Have you ever had the feeling that you don’t make any progress with your photography? That your creativity seems to be gone? You don’t have the power and craving to get some edits done or even to shoot new images? You feel like nothing works out and you don’t achieve the results you wanted?
I find myself stuck in this miserable situation every now and then and tried to find a way to cope with this frustration.
When discussing this problem with other artists, I noticed that it seems to be a well-known issue, many photographers have also had similar experiences earlier. This being said, I wondered if creativity passes different phases. Sometimes you are overwhelmed by the urgent desire to go out and create, to be physically active and to come home with new material and fresh results.
Sometimes you may rather prefer working on older images in post-production, you are literally looking forward to returning in front of your computer getting a new edit done. And then there are times in which you can’t even think about photography but keep yourself busy with anything else than that instead. You don’t feel any creative push and maybe start getting frustrated.
As I’ve gone through these times myself, I have collected some suggestions about how to deal with upcoming frustration or temporary disinterest. These are just a few ideas for you, not a to-do-list or something that provides instant success for everyone. But I’m sure that one or another point could be helpful for you to overcome your ‘crisis’:
#1 Accept It
Make yourself understand that this is totally okay and completely normal.
Creativity is not a machine that works constantly on the same level and under every condition. It is absolutely normal to not always be a hundred percent motivated. Allow yourself a break and some time to recover.
#2 Don’t Force Yourself to Creativity
The worst you can do in this phase is forcing yourself to be creative.
From what I experienced it doesn’t work. I’ve tried that a couple of times saying to myself I needed to shoot that sunrise or to process that specific image and every time I did that, I got the most disappointing results I could have imagined.
The pictures I was trying to take or to edit looked like crap and I wasn’t even close to the feeling of being satisfied with them. It felt like wasted time and caused even more frustration. I failed a couple of times until I finally understood that this procedure doesn’t have any sense, at least for me.
So try to let go of this behavior and do something that makes you happy instead.
#3 Don’t Compare Yourself with Others
Too much influence may negatively affect your own creativity. The most common way how I get into these miserable situations is by comparing myself with other successful photographers, especially on social media platforms like Instagram. I’m obsessed with the thought that my images suck and that they must look like theirs. Then I get mad and start developing doubts about everything I do and have done in photography so far.
But in the end, I realize that my images will never look the same as the ones my idols have in their portfolio.
AND THAT IS GREAT.
At this point, I finally understand that we all have different styles and visions. It is good to have such diversity. Wouldn’t it be very boring in the long run to see the same image look over and over again?
Once you’ve come here it’s so freeing to concentrate on your own preferences and likings again. Stop comparing yourself with others too much and give a damn about what they do, in a positive manner of course.
#4 Leave your Camera at Home
This may be a very crucial step for you as a passionate photographer. It will cost you quite an effort but believe me, you won’t regret it.
Go out and enjoy nature without looking through the viewfinder all the time. Such a trip has the power to open your eyes and ears for lots of new impressions. You can reconnect with nature and experience the joy of being outdoors even more intensely.
Focus on different details, let your thoughts go. Come back with a clear mind and fresh ideas.
#5 Get Inspiration from Other Sources
Do we always have to get inspired by other pictures we look at? Is photography the only source of inspiration? Clearly not.
After watching an appealing movie or reading an interesting book I often feel the same new inner power, if not even stronger. Besides that, you often focus on things you can experience with your eyes, but why not giving your other senses the same chance? Not only visual impulses have the power to inspire us. What about drawing creativity from a specific kind of music you really enjoy. Or a delicious meal you connect with a special place or occasion. There are lots of different sources that can help to overcome frustration.
#6 Widen Your Photographic Horizon
Progress and development help to overcome a crisis. Try out new techniques and styles, find out what you like and learn new approaches to photography. Be it a different section of photography (e.g. macro or portrait) or a new technique in post-production.
You could watch tutorials or read eBooks about different ways to process your photos and give them more power.
#7 Analyze Your Own Work
There are often many reasons why you are not entirely pleased with what you do. Having a closer look at your own images could help you to figure out why you don’t feel satisfied with them. Analyze what makes you unhappy and try to improve these things specifically. Maybe your color management is off or you could have more powerful compositions; there’s lacking sharpness in your images or they look too chaotic.
Be critical and honest about your work, this will be the best way to find something to improve. You could also ask friends or other photographers if they could review your images and give helpful advice.
#8 Stay Positive
Don’t be too negative all the time, also remind yourself of your success and the things you are proud to have achieved so far. Look back and find a personal connection to your images, remember where they were taken and what you felt back then. I don’t want to be too much of an unco guide now but it is important to appreciate the things you were able to experience through photography. Not everyone has the possibility to travel around with expensive gear – don’t forget that this is a luxury.
Many problems look tiny and unimportant compared to other issues in this world. It’s good to put things in perspective every now and then to not lose the focus on what really matters in life. With this attitude, it could be easier to fix your small photography problems.
Last but not least I’d like to mention that no matter how frustrating this phase can be, it’s necessary for your personal development. Going through such a crisis helps you to be willing to improve, it makes you change something and you will come back stronger than you were before.
Defeats and setbacks are often the best advice.