The Creative Block . . . Five Ways to Combat It

Experiencing the Creative Block

Just as writers have writer’s blocks, photographers can have visual blocks. I often hear from my private workshop clients that they feel scattered, can’t find a direction, feel overwhelmed by the choices of post-processing programs, and start looking at the process of being a photographer as a burden. Or, as the professionals say, “photography has become just a job and I have lost some of that passion.”

This is a real concern for many people, novice and professionals alike. But it is comforting to know that most photographers, at some point in their life, experience this.

Just as emotional thoughts can lead to amazing creativity, it can also be the cause of a block. Here are a couple of ways to face the emotional part of the block.  

Acknowledge, Accept, and Act

Acknowledging and accepting that you have a block may then allow you to take action. Fighting it, judging yourself, or ignoring it does not help. Nothing is wrong with having a block, but getting frustrated doesn’t help and oftentimes prolongs it. Accept that it is there, quiet your internal negative voice, and allow it to pass.

Allow, Adapt, and Let Go

Allow yourself to be fallible when it comes to your creative vision. Being too much of a perfectionist is oftentimes linked to a fear of failure; and this adds a lot of pressure. By letting go of the perfectionism, you may become more free to experiment and try creative avenues that are not tied to industry standards.

Once these mental blocks are acknowledged, the following are five useful physical steps you can take to combat the block.

1.  Take a technical break (put camera away)

Putting the camera away, (or better yet, leaving it at home) allows your mind to experience the world around you in a fully-encompassing way. Enjoy the light, smells, and sounds without the pressure of trying to produce a perfect and unique photograph. Take the time to pause, breathe and feel.

2.  Try a different style or technique

Experimenting with another style helps get the creative juices flowing. Not only will you need to explore and research technical information such as what settings and lens to use, but you can also view images that others have created.

Getting out and trying something completely different also helps you look around in a unique way. When a landscape photographer focuses on macro photography, they are looking closely at the details of the small things around them rather than the large vistas in front of them.

Here are few creative landscape images using a very different shooting style that you will find on Visual Wilderness:

  • Instead of sharp focus throughout the image, this photo use shallow DOF to create a dreamy effect – Sunset Beach, Mana Island, Fiji

     

  • Usual photo taken by pointing the camera straight up in middle of the day in a forest destroyed by a fire – Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada

     

  • Why not just photograph the reflections? – Maroon Bells, Colorado (CO), USA

     

Experimenting with different post-processing techniques can release the block as well. With different creative techniques comes a different way of approaching a subject. Trying black and white on a color image may enable you to see how colors translate to different grey tones. With this knowledge, you can better photograph for black and white while out in the field.

Give texture layering a try. Or HDR. Or other creative effects. Just allow yourself to experiment and play to open up that block.

Overcome creative blocks by trying a new photography technique or style.

Snow Geese Morning Flight. When I had a creative block last year, I took to the road and found myself at the Bosque Del Apache during the fall migration of the snow geese. Because I had no plan of being there, I was the only photographer there with a lens shorter than 150mm but the experience quickly released my block.

3.  Determine when you are your most creative

We all have different times of the day when we are at our best. Find that time when you are most productive creatively so that you don’t struggle through those times when you just aren’t able to get into the “zone”.

4.  Change your environment

If you spend all of your time in the same type of environment, you tend to become visually immune to what is around you. Spending time in a new place may open your eyes to new possibilities. If you are unable to go to an new environment, find new subject matter in within your environment.

Infrared Oak Tree in Oklahoma. Release the creative block by changing your environment.

Oak Tree. I often take time out of the daily grind to hike or walk around an area I have never been in before, soaking up everything around me. Often an image presents itself.

5.  Spend time with another photographer

Every photographer has their own way of viewing the world. Spending time with someone else and watching how they photograph, what they are looking at, and how they approach a subject is a great way to unblock. But make sure it is someone that has a similar temperament, otherwise you may find yourself more frustrated by their energy.

 

Wild Horses of New Mexico. I love going out and photographing with my friend Doug because we go and find areas we might not otherwise go to. We look for subjects that are outside of our comfort zone but utilize them in our landscape photography. With his presence, I can see how he approaches a scene and I can share with him how I approach a scene. It enables both of us to look outside our normal way of photographing the world.

In conclusion, don’t fret. You are not alone!  Share with me how you deal with your creative blocks.

About Author Christine Hauber

The current that underlies Christine Hauber's work is the concept of serenity in a world of chaos. With 25 years of professional photography experience, she continues to be attracted to the simplicity of the minimal and thus makes every effort to be a faithful visual recorder of the world around her. She wishes for her images to distill scenes ranging from the ephemeral to the eternal, from the abstruse to the symbolic. As a dedicated artist, she strives constantly to explore and expand her definition of the splendor and mysterious in life and nature. Her images have an ethereal and enduring quality.

Christine's work is published in various books, magazines and websites and has been printed and hangs in homes and offices worldwide. She teaches private photography workshops worldwide focusing on the needs of each unique client.

  • Dennis Doyle

    Well done!

  • Great information. Thank you for sharing