It’s that time of year again. The holidays are over and all that lies ahead is several cold, dark, brown months. This is the time of year when a lot of photographers fall into a photography rut. Being stuck inside, with little to photograph can take a toll of your creativity, but it doesn’t have to! I find that I am actually more inspired to really push myself creatively during these months than at any other time of the year. This is when you really have to dig deep and create from within. It’s easy in the other seasons to capture beautiful Spring blossoms, or the splendid colors of Fall. But in the cold months of Winter you have to find new ways to capture the beauty around you
EMBRACE THE BROWN
Embrace the brown, or white, or whatever color you are surrounded by. Become the best darn photographer of brown you can be. Find new ways to make brown exciting by finding what colors work well with it or what colors really pop against a brown background. I personally love to explore neutrals and earth tones during this times of year. I am obsessed with nature and I find that there is still so much beauty in the bare, raw trees and the dried up dead leaves. It’s just another part of the cycle of the seasons.
PREPARE FOR THE COLD
There is no doubt about it that shooting in the Winter can definitely present its own set of challenges. And when you are in a photography rut these can feel hard to overcome. But if you know it’s going to be cold, prepare for it. Dress warm, bring fingerless gloves so you can still operate your camera.
And make sure you dress your models warmly. Hats, scarves, coats, and mittens can all make for wonderful outfits to photograph if you coordinate accordingly (check out my blog post here all about what to wear for your photoshoot). A cold model, especially a child, is a difficult one to photograph. You want your subject as comfortable as possible.
And don’t forget to rejoice in the fact that you aren’t sweating in the Summer heat or dealing with annoying bugs. There are definitely positives to shooting outdoors in the Winter!
While I don’t love the fact that it gets darker earlier in the Winter, I do love it when it comes to photographs! Golden hour is around 4:30/5:00 where I live and it’s great to be able to get my photos taken before dinner. In the Summer time, I often have to wait until around 8:30 before golden hour hits. It’s right before bedtime and I’m usually tired after a long day and making dinner. So I always try to relish the fact that golden hour comes early in the Winter months.
Winter light also has its own distinct flavor if you will. While Summer light often has a beautiful haze, the cold air in Winter makes the light clean and crisp and beautiful to photograph and always inspires me when I’m in a photography rut.
The sun shifts in the Winter and sets and rises in different spots than it does in the Summer. I love to walk around my yard and see how the light is peeking through a different set of trees or go to the park and see how the sun sets in a different location than it does in the summer. It allows to me to shoot the same place from a different perspective.
So watch the sun, go explore, and see what new locations it lights up and how you can shoot the same spot in a different way that you might have in the Summer. It may just give you that burst of inspiration you need.
JUST KEEP SHOOTING
I know this may not be what you want to hear, but whenever I am in a photography rut, I force myself to just shoot through it. If its every day, or even just once a week, try to shoot!
Even if I am completely uninspired and I know I’m probably going to shoot crap, I still get out and my camera a shoot SOMETHING. Just the act of showing up will help to keep your creative juices flowing.
I absolutely love this TED Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of the book Eat, Pray, Love) which talks all about creativity and showing up. It has helped me tremendously to keep going even when I am feeling uninspired.
CHALLENGE YOURSELF WITH A PROJECT
If you have no idea what to shoot, try challenging yourself with a project. Challenging yourself to complete a specific project can help jump start your creativity by giving you a concrete goal to work towards and getting you out of your photography rut. Whether it’s shooting 100 portraits in 100 days or taking one photo each day for a year, setting yourself up for success with a clear plan will help motivate you to keep going when things get tough.
It doesn’t have to be as intense as a 365 project. It can be something simpler like a weekly shot, or creating a bucket list of Winter shots you would like to capture every year.
I like to recreate certain shots each season. For example, when it snows I know I am going to try to get a photo in my seasonal spot, and a photo of my son with his Tonka Trucks in the snow.
Creating projects like this ensures you have something to shoot. For more info check out my blog post The Art of Creating a Series.
Take this time to play around with Winter props. I just bought a brand new wooden sled that I am super excited to photograph (if it ever finally snows here in in Virginia). I invested in a nice sled because I know its something I can photograph for years to come. But your prop doesn’t have to be as fancy as a sled. It can be a snow shovel, a beautiful scarf, pair of mittens, or maybe its just a snowman you built in your front yard.
Winter props can be fun to explore and use to enhance the storytelling in your images. Every Winter I get a shot of my son with what we call a “Winter Bouquet” which is made up of all the dead and dried up flowers we find in our yard. It’s a simple and completely free prop that is only available this time of year.
I personally mourn when the warmer weather is over and I have to move much of my photography indoors. I have limited space, and it can be tricky to get the shots I want. This is a time to explore your house and see how the winter light comes through your windows and how you can photograph it.
If all else fails, you can at least take a shot through your windows or doors like the ones I took below. It’s still indoors but you don’t have to worry about what it actually looks like indoors (if that makes sense). Get creative and find new ways to think outside the box.
TAKE A CLASS
If you can’t bring yourself to pick up your camera, do the next best thing and take a photography class. There are so many wonderful photography classes available on literally every photography topic you can imagine (I offer two… Creating Outdoor Composites and Watch Me Edit!). If you don’t feel like shooting, taking a class will help keep your creativity flowing and may even inspire you to then go pick up your camera!
Even the best photographers know that they still need to keep learning…there is always more information out there and if you are learning you are growing.
So let’s do a quick recap!
- EMBRACE THE BROWN – Don’t fight the brown, white, whatever color you find yourself surrounded by. Find new ways to make it pop by exploring color.
- PREPARE FOR THE COLD – If you are going to shooting in the cold dress yourself and your models appropriately.
- WINTER LIGHT – Explore how the light changes this time of year both in clarity and location. Embrace the fact that golden hour is earlier than in other seasons.
- JUST KEEP SHOOTING – Challenge yourself to get out there and shoot even if you don’t feel like it. It keeps your creativity flowing and you may just surprise yourself and get a shot you love.
- START A PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT – When all else fails, a photography project – like a series – can help you come up with ideas to shoot when you feel like you are drawing a blank.
- WINTER PROPS – Take advantage of the fact that you can use specific props this time of year that you can’t in other seasons.
- SHOOTING INDOORS – Explore new ways to shoot in your home, even if it’s just shooting through a window or door to give the effect of being indoors.
- TAKE A CLASS – If all else fails take a class to expand your photography skills and keep your creativity flowing.
So if you’re feeling uninspired by your photography, don’t despair! There are plenty of ways to get out of your photography rut and start taking creative, beautiful photos again.
I’m participating in a super fun blog circle this month with other photographers. Check out my friend Michele’s post all about photoshoot ideas for your baby’s first birthday
Ruth Young is a professional, portrait photographer and photography educator located in Culpeper, Virginia. She photographs her daily life with her 5 small children and has a passion for teaching photography. For more about Ruth follow her on Instagram where she posts daily.