Unfortunately, a time of creativity slowdown comes for every artist: painters, novelists, photographers, film-makers, etc. The duration of such period varies from person to person. If it lasts too long it could become a serious problem, especially if we rely on our art to generate an income.
I have personally experienced a few periods of creativity slowdown. I am aware that there are several reasons that help this hurdle to manifest and they are different depending on the person. In my experience, I was so overwhelmed by other aspects of my daily life to forget about my camera completely. My daily routines were so pressing that I preferred using my spare time to relax and distress rather than making photographs – I know that this sounds bad but we all need to be lazy sometimes!
Luckily, I was able to overcome this difficult times and would like to share with you a few tips to help you if you are experiencing – or want to get ready for – a drop in creativity.
Tip 1: Go Back to the Basics
As I mentioned in a previous article, often artists start devoting more and more time to what they are paid for rather than what they enjoy doing. In this instance, photography becomes a mere business and this might compromise your creativity. Just think about waking up every day and realising that you will work on something you dislike. I think that stopping for a moment to connect to the roots of our passion is a fundamental step to revive our creativity. To maximise our creative potential we must enjoy what we are doing and must be passionate about it.
I realise that only doing what you like might be financially unsustainable for many of us. I understand that we need to do things we are paid for – even if we do not like them – to generate a primary source of income. Indeed, what I am trying to advice is not to give up your job or more tedious assignments completely. On the other hand, it is to maintain that source of income, while finding some time to spend on your passion. Let’s suppose that you make most of you living out of wedding photography but you real passion is landscape photography instead. Well, maybe you should reschedule your work to spend enough time shooting weddings to subsidise your daily life and leave some spare time to make great landscape photographs.
A great example of this way of approaching photography is Thomas Heaton, a stunning landscape photographer. Well, in one of his videos, he argues that studio photography used to be his main source of income, while he focused on landscape photography on the side. Over the years, he was able to allocate more and more time to his passion, people started recognising his hard work and he was able to find ways to monetize his landscape photography. As a result, he is able to spend much more time making landscape photographs than working in a studio now.
Tip 2: Focus on a Project
I experienced that working on a specific idea allowed me to be more focused and to regain the lost creativity. After realising that getting out to make photographs was becoming more difficult, I started thinking about a specific project to work on, something I was genuinely attracted to.
This is a how I started working on my photo-book: Villa Borghese, a project that aims to document what one could see by spending an entire day walking through Villa Borghese – one of the largest parks in the city centre of Rome. I tried to document people, places, activities and moments that make this park so special and folkloristic.
Working on a specific project has several benefits to boost creativity. Firstly, you can build up confidence with your gears. If you use them frequently and long enough, you will realise how the camera setup truly becomes an extension of your eye. Instead of thinking about composition, moments and light, you just react. Secondly, you feel a purpose in your photography. You feel that what you are doing has a motivation, which is given by you passion – in my example it was to document the evolution of a place that marked my childhood. Moreover, you can also envision a tangible outcome for your project – to me it was printing a photo-book. Finally, you become an expert in what you are doing and the idea you are following. Therefore, you could become a reference point for other artists, who might be interested in following your example or expanding your project.
Tip 3: Use One Camera Setup Only
I have experienced that using a single camera setup for a long time has several advantages in boosting creativity. Firstly, as I was saying before your camera becomes an extension of your eyes. This makes your photography more spontaneous and intuitive… more real. Then, it forces you to be more adaptive and flexible. You will have to change your style, approach to the subject and composition given the constraints of your gears. This is especially true, if you use a prime lens only. Finally, it will allow you to travel light and to spend more time shooting. In my experience, two things are able to prevent me from being creative: being hungry and being extremely tired. Surely, a single camera setup will make you less tired, especially during long walks. It potentially will make you less hungry too, as yo will have more money to spend on food instead.