A while ago I was invited to contribute to an article called ‘Breaking Out of the Photographer Slump‘ by Atle R on ‘We Are JUXT’. The article looked at different ways in which several iphone photographers go about getting out of a photographic slump.
It was an honour to be asked for my views on this subject and since then I have been considering this in more detail and asking myself what is the cause of a photographic slump and what can a photographer do to break out of one?
I suppose a slump can be likened to a photographers version of writers block. It is that feeling you get when your usual approach and subject no longer inspires you, you feel a bit lack lustre or that the photographs you take lack the edge that you seek.
It’s probably fair to say all photographers go through a slump sooner or later. But in order to effectively work your way out of one I think it’s important to recognise the root cause of it.
Routine, routine, routine
For me, the root cause of a photographic slump is routine. It comes from being to comfortable with a set approach, a way of working, a particular subject or location. Once you recognise this you can start to work out ways to avoid these sorts of situations and steer yourself in the right direction.
I hope the following ideas will help offer some inspiration to those who may find themselves in need of some new direction.
Get out of your comfort zone
One of the best ways to break out of routine and to push your photographic boundaries is to step out of your comfort zone.
If you enjoy street photography then try getting out and shooting the landscape. If you enjoy landscape photography then try applying your approach to the urban environment. Sometimes it can feel counter productive but in doing so I have found the results surprising.
Personally, I enjoy being outdoors but I’m currently undertaking a 365 Project where I take a photograph a day for a year. This project is proving to be pretty gruelling and as I work in a city it has forced me out of my comfort zone and into seeking out photographic opportunities on the streets and other urban locations.
Explore new locations
Seeking out new and interesting locations is an excellent way to energise your creative viewpoint of the world and energise your photography with a new zest for life.
A photographer needs to constantly be looking for new locations, whether this is a train station, architectural building or open countryside. I have also found breaking out of the urban setting once in a while to be a big aid in invigouring my view on things. A recent holiday to a seaside town offered so many photographic opportunities I felt like a kid in a sweet shop.
Try out new apps
Another way of breaking out of a routine is to experiment with different apps. There are thousands of photographic apps out there. Some enable the mobile photographer to produce a variety of different effects, others focus on a specific result.
Until recently I was an Android user. Converting to an iPhone opened me up to a vast array of new apps which were previously out of my reach. One such app was Hipstamatic. The first impressions of the app and the results it produced really struck a cord with me. This was amplified when Hipstamatic released their new Oggl app.
By experimenting with new apps you will discover new and exciting results which will further enhance your photography and hopefully inspire you into a new ways of working.
Set yourself mini projects
Once you start doing things like stepping out of your comfort zone, exploring new locations and playing about with new apps, the next step might be to consider setting yourself mini projects. This idea may not be to everyones taste.
A mini project helps to give focus and a sense of purpose to your activities. I have several mini projects on the go at any one time. The main one being the ‘365 project’ but within this I have several smaller projects which focus on different locations or subjects.
The idea behind having several mini projects on the go is that it gives me focus and flexibility which I can adapt to depending on the weather, my mood and time constraints for that day.
Projects ideas you could consider might include getting close up, going abstract, exploring life in a particular location such as an underground transport system, a market or seaside location. You could focus on portraiture either candid or staged. Photo Essays are also a fun way to document a day out and give you focus.
Look for inspiration and get involved with the community
Looking to others for inspiration is an excellent way of getting inspired. By becoming an active member of a photographic community such as Flickr, Instagram or AMTP you can immerse yourself and get inspired by the work others are producing.
These sorts of communities also give the added benefit of being able to connect with other like minded individuals who can offer feedback and constructive criticism on your work.
Check out what others are publishing, the types of subjects, locations or techniques they use. See if any spawn the seeds of inspiration and then apply it to your own work, give it your own style and see what happens.
Relax and have fun
To effectively break out of a photographic slump it is important to examine and recognise the root cause of your slump and discover ways that you can quickly extract yourself from it. As with all aspects of mobile photography the key ingredient is to enjoy what you are doing, to relax and have fun.
Have you suffered from photographers block? Let us know your thoughts and tips on ways to break out of a slump in the comments below.