If your creativity is blocked and you’re at a loss for photo ideas, I have three simple ways to jumpstart your creative flow. These ideas revolve around writing, movement and play. They are simple tricks I use on a regular basis to become unblocked. I know I have ideas just below the surface, I use these tools to open the door and set them free.

There are many ways to be inspired by external sources. Movies, books, music and other people’s art are all classic examples of external stimulus that can inspire your photographs. But what if you want to create images that reflect your own creativity? Why not go straight to the source and see what might be floating around that can form the basis for a photograph or even a series of images. 

Brain dump

Have you heard of the brain dump? It’s a technique often used to de-clutter the brain, it can help you sleep and it’s also a way to cope when you’re feeling stressed. It can be a great exercise to generate image ideas.   

First you need to grab a pen and paper and write for at least 30 minutes. Writing by hand is best, but make sure you can read your handwriting, because you will be reviewing what you write. Write out everything; your concerns, your anxiety, your hopes, your dreams, your to-do list, what you had for breakfast—it doesn’t matter what you write, just keep writing for at least 30 minutes or until you’ve emptied your brain onto the paper.

Now step away from what you’ve written for 5-10 minutes. When you’re ready, come back and review what you wrote. Do you see any themes? Is there a word or an idea that sticks out above all else? Great! Now go make a picture based on that word or its opposite. 

Journaling with my super appropriate Queen of Hearts pen!
Sony A7III with a Lensbaby Composer Pro II and Edge 50 optic.
F3.2, shutter 1/50, ISO 400 +2EV (just for fun!)


This particular quote goes through my head all the time:

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

This particular quote resonates with me strongly. Why? Because often when I’m out walking my dog, I’m letting my mind wander or turning an idea over in my head. It usually doesn’t take long before an idea will surface out of nowhere. There is something about engaging in a repetitive task that allows your mind to stay focused while ideas can bubble up from the subconscious. 

If you don’t like walking then replace this movement with a different repetitive task. Household chores, folding laundry, gardening, showering (that one comes from Vesa) and driving (another personal favorite) are all good substitutes for walking. The trick is to let your mind wander freely. Don’t listen to an audio book or podcasts; let silence be your friend. 

While this practice might seem like magic, its an easy trick to help you move around whatever is blocking your creativity. Because you’re engaging your conscious mind in a simple repetitive task, you’re allowing your muse, your inner child, your personal creator a pathway to your conscious. The ideas are there, this exercise creates a door for them to walk through. 

Imaginary friends are the best!
Sony A7III with a Lensbaby Composer Pro II and Sweet 50 optic.
F3.2, shutter 4s, ISO 50 +2EV

Clean-up / play

Full disclosure, my creative space / workshop is a disaster. I’m constantly tripping over boxes of toys and half completed projects. The clutter can be overwhelming and I believe it suffocates my creativity. When I feel overwhelmed and also stuck, I hear the clean-up song start playing in my head. You know the one…the one that every pre-school teacher sings to their student to get them to clean up before transitioning to the next task. 

Well this song and activity works for adults, too. By cleaning up your creative space, storage unit or wherever you store your toys, I guarantee you will see some random juxtaposition that will spark a photo idea. Clear the space and play with your toys as you go. Make discoveries of long-lost toys, incomplete photo ideas, juxtapositions you never imagined—your creative space is a land of never-ending ideas. It’s simply waiting for you to come play!

Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to make your space spotless. Im only suggesting you move it from overwhelming to inspiring. And while you’re cleaning up, don’t forget to play with your toys!

Do you ever get the feeling you’re being watched?
Sony A7III with a Lensbaby Composer Pro II and Sweet 50 optic.
F 2.8, shutter 1/10, ISO 400 +2EV

Now it’s your turn

We all get blocked creatively from time to time. When that happens, I appreciate that I have these three simple ways to jumpstart my creative flow. I use them all the time and I’ve never been disappointed with the results. I believe that amazing ideas are always just below the surface. We simply need to listen for when they bubble up to the surface. Hopefully these tools will help you like they help me.  

Of course you probably have your own ideas to spark creativity. Since this a place for sharing and learning from each other I would love to hear what simple methods you use to jump-start your creative flow. Leave a comment below and let’s pool our knowledge!