Overcoming the photographer’s block

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THE CREATIVE PAIN

From time to time, authors hit the wall and suffer the writer’s block. Artists suffer the same block, not knowing what to draw next. So do photographers suffer from a “photographer’s block”? Well, as far as it goes, the answer is yes for me.

I have at least hit the end of the road a couple of times. I have watched a ton of YouTube tutorials, and still not know what to do next with my photography to bring it “to the next level”. Tried a bunch of different things, they all seem wrong, and it seems like that’s as far as my talent can go as a serious hobbyist.

At times, I just thought “it’s just a hobby”, “just leave it”, and “nothing is going to hurt”. But thankfully, my hardcore gamer side won, and I won’t give up until I hit level 9999. So this article is going to be a sharing on all the stuff I thought and did to overcome the “photographer’s block”. If there’s no road ahead, it’s time to walk on the wild side… or make your own road if you must.

1) DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP (TOO MUCH)

Oh I suck, I am so bad, I don’t have the talent, I cannot do it. Yes, acknowledging that you are bad is the first step to improvement. But getting stuck at this stage and beating yourself for longer than required is just plain pointless.

Why not spend more time on thinking what sucked? What is it that “cannot be done”, and what needs to be improved? Spend more time on all the positive and constructive things instead. If you keep thinking “I am bad” and not take any positive action, you will never cross the block.

2) EMBRACE CHANGE

When you feel glued to the floor, it’s time to do something different. Staying on the same spot will probably result in the same block, the same dead end. Try doing something that is entirely different from the usual, go into a subject that you never thought that you will do.

As an example, I am a landscape photographer, and I jumped into cosplay / portrait photography… and rather unexpectedly, I constantly jump between these two now. If you are not too comfortable with an alien space, then do some less crazy things within your reach instead (like from landscape to astrophotography).

3) TIME FOR NEW TOYS

Is your gear limiting your progress? If so, this is the “simplest fix”… but it lightens your wallet. Sad to say, I will never be able to do astrophotography nor long exposures with my old 3.2 megapixel Olympus. If you feel the “I want to do this, but I can’t with my current gear”, it’s time to buy new toys.

Nope, it’s not necessarily the camera that needs upgrading. Could be a simple tripod to do good long exposures, or an insane long pole for “aerial photography”. Who knows, putting a light-weight camera on an egg time can turn it into self panning time lapse machine. Who knows, something simple might reignite your inspirations.

4) NO IDEA WHAT TO SHOOT NEXT?

You are so bored of shooting the same things over and over again, you have totally no idea what to shoot next. Let’s see, I stay on an island called Singapore, with limited land space and photographic opportunities.

But that did not stop me as a landscape photographer. Everyone taking the same photo of the same place at the same time? Think of something different. What if I used a different lens? What if you used a drone? What if I combined landscape with something else? This, is one of my crazy experiments –

Astrophotography Fireworks – My Crazy Epic Experiment

Someone once told me that the universe is infinite, so are photography opportunities. You are your own limiter, you just have to look at things in a different light. Do things differently, combine different elements together, experiment. That is what to do next.

5) COPY NINJA

Let’s see, finding inspirations is not that easy? If you are reading this, I shall assume that you are on the Internet. There are a ton of good photo sharing websites for you to explore – Flickr, 500px, and Pixoto to name a few.

Now go ninja how others shoot. Don’t be afraid to find inspirations from each other, that’s the social things that humans talk about (with the exception of hermits). It is even better if you join a photographer’s meetup, go learn from each other, you just might find something unexpected.

6) FRICKIN ONLINE TROLLS

So you actually have photos and ideas, but is afraid of how the online community is going to react? Well, you will never know their reactions until you get it out there? The thing about Internet these days is that, it’s the Internet.

Think about this. I have an epic cosplay photo which I posted on Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Reddit. Overall, it was well received on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. While on Reddit, it was flamed because it had no boobs nor booty. Yep, there goes to show you cannot please everyone. It’s all about the audience you choose.

If you are still skeptical, just think about who are all these “online haters”? Are they renowned or experienced photographers? Are they giving constructive feedback even if they are bad? If not, they are nothing more than trolls. Don’t feed the trolls.

7) TOO MANY SUGGESTIONS

It is good to take a few suggestions online into your next shoot. But too many suggestions, you get yourself stuck on wondering what to do next, and which is the right step. Too many cooks ruin the dish, as the wise say. Choose wisely on which advise you want to take.

8) BELITTLING YOURSELF TO INFINITY AND BEYOND

Photographer X is so good, look at all those god level equipment, and I will never reach that level. Look at me, a potato. I have no talent, I should stop doing photography. Potatoes are no good? Potatoes go well almost anywhere – fries, soup, mashed potatoes, baked chips or salad. Point being, so what if you are a potato and photographer X is an orange?

Well, everyone starts somewhere. Everyone goes through the same cycle of learning and become better over time. No point doing all these comparisons. No point looking down on yourself. What is photography about? Passion and fun, or for comparing apples, oranges and potatoes?

9) GO ON A HIATUS

When all else fail, it’s time to put that camera down for a while. Keep it in your dry box, and let it gather some dust. Sometimes, you just have to take a break for a while. As the old kung fu masters teach, when the cup is full, it will not hold anymore water. Pour the water away first, and it will open up more possibilities.

Pour the water away, it reflects the sky.

10) DON’T WAIT FOR “THE CALLING”

The time for me to shine has not come yet, I shall wait and the force shall grow strong in me. Not. What if you are not the chosen one? Whether you choose to put down your camera or not, don’t wait too long for inspirations to come. It never might come if you wait.

After taking the fair amount of rest that you need, it’s time to move on. Sitting there and waiting for that “divine message” is just not going to work. Go out and find it. If you wait too long, you will only find cobwebs and fungus growing.

11) JUST DO IT

Now for the most important last point, procrastination. I cannot do it, I don’t want to do it, I will do it tomorrow. If you don’t have a good reason to not do things you love, don’t find weak excuses… that is actually a very bad mentality. Here, have some Shia LaBeouf classic. Go, just du et.


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