How to Overcome a Creative Rut as a Photographer
A beach inspired bridal shoot to highlight the brand colors of Emma Rose Company and to get over a creative rut
It’s quite vulnerable to share with my readers that yes — I suffer from creative ruts. Sometimes the day-to-day stuff, simply puts me in a creative cloud that is hard to shake. No matter how much I enjoy photography, eventually, I find myself and my creativity in a weird space. When this happens it can make my photographs look less than inspired and lacking the pop they so desperately deserve.
I’ve learned that my creative ruts come from familiarity.
You know — shooting in the same spots, using the same go-to poses, and not allowing myself to simply play and have fun without the pressure of a paid job. Don’t get me wrong, I love my go to spots and my go-to things that make all my sessions fun and beautiful, but every once in awhile I just need more. When this happens, I like to do a few different things to reignite my creativity and I hope you find some of these helpful if you’re currently struggling as well!
Try a New Style
Sometimes this can be as simple as changing a lens or aperture! I typically shoot around 2.0-2.2 and for this shoot I kept my f-stop at 1.4 and it was magical. I also typically shoot on my 35mm 99.9% of the time, but decided to also use my 50 and 100 to simply break out from my normal. When it came to trying a new style, I also wanted to create a look that felt like a wedding but wasn’t my usual go-to look of a long flowy dress but rather something a little more playful that I wouldn’t normally find myself photographing. My friend Haely said she would love to help me and that she had a beautiful white skirt she’d been hanging onto for a long time and had been looking for a reason to wear it! She then ordered this lace top on Amazon to go with it and oh my goodness, it just fit the setting so perfectly.
Do something different
If you caught the recent changes here at ERC, you know that I’ve undergone a huge brand overhaul and start implementing different pops of color to highlight not only my style, but my personality. Long gone are the grays and neutrals as I’ve opened my eyes and heart to more color. Specifically — yellow and mustard tones.
When I went through this shift (more on that story right here), I finally felt like I found me in the sea of other incredible creative business owners. My branding has been an evolution for years and landing on where it is today truly makes me so happy and proud of the journey up to this point. Anyway — with the rebrand and relaunch of the site, my friend over at Rosewood Boutique, Angela, sent me the sweetest message saying that my new space inspired her so much creatively, that she would like to send me a little something for my office. She sent me the most beautiful faux floral bouquet that represents my brand colors and I about died when I opened the package. Seriously — it was one of the sweetest most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever been given and it was that extra little validation that I’m doing something right and to not be afraid of running with my desire to bring more life and color to my online world and brand.
The bouquet had been sitting in my office for a few months (providing so much joy and happiness), and I knew I wanted to wait to use it in some photos when the time felt right. So when my creative rut happened, I decided to plan a super simple shoot to incorporate her gorgeous faux florals (seriously — can you believe they’re FAKE FLOWERS?) My mind is blown by her talent to create these forever pieces that are absolutely stunning. Please go check her out and support her because she’s not just talented, she’s one of those really good people in this world and I’m grateful to know her via our online circle!
Break the Comfort Zones with Light and Location
To mix things up I also opted to shoot a bit earlier than I normally would which on this particular day meant it was super sunny outside. It wasn’t high noon, but close. When I first started my photography journey I was so afraid of the bright sun but as I’ve grown, I’ve learned to absolutely love it and I’m making a promise to myself this year to have more shoots like this out in the bright open sun because the results are simply magical!
Don’t be afraid to break the comfort zones to experiment with your camera settings and how you position your subjects in the light. Harsh sun can be tricky, but if you get it just right and ensure their face is never hitting the sun, the results are phenomenal and honestly — for me personally — make editing so much faster! I pushed myself creatively on this one to brighten it up even more than I typically would as well as adding in grain post-processing to give it more of a film look.
Make sure you’re doing it for you.
Something I’ve found over the years is that collaborations are truly magical and a sure-fire way to build relationships within the industry. All the collaborations I’ve had as a photographer have been incredible and I’m grateful to each and every vendor for their support and trust in me to deliver beautiful imagery that they can use for their own brand/business.
However, I’ve realized that when I’m in my own creative rut, sometimes the best way for me to snap out of it is to plan something that is totally on my own that is not only super simple, but takes away any of the pressure that comes with a team styled shoot. Obviously, I collaborated here with my friend who modeled but other than that, I was not in touch with any other vendors. The bouquet was a gift and I didn’t even tell her that I was planning on using it in a photo shoot because again — I didn’t want it to feel like it was something I had to deliver. I went into this shoot with zero expectations but hoping to have a handful of images I love by the end and it would just be an added bonus if I could send those images to the faux bouquet designer as well. It ended up exceeding all my expectations so she was pleasantly surprised to see and have access to the full online gallery! Im a huge fan of underpromising and over delivering and this was one of those examples.
This is what she said:
There are other ways to get out of a rut, and I’d love to take a moment to highlight those things as well!
Beyond this fun and beautiful beach shoot, there are other ways I’ve found over the years to get myself out of a creative rut that I want to make sure I mention in this post!
Plan a styled shoot with like-minded people who share your visions. I know I’m contradicting what I said above but don’t let me fool you in thinking that I haven’t beat creative ruts in the past with a full on styled and collaborative shoot with fellow entrepreneurs like florists, planners, and other photographers! Working with like-minded creatives always inspires me creatively and I can’t express this enough on all the beauty that comes from working together to bring a vision to life.
Take a break from it. Yep — sometimes you have to simply walk away to regroup. Been there… done that, and you know what? It worked. Maybe you’ve been looking through your lens for so long you’ve forgotten what it feels like to actually look at the world with your naked eye. When I first started my photography journey, I never left without my camera. Now a days, it is a little bit different as I choose to leave the camera behind most of the time so that I can be most present in the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I take my camera along for oh so many things but it’s becoming more of a normal thing to be without — and it feels really good.
Stop scrolling. You’ve heard it a million times before, but comparison is such a creativity hinderance and sometimes we don’t even realize it! Stop scrolling for awhile if you find yourself caught up in what other people are doing all the time. How can we pursue our own creativity when we’re so consumed and focused on others? It’s really hard. So just stop scrolling for awhile and if you’re concerned about engagement… ask your best friend or Husband to get on there for you to engage with your audience/respond to comments, etc!
Exercise. . I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it, my sweet reader — move your body! It does wonders. The moment I’m in a funk and feeling off, I like to push myself physically and I always feel better.
Remind yourself why you started in the first place. I think as creative business owners, it’s a tricky place when your passion is also your work because it’s easy to get stuck in the process without appreciating the process all at the same time. So when I’m feeling stuck, I always like to sit down and remind myself why it is I even do what I do. Sometimes it’s just that little reminder that helps me get back into the swing of what I’m doing and to find the inspiration I need to keep on going and creating.
Sometimes getting yourself out of a creative rut simply means to take a deep breath, a break or a pause before it all comes back to you. Embrace the rut as a part of the process and remember that it won’t last forever!
What are some ways that you get out of creative ruts? I’d love to hear below in the comments!
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Emma Rose is a Squarespace website designer and photographer based out of the Pacific Northwest. She helps photographers not only stand out online, but dig deep to find the why in what they do. She strives to work with like-minded entrepreneurs who want to grow an audience, start and thrive their online business and change the freakin' world. She aims to help people create not only meaningful businesses but lives. For more about Emma, click here!
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