It happens to all of us from time to time: we hit a creative wall and the ideas just won’t come. Luckily, there are ways to overcome the creative block and boost your photographic passion. In this video, Todd Vorenkamp and David Flores of B&H will show you 13 creative exercises to “flex your photographic muscles.” They’ll help you see things from new perspectives and rekindle your creative flame.
1. Two dozen
Find the location you like, choose the spot to stand and take 24 unique photographs from there. What’s the catch? Stay at exactly the same spot for all 24 images, and don’t repeat the images. I believe this works best outdoors, in the city or in nature.
2. Ten of one
Take one small, tangible subject and make 10 unique photos of it. Keep in mind: the smaller the subject, the greater the challenge. Get close, use macro lenses, create abstract images… Make the most out of the subject.
3. Four corners
Choose one subject and create four photos of it. For each photo, the subject has to take a different corner of it.
4. Artificial restrictions
Create restrictions for yourself for a day, a week… even a year. For example, it can be shooting only with one lens, only at a single location or at a single time, only in black and white, only in color, or only with film. You name it, the possibilities are practically endless. I sometimes like limiting myself to shooting only with a prime lens or shooting only with film.
5. Shoot “a roll of film”
A limited number of shots with film cameras makes you really think your images through before pressing the shutter. Okay, you may not own a film camera and don’t even like film. But then, take your digital camera, go to a location and allow yourself to only take 24 or 36 shots.
6. 12 abstracts
Take 12 abstract photos of a single common object. Choose lenses depending on the size of the object, and play around.
7. Portable subject
Find something that you can carry with you, something small to put it in your camera bag or your pocket. This will be your portable subject and it’s up to you to try and incorporate it into your photos at different locations.
8. The un-selfie selfie
The un-selfie selfie? What? To put it simply – it’s not a selfie, it’s a self-portrait (and there are differences between the two). So, for this exercise, don’t take a selfie, but a meaningful self-portrait that tells a story.
9. The mixing bowl
This is sort of more exercises in one. Take a piece of paper and write down the restrictions or the specific subjects you want to focus on. Cut out each of them and put them into a bowl. Now take one, surprise yourself, and focus on this restriction for, let’s say, a week.
10. Change up
Try a different genre of photography. For example, if you shoot portraits in the studio, go outside and try street photography or shooting landscapes. If you are a wildlife photographer, try shooting sports. You get the idea.
Since this is pretty much about stepping out from your comfort zone, I’d like to add something else here. Shoot in the conditions you’re not used to. For example, if you generally don’t shoot in bad weather: do it. I recently took some photos while it was snowing (and I really don’t like shooting in winter). I was cold and my feet and clothes were wet, but it was worth it.
11. Nine elements
Create nine unique photographs, each emphasizing one of the nine elements of art: light, shadow, line, shape, form, texture, color, size, and depth. For a bonus round, you can add focus, tonality, quality of light, patterns, negative space… Make it as challenging as you like, but make sure to take one image per element.
Go to a place you want to photograph and determine the number of steps. Now, go for a walk and after the predetermined number of steps, stop and take a unique photo. This idea sounds really interesting to me, and I’ll definitely try it out during my next photo walk.
13. Two trips
Finally, go to a place without your camera. Look around you and just observe the place. It’s interesting how much you can notice if you don’t constantly look through a viewfinder. Come back with your camera next time and then capture your observations.
These are some exercises that can help boost your creativity, but I believe some of them are also helpful when you’re in a new location. I often limit myself like in the fourth exercise, I shoot film from time to time, and I sometimes step out of my comfort zone. But I’ll try out other exercises as well, especially “Steps.”
Have you tried any of these creative exercises before? And do you have any exercises to add? I’d love to hear your suggestions.