What to do with a photographer’s block

So you’re a photographer or a photography student, and you feel unmotivated to get out there and shoot something. Even worse, everywhere you look you feel like there’s nothing to shoot. What can you do to make those creative juices flowing again?

Nikon D800, 1.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 26mm
Nikon D800, 1.0 sec., f/16, ISO 100, 26mm

The photographer in me has always been keen on seeing things through the lens. I’ve caught myself a number of times thinking how this view in front of me would look as a photograph. But when this curiosity to shoot fades away, you’ll be surprised at how little effort you need to make to rekindle that fire in you to shoot again.

For me, all it takes is a little bit of searching on the Internet to find new places to go to near my area. I don’t remember how many times I’ve google-mapped an area to look for possible places to shoot. Google also conveniently provides images for most places that you search for, allowing you to see what the area looks like even before you step out your door.

Using Google maps to locate your future shooting location.
Using Google maps to locate your future shooting location.

I tend to navigate towards natural landscapes for my photography, so my googling often starts near the waterfront, or other areas of nature that are interesting to shoot, like waterfalls and gorges. You can see above that most of the green spaces near the waterfront are parks that are open to the public. Just drive to any one of those and start photographing!

Just seeing the location on a map starts my creativity juices by thinking how the picture may look if I stand there at that location. It really is a super easy way to find new places and get excited again about taking photographs.

Casa Loma caught in the sunset on my way home from work.
Casa Loma caught in the sunset on my way home from work.

Shooting nearby

If you’re not in a position to go too far, simply take your local transportation to somewhere you’ve never been before! This could be a subway stop that you don’t normally get off at, or just take the bus to the other side of town. Get out and explore the area. Everything will be new to you, giving you a refreshing look at your city. I’ve often found that new places tend to jumpstart our creative juices, since you’re not familiar with the area and you’re looking at everything with a fresh perspective.

Hitting even closer to home, I usually take the subway on my way home from work. But those days when I feel like shooting something, I forgo the subway and take a little walk instead. On my walk, I often find a number of interesting places to shoot, and to think I go by the area on a daily basis!

When all else fails

When all else fails, see what your peers are doing. See where they’ve gone and what they’ve been shooting. There’s no shame in taking photos of something that other photographers have already taken. You’ll be adding your own take to the scene and will inevitably come out with something different.

During one of my photography workshops at Luminato Festival, we took the students to the Distillery District. For those of you who don’t know the area, it is a set of historic red-brick warehouses that are now transformed into event spaces, galleries, restaurants, and small shops. It’s a great place to take a walk and even better place to photograph. The whole point of going there was to get the creative juices flowing for the students as they explored the historic grounds. I approached one student who didn’t seem to be taking many pictures, and asked why. She responded, “there’s nothing to take around here!” I was quite taken aback at that comment when everybody else was busy snapping away. I told her all her friends were taking photos so why not have a look at what they were doing and perhaps get some ideas from them.

Hopefully these ideas will give you a start on something to do when you’re stuck for ideas to shoot. It’s a great way to get outside instead of staying in all day long and wasting a perfectly good shooting day.

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