How to Climb Out of a Creative Rut

How to Climb Out of a Creative Rut

If you’ve done photography professionally for any amount of time, you’ve probably found yourself succumbing to the daily grind of the job, and in turn, it becomes an obligation. If this is you and you’ve found yourself in a creative rut, here are a few ways to climb your way out.

When you jump head first into the endeavor of making a living out of photography, one of the most challenging tasks you’ll encounter as a professional will be feeling uninspired or unimaginative. I’ve met several photographers who’ve expressed that they’re “in a rut with their photography” for one reason or another, and I’ve also encountered this terrible feeling of feeling completely uncreative. As creatives at heart, it’s important to make sure that we’re nurturing our creativity while simultaneously using our passions to make a living. Luckily, there are ways you can combat feeling uninspired.

Managing Time

When I think of a creative who also runs a service-based business (e.g., wedding photography, portrait photography, etc.), I imagine them as a sort of vessel. As a creator who is continually pouring their creativity out to others, it's also imperative that photographers be poured back into. In more logical terms, it's vital that you're creating time to protect your creativity and become inspired on a constant basis. 

One of the best ways you can do this is by managing your time correctly while running your photography business. Even if you work from home or at a coffee shop, it's crucial that you're giving yourself business hours. You should be establishing specific days and specific times that you will work on your business and photography, and also days and times that you will not. The days that you specified for not doing any work are the days you'll use to pour back into yourself personally and creatively. After all, sometimes, to be inspired, we need a break.

On the flip side, it's also important that you're forcing yourself to work during the hours that you've given yourself to do work, even if you’re feeling uninspired. The simple act of sitting down at your computer to edit photos or work on blog content can help bring you out of a creative rut. 

Creating Safe Spaces

Along these same lines, it's essential that you're creating safe spaces for yourself. That is to say, areas within your home where you will purposely not do any work. You need to establish boundaries for yourself, because it’s just as important to have spaces in your home that are not associated with work as it is to separate your personal life and your professional life. To cultivate creativity, you need a space that helps you relax. Stress, fear, and discouragement are the enemies of imagination and creativity. 

As a personal example, I've given myself the boundary of only working in my home office. Sometimes, I have to fight the urge to edit photos on the couch in my living room or at bedtime. If you're busy, it may seem counterproductive not to allow yourself to work at certain times and in specific spaces, but it's imperative to your mental health and the continued growth of your creativity.

Doing something as simple as setting boundaries for yourself as to where and when you'll work on your photography business will help to cultivate more relaxation and creativity instead of stress and discouragement. Image by Tookapic via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Personal Projects

Another significant aspect to consider when combating your creative rut is how much photography you're doing for yourself versus for other people. One of the best activities you can do for yourself when feeling uninspired is to create a personal photography project.

Not only will a personal photography project help you to try things that you haven't gotten to do in the past, but it'll also help to inspire new ideas and techniques for the future. Going back to the importance of pouring back into your creative spirit, having periodic personal photography projects throughout the year will help to combat photography becoming an obligation.

Networking With Like-Minded People

When you leave your 9-to-5 job to become a professional photographer, you quickly learn how lonely it can be to work from home or by yourself. The idea of networking with people you don't know initially can be intimidating, but it's so important to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who can help share in your struggles and celebrate with you during your victories.

You can find local photographer meet-ups on social media sites like Facebook or Reddit, where you’ll be able to meet other pros who are probably going through your same struggles or who can offer advice on how to overcome them. Having others around who understand the unique struggles associated with doing photography professionally can be so helpful in overcoming discouragement and lack of creativity.

If you’re feeling alone in your creative rut, know that you aren’t. As creatives, it’s natural to feel like you have no creativity left, but also know that isn’t true. Set yourself up for success, and make sure you’re establishing healthy habits and boundaries for yourself and your business so the next time you’re feeling uninspired, you’ll be able to climb out of that rut more quickly.

Lead image by via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Danette Chappell's picture

Danette is a Las Vegas-based wedding and elopement photographer who's photographed over 1,500 weddings and elopements in 14 different states. She has a passion for teaching business and helping other creative entrepreneurs succeed. She also loves cats, Harry Potter, and the occasional video game.

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"When you leave your 9-to-5 job to become a professional photographer, you quickly learn how lonely it can be to work from home or by yourself."