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

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?