5 Tips to get you out of a Creative Rut


A few times every year I find myself feeling creatively low. It usually happens when I've had an overly busy couple months and no time to really let my brain wander and dream about shoots. Or sometimes it happens when the weather turns cold, the sun goes away and I have no desire to get out of the house. I feel as though I may never have another creative idea again. Do you ever feel this way?

Well, I'm going to give you a few ideas to get you out and creating again.  These have worked for me in the past and I hope they will help you too!

1. Just go shoot!

This sounds so simple but it works. Most of the time when I'm not feeling creative, I don't want to put the energy into creating a shoot. I want to wait until I feel inspired and have an amazing idea before I get a model and a location. But this is the time to push yourself.  I usually don't try and have an elaborate plan. I usually go into it with no plan at all. Have the model bring just a few items and make what you have work. This will force your brain to turn on and work!  

Patterned light photography

2. Collaborate with another creative.

Is there someone in your area that you love to work with? Maybe they are in a different creative field than you. Maybe they are a model that you love, a musician or a painter. Contact them and see if you can meet for coffee and just start a conversation. These meetings always spark ideas for me. It's a good way to see someone else's perspective. If you're lucky, the two of you will get inspired and meet again to create something amazing.

3. Find a new location

In the winter in Michigan, we are forced to go inside for shoots. Even if you have a studio, I encourage you to find new indoor locations to shoot. I have found some amazing places on Airbnb. (I know what you're thinking...That's expensive!)  Yes, this can be pricey, but I always ask the homeowner if I don't stay the night if I can rent it for a lesser price.  Sometimes they will work with you, sometimes they will not. The other way to get around the price is to make it a creative day and invite another photographer and two models and split the cost. Either way, a new location forces you to think on your feet. Go through the home room by room and find the light and ask yourself " How does this room make me feel?" And then create that feeling!

One of my favorite places to shoot this year was this old farmhouse a friend of mine bought. And do you know where my favorite spot in the whole house was to shoot....the closet!  See you just never know what might inspire you!

Other ideas for locations. Rent a friend's studio.  Find hourly rentable studios or spaces. Call around to small business that have cool spaces and see if you can shoot there. Record Stores. A friend's home. A home that is for sale (call the realtor). Hotel Lobby. Parking Garage. Coffee Shops, Warehouse.

4.  Rent or borrow a new lens/equipment

Sometimes we get tired of our style and renting or borrowing a new lens will help us see things in a new way. I don't have a ton of equipment so I love renting different lens options. The key to getting your money's worth is to lock your other lens away or just keep them at home. This will force you to use the new lens even if it feels uncomfortable. (If you have friends that are willing to let you borrow equipment, ask them!  This will save you a ton of money too!)

Also, if you are a natural light shooter, try shooting with strobes or constant light. Talk about stretching your mind!  Find someone that can help you to ease the frustration of learning something new. 

studio lighting

I usually rent from Lens Pro To Go

 If you usually shoot closer up, try doing your whole shoot full length. If you shoot mostly vertical, try shooting everything horizontal. Find new angles, walk around your subject, shoot from above, shoot from below, shoot just details....try everything. 

5. Give yourself downtime

When I am in a creative rut, I usually go straight for Pinterest to look for ideas... scrolling, scrolling, scrolling for days and days. This actually makes it worse for me. I don't want to create work that has already been done, I want to create something new!  So instead, I have found that I need to put the phone down and go take a walk, take a long shower or go for a long drive with a new album playing. Turn your mind off, and take the pressure off of finding the next idea and then the ideas will come. The more I push myself and stress that I can't think of the next idea, the more frustrated I get and less ideas come. 

If you have any ways that get your creativity going, let me know in the comments!  I would love to hear your ideas too!



Jackie Palmer