Overcoming Creative Challenges as a Photographer

Like many artistic professions, being a photographer comes with overcoming creative challenges. There are highs and there are lows. Many times I have wanted to throw in the towel and give up because being a photographer is hard work.

But it also very rewarding work and happens to be my lifelong passion so I don’t seeing myself quitting any time soon. In this blog post I am going to tackle some of the creative challenges we face as photographers and give you some helpful tips on how to overcome them.

Fine art photography portrait of a young woman in a black dress in a field

DEALING WITH RUTS

Ruts are just one of the hard parts about being a photographer and can pose major creative challenges. What exactly is a rut? I think of it as a time when you are feeling uninspired with your photography. You may feel no desire to shoot or you may be disappointed with everything that you are shooting. 

When you find yourself in a photography rut it can be an extremely frustrating period. But there are ways to overcome this photography challenge! I have an entire post devoted to getting out of a photography rut in the Winter (which is a common time for photography ruts to raise their ugly heads) and you can read it here.

Winter Light Photography. Girl in coat standing on beach at sunrise in the Winter

My number one tip to overcome this creative challenge would be to make yourself keeping shooting! Even if you don’t feel like picking up your camera, and you have no idea what to photograph, do it anyway. I don’t care if you pick it up, take one shot, and then put it away. This process will help keep your creative juices flowing. There have been many times I have done this and actually surprised myself by taking a shot I really loved. Sometimes we just need to take the pressure off and shoot from the heart.

Know that being in a photography rut is normal and something that every photographer goes through. It can also be a time of transformation and growth so don’t think of it as a bad thing…think of it as part of the process of being a photographer. For me, ruts have been a time of transformation in my work. I usually find myself in a rut because I am tired of what I am shooting. It’s a signal for me to try something new and become re inspired.

FINDING INSPIRATION

When inspiration strikes it’s amazing! But when you can’t find inspiration it flat out sucks. Here are some of my favorite ways to overcome this creative challenge and find fresh inspiration.

Every day life is a great place to start. My children have always been my number one inspiration. Sometimes my child will be standing in a certain spot, with a certain toy, and the light hits just right! Suddenly I am struck with an idea for a photo. So I immediately WRITE IT DOWN!!! I have a note on my phone with a list of photos I want to take.

Yes I could run and grab my camera but sometimes that isn’t always feasible. Maybe the baby is crying or you have to be somewhere in 15 minutes. If I write it down then I can plan to take it later. I can also plan to have them dressed in the perfect color coordinated outfit and maybe throw in a few meaningful props to enhance the scene. I cannot stress the importance of a list enough!! 

Overcoming creative challenges. children sitting on a fence in bathing suits eating popsicles.

LOOKING TO OTHERS

I also find inspiration on Pinterest. I love Pinterest! (You can check out my own Pinterest here) Maybe I have an idea for a photo but I need some inspiration on how I am going to perfect it. So I might look for color ideas or props that I can include in the photo. Pinterest always helps me flesh out my ideas.

Finding inspiration from other artists. Now I have to say that it is very very important to give credit to the artist that inspires you. And I encourage you not to copy exactly what that artist did, but to take their idea and put your own spin on it. Infuse it with your own unique style. Now it is ok to do an exact copy and sometimes that can be a powerful learning experience. I just have to reiterate that it’s extremely important to give the artist that inspired you credit!! Typically they will appreciate it and be pleased that their work was able to inspire you.

NEVER GIVING UP

There have been moments of frustration where I have claimed that I am done being a photographer and I am never going to take pictures again! And then five minutes later (after my tears have dried) I am thinking about the next photograph I am going to take. 

Overcoming creative challenges. Silhouette of little girl on the beach at sunrise.

My point is that we, as photographers, are going to experience moments of frustration. Some of your photoshoots are going to fail. I would say that at least %25 of the shoots I set up with my children are a complete bust. They weren’t in the right mood, I didn’t like how I set up a scene, or the sun came out and totally ruined my lighting. This is a part of being a photographer!! So don’t give up…take a break instead. 

Last Summer I wanted to get a shot of my daughter on this pretty dock by a lake in a local park. But every time I went to the park there were people on the dock or boats parked by it and I couldn’t get my shot. After 4 different attempts I FINALLY got my shot. But believe me after the third attempt I left the park in tears, convinced I was never getting my shot. Being a photographer takes dedication and perseverance.

overcoming creative challenges. Girl standing on dock by a lake in the fall.

FINDING YOUR STYLE

Finding your style as a photographer takes time. This is true for any artist. When you are first starting out with photography you may find yourself inspired by other photographers and attempt to emulate their style. This is OK and part of the learning process (remember giving credit where it is due). 

As you grow, you may find that you like particular things about one photographer’s style and other things about another photographer’s style. So maybe you start blending the two and eventually adding in your own ideas until you have come up with your own unique style of creating photographs. 

Think about your voice as a creator. What is it that you want to say to your viewer with your work? Maybe you are passionate about the environment and animals and want to use your photography as a way to bring awareness to preserving them. Or maybe you like finding beauty in the simple things in life. And your mission is to show others the beauty of everyday moments that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Finding your style and voice as a photographer is a process. And it grows and changes as you grow and change. Remember you have to take a lot of really bad photographs before you start taking good ones.

ALWAYS BE LEARNING

If you are learning you are growing. It can be easy to fall into the thinking that you already know everything there is to know about taking a good photo. But there is always something more to learn and taking classes and courses helps keep you fresh and challenges you to grow as a photographer. 

Right now I am focused on the business/marketing end of my photography and am taking a couple of different coursers focused on that. I also offer several photography courses of my own! You can check them out here and here!

GET OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE

I know this one probably makes you feel uncomfortable! Haha! But that’s the point! I make it a point to always be doing something outside of my comfort zone, whether it’s in photography or in my personal life. 

If you are always staying in that warm, safe place where nothing makes you feel uncomfortable then you aren’t going to grow. So if you are afraid to shoot in public, or you are scared to learn how to use that new camera you got for Christmas, you need to bite the bullet and try. 

And don’t forget baby steps are ok! Maybe you learn just one thing about your new camera. Or maybe you take a photo in a secluded public place where hardly any other people are around. When I am overwhelmed with something I break it down into baby steps. The creative challenge miraculously becomes much more manageable. 

LETS DO A QUICK RECAP!

DEALING WITH RUTS – This is a normal part of being a photographer. While ruts can be hard remember they do pass and can actually be very transformative.

FINDING INSPIRATION – Find the things in your everyday life that inspire you and MAKE A LIST!!! And don’t forget Pinterest!!

NEVER GIVING UP – If you are feeling frustrated, take a break! Don’t quit!

FINDING YOUR STYLE – Finding your own style in a process. You may draw different elements from photographers you admire to create your own unique style. This process takes time!

ALWAYS BE LEARNING – If you think you know it all, there is always more to learn.

GET OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE – If you aren’t doing things that make you uncomfortable then you aren’t growing.

So there you have it…my best advice for tackling the challenges of being a photographer. It’s not an easy process but it is a very rewarding one once you put in the work. I hope this helps you find inspiration the next time you are faced with one of these photography challenges.

XO,

Ruth

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.

 

This month I’m participating in a blog circle with some of my blogger friends. Check out Rosa’s blog and her post about San Luis Obispo Nannies!

  1. Iana says:

    Your photography is pure art – giving me butterflies!

  2. Rosa says:

    Your photos are so inspirational!

  3. Jillian says:

    Stunning photos Ruth! So important to get outside your comfort zone when having challenges, great advice!

  4. Robyn says:

    Ruth, this is such good information and inspiration! Thanks!

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Hi! I'm Ruth!

Welcome to my blog where I share all things photography related. I am a fine art photographer and photography instructor and mentor. I am also the mother to five wild little children who I homeschool. We love to explore nature while I take photographs along the way!

Fine art portrait photography

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