Every passion has its ups and downs, and photography is no different. One month we might be taking the best photographs of our lives, where everything we shoot turns to visual gold. The very next month we might be so tired of our photographic equipment that we cannot even bear to look at it.

Authors might call it writer’s block. I shall call it photographer’s block or creative block. Don’t worry, though. Creative block is entirely natural and expected, and it can happen to even the most passionate of photographers. The good news is that it is perfectly curable if you are prepared to motivate yourself a little. Today I will provide you with a few tips to fire up your photographic mojo.

Buy a prime lens

Using a single prime lens when shooting is an amazing way to reignite your creativity. Gone is the laziness of the zoom lens, replaced by the need to move your feet to change position. Of course changing position will also change the perspective of the shot, giving you a greater insight into the relationship between these two important compositional elements.

Taking a single prime lens with you on a shoot is actually very liberating; you will start to see shots you might not have considered in the past. Think about the focal length you use the most. If you are a wide-angle person, take a telephoto, and vice versa. Not everyone owns primes or can afford to buy one, but here is a very simple tip to create a prime lens from a zoom: black electrical tape. Set the lens to the focal length you wish to use, and simply tape over the zoom ring. Electrical tape is strong, but will leave little or no residue on the lens if you pull it off carefully.

creative block - prime lens

Using a single prime lens is a great way to make you think more deeply about composition

Photo by Joey, via Flickr

Don’t force it

As photographers, we tend to take our cameras with us everywhere we go, be it on a visit to a beautiful church or to Auntie Mabel’s 80th birthday party. Next time you are planning a visit somewhere nice, don’t take the camera. The reasoning behind this is that we often spend so much time shooting, we don’t actually see anything. 90% of the art of photography is seeing. By leaving our cameras at home, you will actually start to see many more photographic possibilities—different angles and views that you may not have seen if you had had your camera with you. With these new shots in mind, you can return to the location at a later date, refreshed, motivated, and with a whole new range of shots in mind.

Find a friend

Photographers can be quite solitary creatures, as many a photographic widow or widower might attest. If, however, you are going through a period of photographic block, try to surround yourself with your peers.

Join a local photographic society. Being part of a group of people with a shared passion but different perspectives and knowledge can be a great motivator. Look at your fellow members’ work; ask them how they achieved certain effects; go out on photographic walks with them. All these tips will help inspire you to take photos again.

creative block - photo club

Joining a club or taking a photo walk is a great way to find your photo mojo

Photo by Rob Boudon via Flickr

Clean your gear

We spend a fortune on our photographic gear, and then when the dreaded photographer’s block appears, leave it all in the back of a cupboard. Out of sight, out of mind. If you are struggling to get motivated, get that gear out and give it a good clean. The feel of your beautiful, high-tech imaging device in your hands as you give it some TLC will invoke memories of the great times you have had together and of the images it has captured. A clean camera is like a clean car. It just “works” better. Of course, it is entirely psychological, but that’s the point of getting motivated.

Take a trip down memory lane

One of the things that often demotivates us is the feeling that we have reached a pinnacle in our photography, a point where we feel we are no longer improving. For the vast majority of us, this is entirely unfounded. The improvements may be smaller over time, but so long as we practice we will always get better. The easiest way to reinforce this is with a trip back into our photographic past.

Take a look at the first images that you took as a budding photographer, and compare them to shots you took a couple of years later, and also to your most recent work. The probability is high that you will be staggered by the improvement. The naive composition and limited technical skills of your earlier work will have been replaced by images that show a deep understanding of exposure, light and positioning. This realization that you are a good and rapidly improving photographer should spur you on to even better things. That brings us nicely to our last suggestion.

Learn something new

We tend to be a little lazy in learning new specialties. You might love macro work but have never tried studio portraits; street photography might be your bag, never even considering the possibilities of seascapes. Learning a new photographic specialty not only motivates you, but will also teach you new ways to use your camera, and different ways to look at composition, lighting and exposure. Don’t be too harsh on yourself at first. Images from your new specialty are unlikely to be as good as your previous one, but that’s the point. Analyze where you are going wrong and learn from those errors.

creative block - seascape

Learn something new. If portraits are your preference, try shooting some seascapes

Photo by Neil Kremer via Flickr

Photography is a wonderful hobby or profession to be involved in, but like everything, familiarity breeds contempt. Using some of the tips above you can reignite that passion you had for all things photographic and at the same time, move your skills up to the next level.

All photos published under the creative commons 2.0 license