It happens. You lose inspiration and can’t seem to even want to pick up your camera, let alone find sources of stimulus. Sometimes it happens within a matter of seconds when you can’t seem to capture the exact image that you want, or the photo you were most excited about in a specific moment is out of focus. Or, the slump can last longer—weeks or months even. Here’s how to catch it and become engaged again.
Pick up your camera
Whether it’s been a slow week or you’re taking your camera out of storage, you need to feel in touch with your artist’s apparatus. Get the weight of it in your hands, change up the settings, and take some shots. Even if they’re not great, it doesn’t matter. You’re getting yourself back into the hang of it.
Prep as if you have a big shoot
Take out your lenses, camera, batteries and lay them in front of you. Wipe off any dust, clean all of the glass considering fingerprints and spots, and then clean out your camera bag too. Toss out any miscellaneous non-photo items you’ve accumulated in there and just do a solid purge and cleanse. Then, get started. Backup everything, charge your batteries, format your cards, and make sure everything is working. Going through everything will not only remind you of the gear you have on hand, but cleaning everything is a dependable refresher for getting back into your craft. Clear it all out to make room for fresh ideas.
Create a designated space
Rather than putting everything back into your newly cleaned bag, clear off a shelf, or even buy a new one for your gear. Having designated space for your photo equipment where it’s visible and accessible, forces you to see it and easily reach for it, say, the next time you leave the house to commute to work, walk the dog, or even just walk to the store. Having it all there on display rather than in a drawer or in your closet will make it far less likely for it to sit there to collect dust. Your photography shelf (or shelves if you’re lucky) will be there as visual encouragement and a daily reminder.
Find a subject
Though this can be overwhelming to consider while you’re in the midst of a slump, it’s necessary to break out of your rut. Start small. Maybe there’s a space in your house that gets really beautiful light in the afternoon. Notice small details you usually bypass, while at the same time brushing over logistics—whether your place is dirty or cluttered. A messy artist’s apartment with newspapers, and coffee cups can be just as visually stunning as a perfectly pieced together room. Maybe you’d taken notice of something interested on your street on the way home. Whatever it is, find a subject and shoot it everyday for a week to get back into a routine. This way, you’ll not only be shooting everyday, but you’ll also be forced to take on new perspectives and start looking with a photographer’s eye again, transforming the ordinary into compelling photos.
Find the source
Now that you’re shooting again, it’s important to find your reasons behind losing motivation. Often, it’s boredom. Have you been shooting only in one specific style and feel like you’re losing your sense of creativity? The best way to break out of a slump is to challenge yourself. Try something you’ve never done before that’s out of your comfort zone—astrophotography, food, self-portraits, even wilderness photography. The novelty will force your senses to focus harder and lose yourself in the work. Experimentation often leads to inspiration, if not a feeling of being reenergized at a minimum.
Shoot with a friend
Set up an ongoing photo date with a friend and explore for a few hours somewhere new when the light is nice. This will not only keep you motivated, but also maintain momentum. You’re less likely to skip out on shooting if you have a friend there to keep you accountable.
Get new gear
As a last resort, you can always try a new piece of gear. Whether you rent or buy a new lens, tripod, or shutter release cable, something new will get the gears moving again considering all the different ways you can use it.