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Five Ways to Break Out of a Photography Rut

Try these tips to renew your love of life through a lens.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” – Karen Lamb

Whether you are a seasoned professional or a novice hobbyist, you’ve likely experienced a feeling of burnout or stagnation in your photography, at least once. Today, I’ll be sharing five quick tips for breaking out of a photography rut. Try them alone, try them together, or maybe even turn them into a photoblogging project, where each tip is the topic for a new post.

Shoot outside of your comfort zone.

Tip: Exploration is fun, but make sure you’re allowed to be where you wander.

Do you typically go for flower macros, or landscape shots? Try some street photography of people, but make sure you’re familiar with your limitations. Try to diverge as much as possible from your norm, even if something doesn’t immediately sound appealing. You might be surprised with what you discover.

Lifestyle shoots are a fun and emerging niche in photography, where you simply document life as it happens. If you’re used to shooting posed subjects or stationary objects, this type of photojournalistic approach might be fun for you.

Go somewhere that inspires you.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Ghandi

Maybe there’s a place that you love to shoot, but you haven’t been there in a while. Make it a priority to get there again. Return to where you first felt the spark for photography.

Volunteer your time somewhere, and practice your craft for a good cause. Document a charity 5k, or provide animal portraits for a rescue shelter’s website. Do a portrait project at an assisted living home, and collect the stories of the residents to go with their photos. Use your photography to serve.

Shoot with someone else.

“By teaching, we learn.” – Latin proverb

Go on a photo walk with a more experienced photographer friend. Or, be the experienced one, and take along a novice. Seeing the world through a fresh pair of eyes may kickstart your creativity.

Shooting with someone else is a wonderful way to teach, learn, and motivate. Photo by <a href="http://threebirds.blog">Jen Hooks</a>.

Shooting with someone else is a wonderful way to teach, learn, and motivate. Photo by Jen Hooks.

Master a new technique or piece of equipment.

Find a vintage film camera at a secondhand store, and learn to use it. Rent a new lens, and master it. Create a DIY reflector, and play with natural light.

Tip: Share a link to your blog if you try any of these ideas, and share your own ideas for motivation!

If you can’t get your hands on any new gear, teach yourself a new technique. Learn how to shoot a macro. Photograph a sporting event where the movement is fast, and you need a quick shutter speed. Always shoot during the day? Low-light photography is extremely challenging, and yields dreamy, rewarding results.

Low-light photography can be difficult to perfect, but the results are worth the effort. Photo by <a href="http://threebirds.blog"> Jen Hooks</a>.

Low-light photography can be difficult to perfect, but the results are worth the effort. Photo by Jen Hooks.

Revisit old work to see how much you’ve grown.

Tip: Don’t let the comparison to others’ best work drag down your confidence. The only work you should be comparing yours to is your own from a year ago.

This is my personal favorite, though some of my earliest work makes me cringe. Images underexposed or overexposed, scream-worthy editing fads in Photoshop, missed focus. But my old work has value — it shows me how far I’ve come as an artist, and inspires me to continue to develop my craft. Where might I be at this time next year?

Where will you be, as a photographer?

The image on the left is from 2012; overexposed, too much magenta in the white balance, and my horizon is not straight. The image on the right is from earlier in 2016, better all around, from a technical perspective. Photos by <a href="http://threebirds.blog">Jen Hooks</a>.

The image on the left is from 2012; overexposed, too much magenta in the white balance, and my horizon is not straight. The image on the right is from earlier in 2016, better all around, from a technical perspective. Photos by Jen Hooks.

Looking for more photographic inspiration? Check out our other posts on The Craft of Photography. We also have some fantastic Blogging U courses on photography, if you’d like a more directed opportunity to develop your skills. Never stop learning.

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  1. I enjoyed reading this and looking forward to reading more from posts on The Craft of Photography. Any suggestions on…okay, I don’t know what it’s called but the best example is taking a photo with a window in the background.

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  2. Great blog. My husband is just starting to learn photography, while i start doing the blogging. This is something that bring us more closer. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. I like visiting old works, not really to compare previous styles and techniques, but also the kind of subjects that dominated my images before. Amusing reference to early experiments with Photoshop!

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  4. This is something that I try very hard not to do, but sometimes I find that there is nothing to shoot of interest. However, I have been doing some IR Photography and this is a whole new challenge in itself. It’s a time consuming process, since I don’t have a converted IR camera. I learn as I go along.

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