It happens to all photographers, and really to all creatives. It happens quite often to me. Life gets busy, things get piled on my plate with family, church, sports, homework for the kids, editing pictures for clients, the boring details of maintaining a business, keeping the house clean and laundry caught up. Oh and dinner sandwiched in there somewhere.
When I get piled so high with everything else, one of two things happens with my photography. I either cling to my camera as an escape from reality or totally lose all interest in even picking up my camera.
Usually it's the latter. (I will freely admit I'm currently in a slump, I haven't touched my camera in a few days...)
Sometimes my slump lasts for only a few days, then I'm up and at 'em again. Other times my slump seems to go on for weeks with no end in sight. If you're a photographer, you know what I mean. You've been there. And you've probably thought that slumps are a bad thing.
Well, I'm here to tell you that slumps are actually a good thing, and you should embrace it! Yes, you heard me right...embrace that slump!
Why embrace the slump?
I believe a slump is your body's way of telling you to slow down, and you need a break from something. Usually it's that "extra curricular" activity that takes up a lot of your thoughts and attention that will feel it first. (For me, that's photography.) Your body is pretty good at telling you when you need something. When it needs food, your stomach growls, you feel thirsty if it needs more water, and you yawn when it needs sleep. But it can't come right out and say, "I need a break from photography". So, feeling that slump is a little nudge, telling you to take a break and get some rest and relaxation. Don't ignore it!
Will a slump just go away when it's time?
Sometimes it will just go away quickly and quietly on it's own. Sometimes a good night's rest is all that was really needed. When it sticks around for a couple of days or more, is when it gets a bit harder. You enter an almost depression-like state whenever you think about picking up your camera. (Now, I'm just talking about only a slump in your creative endeavors. If you feel despair all the time with everything, please go see a doctor about it. Clinical depression is serious business, and you can and should get help from a professional--you deserve to feel happy!)
When you do get that on-going, longer slump, it's hard to know if you should just ignore it and move on, or do something about it. A lot of times, after a couple of weeks it will work itself out and soon you'll feel back to normal.
So, what should you do when you're in a slump? Is there anyway to end it more quickly?
Well, I have some ideas for you! These aren't in any particular order, and I sometimes do a mix of things, so do what's right for you!
1. Push through it. Pick up your camera a shoot anyway. Though this is the first answer on my list, it's my least favorite. Doing this does not result in your best work, and you will most likely not feel any joy in doing it either. (Obviously if you have a photo session, you will have to do this. But take a look at number 3 for some ideas to amp up your session!)
2. Try a new hobby! Have you envied seeing a friend whip up a cute quilt or bottle peaches? What other hobbies have always seemed fun to learn, but you've never had time to do them? Start doing that! It could be learning a new instrument, how to paint, running, volunteering at a local shelter, sewing, crocheting, hiking, bird watching, kayaking, beading, underwater basket weaving or learning to cook an exotic food. I took up modern calligraphy last year during one of my slumps, and it has helped me get through smaller ones as well!
3. Take a new spin on photography.
4. Escape this world! Find a good book to read or listen to. Sometimes it just takes some R&R for your brain to get out of the slump. If you're not a reader, go on a movie or TV re-run binge, though this one is a bit harder to escape and get back to real life, so set a limit before you start! (I always try to relate shows to my photography--have you ever watched Downton Abbey thinking about the videography and applying it to your photography? It's actually quite inspiring, and I find myself often thinking, "I wish I could photograph this exact scene right here!)
5. Make a list things you want to shoot. Make or find a list of things you can photograph that aren't the ordinary. Doing this can clear that fog in your brain and maybe even lead you start shooting something you'd never thought about before! There are tons of groups out there who do daily and weekly prompts. Find one that will motivate you!
6. Get outside! Sometimes just leaving it all behind and going outside for a walk or hike can do wonders for your creativity. When I go on a "clear my head" walk, I only take my phone for tracking/safety reasons. I don't listen to anything, and just focus on my surroundings. It's amazing how leaving the distractions behind can help! And sometimes, I just have to get my phone out for a picture or three. ;) When my head is cleared, I want to go back with my camera the next day, because it gets me out of my slump!
7. Organize your space. I've noticed a lot of my slumps come at busy times in my life, and my office tends to get cluttered in the process. Yes, a lot of it is my kid's mess, but when they start leaving a mess, I do too. When I notice this, I put on some good tunes and clean up. It's amazing what an hour of making my space look lovely can do for my slumps!
8. Don't neglect your spirit! I know this means different things to everyone, but your soul needs rejuvenation! Whether you meditate, do yoga, read scriptures, pray or even just going out in nature, boosting your spirit can do wonders for a slump!
9. Take a class. You can find great online courses in something you've always wanted to try! Check your local colleges or art centers for "just for fun classes", as well as local private teachers or mentors. The class can be another type of photography you haven't tried, or another hobby altogether. And yes, you can always find all the info online, but I'm a big advocate of paying for a class and having accountability to get an assignment done, otherwise you don't really get into it, nor do you get feedback.
10. Find a group of friends to photograph with. Sometimes, just shooting with another photographer in person will help you get that boost. When you plan an outing, have a goal in mind of what you want to shoot or accomplish. If you want to amp up the creativity, plan your shoot with a theme in mind. Shooting from an interesting point of view, finding the color red, feet in the photo, reflections, details only, architecture, animals or interesting portraits of each other. Sometimes, moral support will get you through that slump in no time at all!
I hope some of these ideas help you a bit! And I want to give a special thank you to some friends who commented on an Instagram post, who helped with my ideas here!
Do you have any other ways or ideas of how you've gotten out of a photography slump? I'd love to hear them!
I'm a mom of 4 boys, in love with photography, especially landscapes, macro, and silhouettes.
"To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place...I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them." -Elliott Erwitt