6 Ways to Fix your Photo Funk

Discouragement, fear, demotivation, I’ve discussed these way too much at this point here (I promise I’ll write about something else soon). But no matter how many posts I write (which end up being extensions of lectures I’ve given myself) about forgetting the world and creating for yourself, there is always more to say.

I am very good at not taking pictures. I’ll have tons of ideas itching at my brain, the supplies to make each one and absolutely no motivation. Whether stress, general creative discouragement, or a world of other thoughts in my head, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to create. The problem there, is that then I mentally beat myself up for not making photos and the cycle continues.

A photo funk is a mood. It’s when you’re stuck. You want to create but have no ideas, inspiration or motivation. Maybe you’ve tried to create and nothing has come together right. Regardless of why, you’re in this photo purgatory.

If you’ve ever felt this way, trust me, I know it sucks. So here, I thought I’d compile some ways that have helped me in the past, which I hope will prove useful for you as well.

  1. Just shoot.

Grab your camera and some toys, go outside, to your studio, or other favorite shooting space, try some poses, find some good lighting and shoot. Create a study of a figure, taking as many different macro shots of the same toy as you can. Or make up a silly little story as you go, whether it will truly come across in your photos or not, and shoot a few images to illustrate that story. Even if you’re just sitting on your couch, or laying on your bed, just get yourself shooting, that’s all that matters. Once you start clicking away, motivation for less impromptu shoots will start to come.

  1. Find a challenge to join in on.

The internet is full of photo challenges, and challenges can be good for multiple reasons. One, sometimes the topic itself will strike the perfect photo idea. Two, having a deadline, for some people can be super motivational – if nothing else it gets you shooting right now. The Toy Photographer’s community on Google + hosts monthly challenge themes, you can also join in on the monthly Raptor Pack Day, get a book of photo challenges, check out this blog event listing, the list goes on. Find one or more that speak to you and get to shooting.

  1. Peruse other people’s art.

Make sure you know yourself before selecting this option. While viewing the work of others can be so motivational and eye opening, it can also be discouraging if you tend to compare yourself to others.

  1. Read an art book.

If you like to read, pick up a book and get to it. Immersing yourself in thoughts of creativity without actually being creative can get so many ideas flowing. Make sure to have a note taking device nearby in case you start to overflow with photo thoughts.

  1. Participate in pop culture or other form of entertainment.

Watch your favorite TV show again, watch a new movie, go see a play, listen to music, read a novel. Inspiration can be found everywhere and in everything. And whether you shoot franchise figures or not, the narratives and visuals in various types of entertainment can be just the key to sparking new ideas.

  1. Get out of your head, stop thinking about photos and fully immerse yourself in something else for a while.

Sometimes you’ve just thought yourself into a wall. You’re trying so hard that there’s no way a new idea is going to come. All your muses have floated away. So if you can, stop. Go somewhere, meet up with someone, go out in nature, and don’t bring your camera. Choose an activity you can fully immerse yourself in. Sometimes letting the problem sit on the back burner while you have some me time is the best medicine. Once your brain has had some time to relax, the creative ideas will flow more smoothly.


#5 seems to be the method that works for me most often. Pushing myself to further develop my current photo ideas while my favorite Pandora station plays in the background can get me pretty pumped. If that’s not enough, visiting a  museum or seeing a play can be just the creative aura that gets my creative juices flowing.

What are ways you’ve successfully emerged from a photo funk?

Jennifer Nichole Wells

When is my work only mine?

How do you handle your lack of inspiration? I usually look at other peoples work to get inspiration. I do it with hope that I’ll be inspired to create something. But when I do this, sometimes my image becomes a version of someone else work. And that may be a dilemma.

When is an idea only yours?

When do you think your image becomes yours and isn’t a homage or loan of someone else’s idea? If I make homages of others peoples ideas should I tell them? Am I always required to tell those who’s images I borrowed that they’ve inspired me? When, if ever, is my work only the work of me and not of those who inspire me?

Recently I was at a youth competition for fencing with my youngest son and the poster for the competition caught my eye. I walked past this picture/poster serval times; I stopped and examined the pace and perspective. The image had strong lines that draw the viewer into the picture. In short, I really like this image.

Low on ideas

As you know I’m in the midst of a 365 project with the goal of 52 images featuring reflections. I can say that I’m pretty low on ideas right now. So the other night when I went out to do another working image I used this poster image as my inspiration. Maybe I made my own image, maybe I only made a copy? I realize that there are differences, but really it’s the same idea with a couple of minor differences. In my image the subject is a toy and she doesn’t where a mask but carries a sword…  My image is based on another image and someone else’s idea. Does this mean my image is mine? Or is it a copy or even worse simply theft? When is an image original enough to be called mine?

My answer

My own answer to this question is that I don’t think there is anything that is truly original. We all borrow, from others. I don’t think that my ideas are the result of only me…, I borrow, mashup, remix and make them to be mine. But during that process I consciously and unconsciously get inspired by other peoples ideas, images, as well as impressions from my everyday life. I use all this as a source of inspiration. In a best case scenario, these ideas merge into images that I can call my own. But some images will become pure tribute to an existing image, while others are copies of images I want to learn from. I feel that to truly understand an image we need to look at it over and over again and sometimes I have to copy it. Thinking of it and looking through my images I think there is only a few images that stand out as images that are just me. But I may be wrong, what do you say?

Kristina

After I had written this text, I went out to do a sunday version of my photo-project and I ended up with a new version of the idea that I got inspired by. Is this image mine, or just a copy of a copy?

The joy of creativity

Right now, I’m more in love with my printer than my camera. This is a huge departure from where I was three years ago when I wrote: “For the pure joy of the photograph”. I’ve grown a lot as an artist in the last three years and my joy of photography has expanded to a more inclusive joy of creativity.

In my original post I talked a lot about the thrill of photography. I wanted to take photos and not actually “do” anything with them. I referenced Vivian Maier and her well know habit of taking hundreds of rolls of photographs and not developing them. The act of taking a photo was more important (easier?) than developing, printing and exhibiting her work.

I know the feeling. Three years ago my primary objective was taking photos. Exploring my environment through toys was my only goal. There is a pure joy to the photographic process. I was more than happy to simply have fun.

Recently Kristina asked: ”When is an image finished?” I can relate to her dilemma. I think all creatives can. Setting up a particularly photo and seeing the beauty of the light, the image, the story, is addicting. The act of creating by taking photographs, feels good. It feels so good, in fact, that its sometimes hard to stop. What I’m learning now is that it feels good to be creative in other ways too.

While I still experience the joy of creativity, I seem to be moving away from focusing on the click of the shutter.  I want to develop the images further then ever before. Editing is more important due to the effort and time of alternative processes.  Printing my works and presenting them is my current challenge. There are boxes of paper and spare ink begging to be used. My shop is filled with boards to be prepped and images to be mounted. July 15th is right around the corner!

I love taking photos, but my creative drive is shifting in new directions. I’ve spent time organizing my web site into albums. I’m also curating images into a semi-cohesive group for a cafe show. By doing these activities I can see where I need to focus my creative energies. I now see glaring holes in my portfolio which helps me in the decision making process.  Which images should I photograph next? With the help of Jennifer’s G+ challenge I’m also looking at my ‘near misses’ to see if they can be salvaged.

An image from 2015 which I’ve always loved, but why does the pond have to be so dirty??
A new version taken in my back yard. Im not there yet, but this image gives me hope. 🙂

Sometimes being creative doesn’t mean taking photos. Sometimes you have to stop and take stock of where you are and where you want to go. Priorities change, interests move in new directions.

I’m grateful for the frustrations of various on line media platforms. There is an upside to the current negative Instagram user experience. Rather than chase likes and followers, I’m getting my hands dirty and making stuff. The physical act of creating a piece of art is a joyous way to spend an afternoon.

Much has changed in my life since I started blogging in February of 2014, but the joy of photography has not. I’ve only expand my creative joy to include editing, curating and creating images for presentation.

Shelly

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On Times of Creative Discouragement

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

-Salvador Dali

The reason I am so adamant about measuring success only by your own standards, is that it can be so so easy to give up in this intense creative world. Sure, everyone’s standards of success differ – some may consider success simply having fun, others affluently selling their work, and really everything in between. But no matter your measure, if you let fear and the opinions of others seep into your photographic work, you’ll no longer be creating genuine and fulfilling work.

So I say simply, create for you first, and then allow the rest of the world access. Criticism will always hurt, but if you have a strong, positive opinion of what you’ve created, any harshness that comes your way will sting just a bit less.

Even when creating for yourself, the pressure can be monumental. We are our own worth critics and sometimes hold ourselves to impossible standards. But, at least these standards are our own – set for us with, most likely, with good intentions. And with enough of a push, it can be easier to overcome self-doubt than to overcome a drive to please everyone else.

The other day, I made a photo I really really liked. Then I made more photos to go with that photo and in comparison hated them. I showed my boyfriend, he liked the subsequent photos more than the first. I told him they sucked and that the first one is the best photo I’ve ever made…and then I stressed out about photography for the next week.

I kept thinking that I would never replicate the perfection of the image I had come to adore; that I’d never create something I was proud of ever again.

Are these dumb, irrational thoughts? Yes. But I have a feeling I’m not alone in having them from time to time. The problem is that I let them grab ahold of me and keep me down. They came to me at a time where I was stressed about a lot of other things. And so I just didn’t make more photos for a while.

Soon after, I agreed to shoot some photos with a specific deadline, and that pushed me to shoot again. Being with my camera, in my studio space convinced me not only to create this new work, but to reexamine the photos I was so disappointed in.

“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

– Scott Adams

Having a deadline is only one very specific way to push through discouragement in your work. Each person will have something different that works for them, and that something may continuously change.

The point is, if this is truly what you’re passionate about, the feelings of doubt will pass. If you keep shooting, no matter what you’re shooting, once a day, once a week, or maybe only once a month, you will inevitably make a photo you’re proud of again. As you grow as a photographer, your work will only continue to improve. And as you keep shooting, your ideas around it will develop.

So maybe I’m only preaching to myself, but stop worrying about being better and instead actively work to get there. Just shoot.

Jennifer Nichole Wells

Do you ever experience self-doubt in your photography? What do you do to combat it?

Revisiting and Recreating Your Toy Photos

June’s photo challenge in the G+ community, Revisiting and Recreating your Toy Photos, is based on an earlier post by Jennifer. This challenge has me thinking about photos in my archives that I’ve already revisited and recreated.

It seems there’s no shortage of them! So I thought I would share of few of them with you. Continue reading Revisiting and Recreating Your Toy Photos

Leaving A Photo Be

“A great photograph [is] a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about what life in its entirety.”

– Ansel Adams

As with any creative practice, photography is so personal that we constantly feel the need to defend it to others and to explain our work. But there is a power that comes in leaving a photo be and allowing the viewer to interpret as they will. Continue reading Leaving A Photo Be

What have you created today?

What have you created today?

I ask myself this question everyday. It might seem like an easy question to answer, but somedays its hard to answer positively. Like you, I have the usual litany of personal responsibilities that accompanying the act of #adulting. I won’t bore you with the details because I’m sure you have a similar list. Yet, with all these responsibilities its important to be able to answer: “Yes, I created something today!”

You and I are similar…we love photography and creativity. I know this because you’re reading this blog. We all have our different reasons for using toys as our subject, but at the core, we’re all creatives. (If you’re not familiar with the many reasons toy photographers use toys, you should check out our “Why?” series!) As a creative, I bet you want to understand and improve your photography.

I know I am. Continue reading What have you created today?

A Foggy Path

It all started with the word ‘humid.’

In Florida it’s always humid. Go outside with your camera and the lens immediately fogs up. If you want a non-fog filled image quickly you have to wipe the condensation from your lens and hope for the best. Otherwise you wait up to 30 minutes or more until your camera acclimates to the sticky weather.

A couple years ago, I decided I wanted to replicate a fogged camera lens effect indoors. My mom suggested placing something in front of the lens. So really I owe the whole development of this process to her. I had some textured transparency film left over from a college printmaking class and there it was. Continue reading A Foggy Path

When is a image finished? 

If someone were to ask me: When is an image finished? I wouldn’t be able to say when… This story or rather this attempt to make a picture that I’m calling “lovers” started with a clear idea, but I’m not sure if it will ever be finished. It all started with me thinking about the fairytale princess and which princesses could play a role in my project on reflections of a toy? Continue reading When is a image finished? 

Where Do Toy Photos Belong?

“Never have I found the limits of the photographic potential. Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.”

-W. Eugene Smith


As we struggle with Instagram’s constantly changing algorithm many toy photographers are trying to figure out where in this social media world they belong. Of course I’m going to vote for Google + and the Toy Photographer’s Community, but really our images can fit anywhere that any other photo can. Continue reading Where Do Toy Photos Belong?