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?

Think big, shoot small?

“To speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is man, and he is only completely man when he plays.” (Friedrich Schiller, Letters Upon The Aesthetic Education of Man)

Last year my pictures had to be radically abstract. This year they are all about miniature people. What happened? And am I being inconsistent in my photography?

It’s about pictures

I have always tried to be very clear about one thing: My photography is not ‘about’ the things I photograph – in fact, I could not care less in many instances. It is ‘about’ pictures because I like pictures. This notion is also supposed to help me escape a certain kind criticism: It has been said that photography is the death mask of reality and that it is not able to surpass the reality it depicts. I wanted to go beyond that. I aimed at pictures that are independent of the time and place they show. Continue reading Think big, shoot small?

Gathering more than just photos

May 6th, 2014. When @zenith_ardor got a LEGO Tauntaun for his birthday and I’d just ordered one online, @smokebelch2 joked that there was “gonna be a Tauntaun showdown”. His taunts morphed into a photo gathering, the #tauntaunshowdown. An impromptu get together that spawned many more photography gatherings.

Together with @east_mountain, the four us started ‘hosting’ themed photography gatherings on Instagram from time to time.

There was nothing official about these gatherings. They were just a bunch of friends inviting others to join in and post photos based around a given theme, on a particular date or weekend. The unofficial tagline for these gatherings is “No winners. No losers. Just fun.” Continue reading Gathering more than just photos

Seasonal Infectious Disorder

Confession time; the changing seasons do affect my photography. I will call it a seasonal infectious disorder that is characterized by an irrational exuberance caused by the blossoming of trees, longer days and the sun peaking out from behind the ever present clouds. I didn’t realize how much it affected my toy photography until I was packing toys for a recent outing.

In an earlier blog post, Brett asked: “As the seasons change, do your toy photographs change with them?” I cavalierly thought, sure, of course it does. Who doesn’t take there toys to the beach in the summer and into the snow in the winter?  Ok, a lot of people, including me. Sometimes I find myself on a Hawaiian beach in the winter or high in the mountains of Colorado in the summer where the snow still lingers. On closer inspection it seems that location is not always an indicator of the season. Continue reading Seasonal Infectious Disorder

Home is where the art is

Ah, Easter on the Surfcoast of Australia! The Rip Curl Pro (third event on the World Surf League World Tour) at Bells Beach, the last week of the school holidays with holidaymakers enjoying the lingering summer warmth, crowds, gridlocked roads, jammed supermarket aisles, logjams at normally quiet cafes spilling onto footpaths, and the queues at the local bottleshops evoking panic that they might be sold out of beer! In our case, Easter denotes the tradition of stocking the cupboards and fridge, hunkering down and never leaving home; just like an Easter zombie apocalypse! Continue reading Home is where the art is

Cinematic Inspirations

If there’s one thing that means as much to me (if not more to me) than LEGO, it’s movies.

It’s no surprise then that they’re one of my biggest influences as an artist and photographer. One look at my feed is all it takes to realize how much I love Star Wars, Back to the Future, or superhero movies, and as I mentioned in my previous “Why?” post, I have a lot of fun playing around with and creating my own stories within those pre-established universes.

Sometimes, though, I turn to film for en entirely different reason: As a subject for imitation. Continue reading Cinematic Inspirations

Inspiration One Card at a Time

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you find it in the light like Kristina? Maybe you get your inspiration from your favorite movie like Fathers Figures? Maybe you find it on your “to-do” shelf like Brett? Or maybe you need a little direction to help jumpstart your inspiration like me? Continue reading Inspiration One Card at a Time

When Life [L] imitates Art

Time wounds all heels

Sure, we’re all familiar with the anti-mimesis (WARNING: link may contain traces of Hannah Montana) philosophical position that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”, but what about when “life [l]imitates art”?

And sure, we’re all familiar with the fact that I like to make up words like “limitates”, but you get what I mean. Continue reading When Life [L] imitates Art

When in doubt, deadlines and challenges!

A challenge a day keeps the sickness away

This week I’ve been engrossed in “The Chronicles of Nausea”.

As you can imagine, when you’re captivated by such a literary chef-d’œuvre (don’t mention chef), your motivation, inspiration and appetite (literally) wane. Continue reading When in doubt, deadlines and challenges!