One of the questions I get asked often is “Where do you get all your ideas?” or the alternate “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to run out of ideas”. The answers to those questions would be that the ideas just come bolting into my head like a waterfall sometimes and tiny little dripping faucet other times. So yeah, I’m afraid of the drought of ideas!.
As a conceptual photographer, my work revolves around a strong story or narrative to the image. I can take a nice portrait or landscape photo but to me the excitement is in the story, the magic. Those stories have to come from somewhere and just like any other creative, there’s the almighty “creative block”.
So what do you do when that block hits!?
My best advice, and you might not like it, is to just shoot it.
Really though the best way to get out of the ‘cave of no ideas’ is just to force your way through it. Does that mean that every photo or concept is strong? No. Will you like everything? No. But what it does is gives you a chance to just keep doing what you do best, create. It doesn’t mean you have to share it, or even edit it, but just grabbing your camera and getting out is the first step to getting back into your creative prime.
For me, when I’m feeling stuck, I just go for a walk. I go out somewhere I like shooting photos at around the time of day that suits my photos best (golden hour). When you do that, you’re already helping stack the odds a bit more in your favour.Then just start snapping, new angles and maybe try things you haven’t looked at before. Crawl on the ground, shoot the light through trees, play with leaves or stones. You’re stoking the fire of your passion.
Recently I shot a photo that came from no idea at all. I was feeling stuck and decided to walk along the riverbank as the sun was setting to clear my head and maybe get some inspiration.
As I was walking I found a feather on the path and picked it up and twirled it around my fingers and as it spun, so did my mind. I thought of how birds have a sense of freedom, they can just get up and fly where they want. I looked and saw the sun casting a nice glow on the river and realized that when the sun is shining, I feel that freedom, that excitement to just get up and go. I combined those two thoughts and came up with a concept. One that hadn’t existed a few minutes before in my mind.
Then it was all just a matter of working quickly to get the image all shot in the setting evening light. I walked to one of my new favourite spots, a small lake next to an open field with beautiful views of the sunset. I set up my tripod and camera and started jumping off a picnic table to get the shots I needed.
At one of the last jumps, I decided that maybe if one of my shoes had slipped off in the photo it would add a bit of interest so I took a shoe off and jumped one more time just as a man on a bike rode up. Leaving me awkwardly standing with one shoe on top of a picnic table. Unfortunately he decided to stay so I had to very quickly shoot the rest of the photos. So you’ll notice in the final image, I’m only wearing one shoe and didn’t get a chance to shoot the “falling” shoe…so…oops.
I quickly snapped up some shots of the grass and sky, a few of the feather and quietly walked back home along the path. The photo ended up being something that perfectly summed up my feelings on the beautiful weather and the opportunities awaiting me in the next few months.
All because of a feather.
So when in doubt, grab your camera. Grab your shoes and go for a walk!
Happy snapping 🙂