down, then try a course which is set up for more experienced photographers.
There is always going to be someone who has more expertise than you, so don’t be afraid to learn from them! There’s so much to be gained from education, and the course could help unlock a new technique or way of seeing that will help change things up in your photographs. Your creative rut could just be your brain’s way of telling you that you need to learn more if you want to progress.
All things come to an end, and that includes things like creative ruts. Whether you wait for it to pass you by, or take action with these tips, you will be out of it one day. It’s not the end of the world when it happens to you.
Photo license link: CC0