How to Get Out of That (Photographic or Creative) Rut

I’m going to be totally honest. I’m writing this blog post to myself. Last week was a particularly low week in terms of creative satisfaction and I’ve been trying to pull myself out of that rut, funk, or whatever you want to call it. It doesn’t feel good, but I know that a good part of it is self-inflicted. So I’m going to lay out some advice here for myself and for anyone who is feeling down, whether it’s photography or any other creative endeavor.


How to Get Out of That (Photographic or Creative) Rut

  1. Get off the f***ing smartphone. I am super guilty of this, and I’m sure many people are. While the smartphone has brought great convenience and accessibility to knowledge, it also has many, many downsides. It’s far too easy to fall into the hole of mindlessly swiping up your Facebook feed or just watching random shit on the Internet. While the endless amount of content can lead to inspiration, without conscious control, it can also lead to hours wasted. Keep the smartphone time to a minimum. Too much time on the phone can also easily lead you to number two…
  2. Stop comparing yourself to other photographers or creatives. Stop feeling bad about not having as many likes as they do, or not leading the “glamorous” life that they lead according to Instagram, and a bunch of other crap that can bring you down. First of all, they’re not you. Focus on yourself and your strengths and keep building your style and your life. Be inspired by other photographers, but don’t end up desperately wanting to be them. Secondly, social media is just a compilation of a person’s best moments. You don’t see all the hard work, mistakes, low points, and all the other unglamorous stuff that goes on behind the scenes.
  3. Get off your ass. Sometimes you just need to start. Just get out there and create. “Work begets work” is a term I’ve heard many times and I believe it.  I think it applies to getting work both from external sources and making personal work as well. Stop making excuses and just get off your ass and start. A lot of the time, it might be your best work. But in my personal experience, just starting has both directly and indirectly led to work that I’m very happy with.
  4. Try something new. Get out of your comfort zone and learn a new technique, new style, and just shake things up. Just the act of learning and trying can be so refreshing and can help you get back into the groove.
  5. Make an ongoing project.  An ongoing project (or projects) can help you get back on track and give you direction when you feel like you’ve lost it. Even simple parameters, such as shooting only a certain color or place, interpreting a single word, or photographing people doing a certain occupation, etc, can be helpful in getting you back to creative work. Setting achievable goals and deadlines for yourself can also help keep the project and the artist’s momentum going.A portrait from an ongoing personal project with local musicians.  More details soon.
  6. Be happy with your gear. This is something that especially affects photographers. New gear is being released at such a rapid pace nowadays, and the advertising tends to lead one to believe that the gear will make them an even better photographer. While gear is good and can help you achieve new things, most of the time it does not. Be happy with the gear you have in your bag now and use it to it’s maximum potential. Save the gear money and invest in a trip or a good book instead.
  7. Meet and talk to other photographers and creative people.  No man (or woman) is an island.  I’ve found that it helps so much if you surround yourself with like-minded, creative people.  Peers, mentors, and other people who share the same interests will provide inspiration and encouragement.  Sometimes just hanging out and having a beer and a good conversation with another creative person is all you need to get out of a rut.
  8. Explore other artistic or creative outlets.  Having another creative outlet does not only give you a chance to express your creativity in other ways, but it also gets your creative juices flowing overall. My other outlet is music.  Whenever I’m feeling burnt out from photography, just picking up my bass guitar and playing with my band helps to clear my mind, refocus, and get me back into a creative mood. Check out other avenues like drawing, painting, writing, music, etc. to help you get back into the creative state.
  9. Exercise and clean up your workspace environment. I love these two things. Exercise boosts energy and helps clear the mind. It also makes you healthier overall, which is essential to keep creating and working. There are tons of exercise routines on YouTube. Better yet, go outside for a walk, run, or a bike ride. Meditation is also great to clear the mind and get back into focus. Depending on the type of person you are, cleaning up your workspace and the environment around you may also help declutter your mind and get you back into focus to create.

These are just a few of many things that can help a photographer or creative get out of a rut. Sometimes you just need to breathe deeply, be thankful to be alive and to have the ability to create. Have gratitude for past work, everything you have now, and even the smallest, simplest gifts. Couple this with a clear, open mind to receive new inspiration and you will be back in the zone in no time.

Thank you for reading!  I hope you’ve found this helpful.  Do you have any other tips or ideas to keep the creative juices flowing?  Share them in the comments below!

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Roy Cruz

Roy Cruz

Photographer at Roy Cruz Photo
Roy Cruz is a freelance photographer based in Tongyeong, South Korea specializing in travel and documentary photography. He started shooting professionally in 2007 and has worked all over the Philippines and South Korea. He is also a dedicated husband, bass player, and father.

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6 Comments

  1. Great tips Roy, especially the one about being happy with one’s gear. How often do we forget how much we’ve wanted/saved up/dreamed about a certain piece of equipment, just to to trade it’s admiration for the next model or accessory. Personally, I’m challenging myself to not buy a new piece of equipment, it’s going to be 12 months next month woo hoo! And you?!haha

    • Thanks for reading, Alla! The rate of release of new gear these days is crazy! It’s hard not to get caught up in all the hype. But if you focus on your craft and just creating, I think you’ll start to see past the GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). Congratulations on the 12 months! That is amazing! I’m going on 4 weeks. LOL! But I don’t see any new gear on the horizon anytime soon. 🙂

  2. Dave Allen

    Great tips Roy. We all know what we need to do it’s just getting out there and doing it. Thanks so much for your insight and the little push. Found your site thru your YouTube posts.

    Dave

  3. I’m truly inspired Roy, amazing work! Thanks for the advice is just what I needed. I’ve been living in South Korea for a year now and kind of got bogged down with the whole Social Media thing, Your points on “social media” are spot on… anyways I’m finally ready switch to the fuji system its just what I need in order to start shooting again. I really enjoy street photography but found that the big and heavy dslr has a way of intimidating people. I think that fuji is the way to go thanks your informative reviews! All the best with your work.

    • Thank you Msizi! I’m glad to hear you found this article helpful. The whole social media trap is enough to bring anyone down. Just be true to yourself and find your tribe. And Fuji is definitely a great choice for street. All the best to you!

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