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How to Beat Creative Depression

If you've ever found yourself running out of photography ideas and not wanting to pick up your camera, you're not alone. Fortunately, creative block—or "creative depression", as I call it—is something that every photographer experiences from time to time. 


Throughout my photography journey, I've found a few great solutions to creative depression. From setting realistic expectations to finding your "chocolate cake," here are ways you can find photography inspiration again. 


Check out the video below to find out more.



Don't Set High Expectations

Recently, I went on a trip to Antarctica, which is an incredible place for landscape and wildlife photography. However, I initially wasn't happy with the photographs that I took there because my expectations were too high. (If you can relate to this feeling, let me know in the comments!) 


After the trip, I took a step away from the photos and let my expectations come down to a more reasonable level. When I reviewed my photos again, I found that many of them were actually good. I was finally happy about the images I had made during that trip. 


If you're tempted to delete all of the photos that don't meet your expectations, you need to take a break from your screen. Give yourself a week or two before you start reviewing or processing your photographs. This will give you enough time to lower those high expectations and appreciate your work. 


how to find photo inspiration

Take a Vacation From Photography or Social Media

Sometimes, we have moments of inspiration when we have an epiphany and improve our photographs drastically within a short period of time. But usually, this isn't the case; instead, improvements often happen slowly, making you feel like you are on a creative plateau. I find that creative depression is most likely to strike when I find myself in one of those plateau phases.


When creative depression hits, it's easy to feel discouraged. However, this might be your brain's way of telling you to take a break. We all need to recharge our mental batteries to find inspiration again. If you really need a break, take some time off from your photography.


Also, consider that you might need a different kind of break. Do you often compare yourself to other photographers? Do you spend a lot of time admiring photos on social media? There's nothing wrong with connecting with other photographers, but it can get in the way if you consume more than you produce. Consider taking a break from social media instead of photography.


The good news is that creative plateaus don't last forever—give it some time, but don't despair, your next creative epiphany is right around the corner!


how to find photo inspiration

Find Your "Chocolate Cake" 

When daily life has you down and you feel the need for a quick endorphin fix, you reach for comfort foods, like chocolate cake. It's a good idea to have the photographic equivalent of chocolate cake, something that can make you feel better when you are in a creative rut. This might be a specific subject or location that's very easy to successfully photograph. 


Lately, I've been experiencing creative depression myself, so I planned a trip to one of my favorite chocolate cake destinations, the desert of south-central Utah. I always find beautiful scenery and great weather when I'm there. Sure enough, my photoshoot was easy, fun, and productive. I walked away feeling much better, with some creative momentum that has me excited for more photography. 


how to find photo inspiration


Try a Different Type of Photography

In the past when I've found my creativity at a low point, I've taken on different kinds of photography. Trying something new can refresh your inspiration and help you take a break from a specific genre. It can also help you grow and evolve as an artist.


I used to only shoot landscape photography. When I needed a break, I explored wildlife, travel, and even street photography. These genres helped me expand my creative vision and evolve as an artist. Trying something new will force you to see new things and improve your creativity. 


how to find photo inspiration

Work on a Themed Photo Project 

A project with a specific theme is another way to overcome creative depression. Come up with a theme that is meaningful to you and take photographs for it. You can build an entire portfolio with images like this.


Over the past year, I've been working on a portfolio of aerial salt marsh photos. It's something completely different, so it's allowing me to produce a unique body of work. I absolutely love working on this project. If you need an extra boost of inspiration, start your own project. It can be anything that motivates you to get up in the morning and pick up your camera. 


how to find photo inspiration

Go Through Your Photo Archive 

My "digital dumpster" is filled with raw files that I've collected in the last 20 years as a professional photographer. I like to go into these files and find ones that are worth processing. It's amazing how often I come across good photographs that I overlooked before!


Our photography style changes over time, even if we don't notice it. We're always improving, but that doesn't mean that our old photographs should be ignored. Chances are that you'll find some hidden gems if you take the time to look through your old work. You might be surprised by what you find. 


Doing this can give you a positive jolt of energy and help you shake off creative depression. This will also allow you to see how much you've progressed as an artist, which is motivating enough on its own. 


how to find photo inspiration

Don't Avoid Your Camera

As obvious at it may seem, I'm going to say it anyways: If you're not taking pictures, you won't be able to take good photos. Sometimes, to get through creative depression, you just need to suck it up, pick up your camera, and force yourself to actively engage in the artistic process of taking photos. Even if I'm not feeling inspired, forcing myself to get behind the lens gets my creative juices flowing. 


Even if the conditions aren't ideal, embrace what you have and try to make compelling images. Treat it like a visual puzzle. This is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a photographer, because you're forced to be more creative when conditions aren't good. Start to build that creative momentum by pushing yourself a little!


And often, I find that it's when I force myself to work through these low moments that I have a sudden burst of inspiration leading to a creative epiphany. This is when your artistic vision gets noticeably sharper, and your work gets much better. 


how to find photo inspiration

Conclusion 

If you're going through creative depression, don't despair! Use these tips to emerge as a stronger photographer. It's tempting to stand still and feel negative, but the key is to move forward and build momentum again.


If picking up your camera doesn't help, consider taking a short break. No matter what you choose to do, remember that creative depression is normal. We all go through it, but there's always a solution waiting to be found, either behind the lens or in front of it. 

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