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?

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

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

A Reflection

I shot my first toy photos 9 years ago.

I was 17, in Ms. Jen’s 11th grade English class, and chose to illustrate scenes of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying from a list of project options.

I really knew nothing about photography, but was slowly discovering that I liked it.

I outlined a few key scenes from the book and set out to photograph them. To my knowledge, I had never knowingly seen a toy photograph, nor did I think of what I was doing in any sort of category. All I knew was that it seemed the best way to represent a burning barn, brothers, horse drawn carriage, fish mother and vultures was through toys and maquettes.

The resulting photos weren’t what I’d now call good, but at the time I was quite happy with what I’d managed to create with minimal supplies and a point and shoot camera.

So now, 9 years later, some 6 or so years since I’ve actually considered myself a toy photographer, I’ve recreated those images with better technical knowledge and artistic vision. Continue reading A Reflection

My One Photo that Changed it All

This is the story of the toy photo that set me on my path. From this photo, I never looked back. This, is my one photo that changed it all.

My first post on Toy Photographers was my Why statement. Why I do what I do – photograph, of all things, toys. And in that I touched on my college WWII project.

The longer it’s been since I made that project, the more I realize how defining it has been to my future photos. Continue reading My One Photo that Changed it All

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?

Learning Lego

The Beginning

Quite a few months ago a friend asked if I’d ever shoot Lego. I said ‘probably not’ and went on to explain that something so recognizable in an image makes it all about that item, whether for or against, you can’t have just a message all on its own.

Rethinking

I was being a bit narrow minded. Continue reading Learning Lego

Image Recovery & Shooting Outside your Comfort Zone

I’m pretty strictly a studio photographer. I like having full control of the entire set and lighting. But there were a few pictures on my ‘to do ‘ list that just seemed to be begging to be shot outdoors.

My sister came into town to visit and needed some beach shots for her blog. That was the final ingredient I needed for an inevitable outdoor shoot. So, armed with her shoes, and my toys, off to the beach we went.

Honestly, it wasn’t the best beach day. A bit too windy and chilly. But we stayed for just over an hour. I photographed seagulls and I photographed toys and I figured all the photos would be crap, because I was out of my comfort zone. Continue reading Image Recovery & Shooting Outside your Comfort Zone

Saving Ideas

Google image search ‘idea journaling’ and you get beautiful pages full of neat handwriting, perfect sketches, scrapbook paper and washi tape.

I keep an idea journal. Mine is not beautiful.

My journal (or should I say journals, because I constantly start new ones before old ones are full) is messy – scrawled script, scribbled pictures – complete nonsense to the onlooker. However, this process is a way for me to save things that I may not remember later, to brainstorm vague ideas for images and make those ideas fuller, to feel like I’m creating even when I don’t have a camera in my hand. Continue reading Saving Ideas