Much like athletes, photographers can go into slumps. We get tired of photographing the same things and feel like we have searched and searched for new angles or compositions that will kick start our creative juices. I’ve put together a list of ideas to help you break your shooting slump.
1) Participate in a 365 Photo Challenge
365 photo challenges are a great way to stretch yourself as a photographer. You have probably seen them on twitter or instagram with the tag #365photo. The main idea is to take at least one photo every day for a whole year. The catch is that you have to take a photo of something different each day. You will start to discover new things you enjoy shooting as well as new angles! Challenge accepted.
2) Detail Shots
Detail shots are a great way to see a smaller, more intimate world. Focusing on the smaller designs that you see in your environment can help you construct more interesting lines and composition in a photograph. You will start to see different ways to frame a scene or use what’s in front of you to construct something that has never been noticed before. It could be insects or individual parts of flowers, just get out there and start clicking the shutter!
3) Experiment With Bokeh
Bokeh is the blurred background that you see in a lot of macro photographs. To achieve bokeh, use a very wide aperture so that the majority of the background will be out of focus. You can use this strategy along with your detail shots. The most impressive detail and macro photographs have the best blurred background that compliment the subject of the photo. Once you start paying attention to the backgrounds, eliminating and adding detail, your photos will start to improve.
4) Enter Photo Contests
Photo contests are great for two reasons: they will stretch your creativity AND you can win free stuff! Not only will photo contests increase your abilities and give you more great photo ideas, they also put your work up for a huge audience to see, usually at no cost to you. There are TONS of contests you can enter. Just Google search some in your area.
5) High Key Photography
When you start to feel bogged down by the same style of photos frame after frame, it’s always a good idea to switch up your approach. High key photography is a great way to do just that. It’s a technique used a lot in fine art photography. To achieve high key photographs, you purposefully over expose the photo. If you get it right, the subject will almost look like it was drawn with colored pencils! It’s a fun and different project to work on.
6) Impressionist Photography
Much like high key photographs, impressionist photographs are seen a lot in the fine art category. However, they are pretty simple to produce! You know how you’ve been taught to keep your camera as still as possible? Scratch that advice with this technique. When you are photographing a subject, use a longer exposure and move your camera around. Create wild designs with the motion of your camera. This technique works really well with water and trees. Test it out, you may be pleasantly surprised!
7) Walk Out Your Backdoor
Yes, it’s that simple. When I was starting out I used to complain about having nowhere to shoot. Once I realized that I had a backyard or common space I began finding things to photograph that didn’t require any driving! What I learned to do was capture action by photographing my dogs and other animals like squirrels and rabbits. I gained skills that allowed me to succeed in sports photography that required fast shutter speeds to capture quick movements.
8) Participate in a Photography Walk
Photography walks are usually organized by a local photographer to meet up with other photographers and share knowledge while walking around a city or park. They are an awesome way to meet a lot of professionals. The activity allows you time to pick their brain for all kinds of photography tips and tricks. If you don’t live in a place that offers any photo walks, that’s alright! Just make your own and hop on Google to invite other local photographers to join you!
9) Meet With Other Photographers
I cannot begin to tell you how much I have learned from meeting with other photographers when I was getting started. I learned so much that I still do it! Find some professionals near you and send them an email asking to meet for coffee. When they show up to meet you, buy them coffee! Use the hour or so they give you to ask as many questions that you can think of. While they are talking, listen and take notes. Seriously, this might be the best tip in this list.
10) Find Somewhere New
There are plenty of photography locations around. When you are feeling down because you’ve used up all of your locations, start thinking outside the box. Hop on Google and look for some old hotels or buildings to get detail shots that reveal designs. Ask people if you can shoot their quaint shops (they will almost always say yes). If it were me, I’d just use where I live and Google “Nashville Photography Locations” and explore the options the internet gives me. It’s that easy!
11) Browse Photo Sharing Sites
Sites like Flickr, 500px, Fotolia, Snapfish, and Photobucket are all great resources to study other people’s work. Especially Flickr. They are great about updating their main page with new photographs every day. I’ve used Flickr to search certain subjects to gain new ideas of how to capture things in ways. Just be careful, you might spend hours looking!
12) Buy New Gear
I know, I know, I almost cringed writing that idea. Trust me, I preach learning your gear inside and out before upgrading to more expensive gear. However, once you feel like you have mastered all that you have, I do not see any issue with purchasing new things. As a matter of fact, I have compiled a list of gear that I recommend that includes the latest cameras, lenses that I love, and my favorite bags I’ve used.
13) Explore Arboretums
Arboretums are fantastic places for landscape and nature photographers. Not only are they almost always free, but they give you a huge assortment of trees and large foliage to experiment with. Also, the majority of arboretums are extremely well manicured so you won’t have to worry about distracting weeds or vines getting int the way of a great shot! Walk through the trees, get behind them, and crawl under them for new ideas for perspectives. You never know, you might walk away with a few keepers to put in your portfolio.
14) Take a Drive
I’ve been lucky on a few occasions when I climb in my Jeep and hit the road in hopes of finding a great photograph. I’ll give you a tip, the most interesting places to shoot are usually on unknown back roads. Always make notes of where you find something so that you can navigate back to it later.
15) Photograph “Old Stuff”
Get dirty with this one! Old stuff can make for the best photographs. Find some old metals and photograph the patina (thin layer of rust) designs that you see. Patina brings out some really great colors and contrast. It’s not just old metal, try to get in older buildings and shoot out of old windows to give your photographs a framed look. You’ll be amazed at how cool it will look!
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