7 Ways to Get Out of a Photographer’s Slump

Over the past year I have heard a few of my photographer friends say they had become uninspired.  In sports, they would say the photographer is in a slump. A slump is a period of poor or losing play by a team or individual.  For a photographer, it is a period where anything seen through a viewfinder does not look right.

Sunset near my home.

Sunset near my home. Nikon D70/18-200VR, 1/25s, f/16, ISO 200, EV +0.3, 31mm focal length, tripod.

When I find myself in a slump, I look for a way to shake up my photographic brain. Here are some of the ways I do that.

1. Go for a walk without a camera. Look around at the world without the restriction of a frame to fill.  Let your eyes and mind wander, breath deeply, listen to the sounds around you and feel the earth beneath your feet.  No pressure to find something to photograph.  When I do this, I find myself refreshed and photo possibilities come much easier.

2. Look for an event to attend and plan what kind of photographs to get. Look through your community’s websites and newspapers for a festival, concert, fair or another event.  Plan what kind of photos you would like to get there and then attend the event.  Did you get the ones you planned?  What else presented itself during the event?

3. Shoot for a day/week/month with a prime lens or, if you normally use a prime lens, a zoom lens. By changing up, you have to think a bit more, go a little slower and see differently.

4. Select a subject to photograph and do it for a day/week/month. Examples would be color, shape, theme, people, animals, etc. Usually something like this starts slowly until your brain picks up on the subject.  By the end of the time period, you will be seeing the chosen subject everywhere.

5. Read a book of fiction. Another non-photographic way to give your mind a break.

6. Create or work on a life project. This can be photography related or not.  Maybe you have another hobby.  For me I have a few photography projects like panning, scenes of my hometown or local festivals.

7. Put your camera in manual mode for a weekend. Another way to engage your brain more is to use manual mode and think through your exposures and creative spirit.

If you have ever gotten into a photographer’s slump, how have you gotten yourself out of it?

For all you Twitter users out there.  Did you notice the new Tweet box at the bottom of all my posts?  This is a fun and great addition to our WordPress.com blogs!

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17 Responses to 7 Ways to Get Out of a Photographer’s Slump

  1. Simone says:

    Great tips for beating the dreaded slump 🙂 I have found that shooting film is a great way of getting back into the photography spirit, because there’s less of the instant gratification of digital. And you think a lot more about what you shoot when shooting film! 🙂

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  2. Karma says:

    I got into a slump after I finished my 365 project. I felt like I had photographed everything to death and barely picked up my camera for months. Then I started reading blogs, especially ones like yours, and got inspired again. Once again, you’ve given us some great ideas. I actually just wrote a post about your first idea, although I admit to not doing it on purpose! During my walk I was wishing for my camera, and thinking about all the pictures I could’ve taken. Of course now I am in the “honeymoon” stage with the new camera and haven’t felt slumpy yet. Any particular prime lens you would recommmend to someone who doesn’t have one?

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    • That’s an easy one, Karen. You should get the Nifty-Fifty lens. It is the 50mm f/1.8 lens for your Canon. Nikon has one, too. You will really be able to learn how aperture effects your photos with this lens. It is by far the most fun lens I use. These lenses are also not very expensive.

      If you do decide to get one, I would appreciate you using the B&H banner links here. Help out a fellow blogger. 😀

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  3. milkayphoto says:

    Ahem, Scott, are you talkin’ to me?? 🙂

    Good ideas for ‘slumpdum’. I really think I should have taken a break after completing my 365 but felt some pressure to continue. But, I’ve been trying to relax about it all and take things day by day. If I am inspired, I shoot. If not, there’s always tomorrow.

    As photogs, we all know that sometimes you just HAVE to get out from behind the lens so that you can experience the event going on. I did that last Saturday night when our city had our homecoming fireworks. Sure, I could have brought the tripod and camera and remote release cable but, it was just so nice to sit on the rocks with hubby and watch the show as it burst high over the ocean and beach. No fiddling with settings or distracting clicks. Just had to sit back, relax and ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ along with the crowd. Did I have pangs of regret? A little as my ‘photographic’ eye saw a really great ‘shot’ as the sky lit up and the smoke was billowing out to the left. I got over it. 🙂

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    • Yes, some of what you told me did spur me to write this post. I have heard similar stories from a few other very good photographers over the last year, too. Thought it would be a nice subject to see how people take to my suggestions and share some of their own.

      I, too, have done what you did with your town’s fireworks show this summer. Nice to just relax and enjoy.

      I had gotten away from reading fiction books and have made a point to read one a few hours each week. It has always been one of my great joys in life. It keeps my brain active beyond pixels and exposures. 🙂

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  4. Anna says:

    Great tips and beautiful silhouette. I haven’t hit a slump yet… We’ve done those tips, for sure. We are always coming up with ideas and re-inventing… and well, we keep shooting. Sometimes we get caught in a prairie storm and that juices things up a bit. 🙂

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  5. Gerry says:

    I am extremely glad that you are refreshing your spirit with reading. 🙂

    I think “different” is the key to solving writer’s block–which I assume is pretty much the same thing as photographer’s slump. Change of scene, trying new foods or new music, going to a gallery you’ve never visited before.

    Another thing that helps is to set a challenge for yourself. Put a character in an impossible situation and then write your way out.

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  6. pearlz says:

    Great ideas – would work well for writers too.

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  7. *Sigh* not sure if those would work… I think I need to move to somewhere more interesting.

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  8. morningjoy says:

    Sorry I’ve missed your blog recently. Vacation and visitors captured my time. I really like your recommendations and plan to refer to them when my camera has been way too inactive.

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  9. Wonderful picture combining a fabulous sunset and an almost invisible grass… but not for you ! I will definitely remember your advices when my mind and imagination go blank at times… although there is so much everywhere and always that needs a second look and a picture. Thank you for this great post, Scott.

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  10. Nye says:

    Scott, I do love visiting events and definitely a good way to boost things up. I find that shooting video also help me to get inspired, I’m concentrating in the frame for a longer period. The most beautiful images that I saw were when I don’t have my camera around, and mostly while I’m driving.

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  11. truels says:

    Thanks for this post, Scott. It seems like good ideas if/when I’m in a photographic slump. These days I’m in another slump, I have got an stubborn infection in my right elbow and the arm must be in a sling until the medical treatment takes effect. Now suddenly EVERYTHING is very difficult – including using camera – and writing! 😦

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  12. Pingback: Weekly Photography Links: 08/14/2010 | Your Photo Tips

  13. Val Erde says:

    Artists suffer from a similar thing. For myself, I find that when I stop worrying about not being able to create and distract myself with something that activates a different part of my brain, then the need to paint and the ability to do so returns. Currently I’m re-reading a book on writing by Stephen King. I recently read a book of his short stories most of which weren’t up to the standard of his old ones and found myself comparing the creativity skills versus the free-for-all of what actually happens during writing or painting or whatever. Reading stuff just makes me want to get on and do it. Strangely, reading about writing makes me want to paint!

    Maybe another to add to your list is ‘read about photography magazines’. There’s nothing quite like the frustration of learning how others do something to make one want to return to ones own styles and ways, I find!

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