I originally published this list on toyphotographers.com June 2017. Almost 2 years later I’ve revisited it to try to learn from my own advice.
The first 2 weeks of April I was traveling with work. The end of that first week through the beginning of the next I had the flu. A week after returning, I got a cold that lasted for 2 weeks. (oh, I am no longer vitamin deficient though!) After all that I was exhausted, with little will to work on anything creative. (I have advanced pretty far in a couple of mobile games though!) And for better or for worse, when I’m not making things, I don’t feel productive, and I beat myself up about it. Normally, I try to find outlets outside of my main toy photography shtick – blogging for example, or youtube videos. But towards the end of my cold I tried to blog and my brain just couldn’t form the right words.
So, I let myself do nothing for awhile. Go to work, rest at home, go back the next morning. And eventually I started to feel a lot better, but still relatively demotivated.
Last month, while out of town on a different work trip, water droplets would form a certain pattern in my hotel shower. I’d watch them form and envision a painting inspired by them.
Finally, I decided to make just that painting. No, not miniature photography, but something relatively relaxing, with a creative focus, that I could also wrap into a video and blog post. So, that’s just what I’ve done. Is the painting spectacular? Far from it, but it was a wonderful creative release, and maybe, just maybe, has gotten me closer to coming out of my photo funk.
Check out the video of the painting process here, and get some tips on overcoming your own funk below.
6 Ways to Fix your Photo Funk
Discouragement, fear, demotivation, I’ve discussed these way too much at this point here (I promise I’ll write about something else soon). But no matter how many posts I write (which end up being extensions of lectures I’ve given myself) about forgetting the world and creating for yourself, there is always more to say.
I am very good at not taking pictures. I’ll have tons of ideas itching at my brain, the supplies to make each one and absolutely no motivation. Whether stress, general creative discouragement, or a world of other thoughts in my head, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to create. The problem there, is that then I mentally beat myself up for not making photos and the cycle continues.
A photo funk is a mood. It’s when you’re stuck. You want to create but have no ideas, inspiration or motivation. Maybe you’ve tried to create and nothing has come together right. Regardless of why, you’re in this photo purgatory.
If you’ve ever felt this way, trust me, I know it sucks. So here, I thought I’d compile some ways that have helped me in the past, which I hope will prove useful for you as well.
Grab your camera and some toys, go outside, to your studio, or other favorite shooting space, try some poses, find some good lighting and shoot. Create a study of a figure, taking as many different macro shots of the same toy as you can. Or make up a silly little story as you go, whether it will truly come across in your photos or not, and shoot a few images to illustrate that story. Even if you’re just sitting on your couch, or laying on your bed, just get yourself shooting, that’s all that matters. Once you start clicking away, motivation for less impromptu shoots will start to come.
- Find a challenge to join in on.
The internet is full of photo challenges, and challenges can be good for multiple reasons. One, sometimes the topic itself will strike the perfect photo idea. Two, having a deadline, for some people can be super motivational – if nothing else it gets you shooting right now. Find one or more that speak to you and get to shooting.
- Peruse other people’s art.
Make sure you know yourself before selecting this option. While viewing the work of others can be so motivational and eye opening, it can also be discouraging if you tend to compare yourself to others.
- Read an art book.
If you like to read, pick up a book and get to it. Immersing yourself in thoughts of creativity without actually being creative can get so many ideas flowing. Make sure to have a note taking device nearby in case you start to overflow with photo thoughts.
- Participate in pop culture or other form of entertainment.
Watch your favorite TV show again, watch a new movie, go see a play, listen to music, read a novel. Inspiration can be found everywhere and in everything. And whether you shoot franchise figures or not, the narratives and visuals in various types of entertainment can be just the key to sparking new ideas.
- Get out of your head, stop thinking about photos and fully immerse yourself in something else for a while.
Sometimes you’ve just thought yourself into a wall. You’re trying so hard that there’s no way a new idea is going to come. All your muses have floated away. So if you can, stop. Go somewhere, meet up with someone, go out in nature, and don’t bring your camera. Choose an activity you can fully immerse yourself in. Sometimes letting the problem sit on the back burner while you have some me time is the best medicine. Once your brain has had some time to relax, the creative ideas will flow more smoothly.
#5 seems to be the method that works for me most often. Pushing myself to further develop my current photo ideas while my favorite Pandora station plays in the background can get me pretty pumped. If that’s not enough, visiting a museum or seeing a play can be just the creative aura that gets my creative juices flowing.
What are ways you’ve successfully emerged from a photo funk?