Hit a Photographic Rut? Here are 6 Ideas To Switch Things Up

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I think it’s inevitable that after you’ve been into photography for a while you will hit a patch where you just don’t feel inspired. Perhaps you feel you’ve taken all the photos there are to take locally? Or you just can’t think of a subject you want to take. Or you just can’t drag yourself out of be 2 hours before dawn.

It’s certainly happened to me more than once over the years and I have found that the solution is to switch things up a bit. I’m not looking to reinvent myself or my photographs, but it’s good to do something a little different from time to time. It’s far too easy to fall into a creative rut.

So here here are six suggestions of things to try or change (yes it’s a listicle!):


Most modern photography is color photography. It’s the default setting of your and everyone else’s camera and why not, the world is in color after all. But if you haven’t tried black and white photography, you really should.

Taking away color from the image you are creating will force you to look at the world differently and compose your pictures differently. Color is an easy hook to give a picture impact, without it you need to find a new focal point for your image. Textures and patterns become much more important and finding those patterns may have you looking at familiar places in an entirely new light.

2. Use a Different Lens

I think all photographers have a favorite lens. It sits on your camera most of the time unless you find yourself in a situation where it just won’t work. And that means you’re missing out on all sorts of opportunities. Every lens has unique characteristics. I don’t just mean different focal lengths, or even f-stops. Some lenses are sharper than others, colors are slightly different, the all important (according to the internet at least) bokeh have different characteristics.

Some of the differences are subtle certainly but when you look at the image you get from that lens it may well inspire you to edit differently too in order to pull out what you see there. I am a firm believer that editing is half of what makes a really good photo and I often find that after switching to a different lens I am inspired to move away from my go to editing presets.

3. Change Focal Length

One of the simplest ways to change your view of the world is to see it through a different focal length. Most likely all you need to achieve that is the kit lens that came with your camera as they are usually a zoom of some sort.

Without getting into the details of lens compression and how that varies by focal length, because this is not intended to be a technical article, you can’t entirely replicate focal length just by walking backwards or forwards and refocussing on an image. When you look at the world through a different focal length you are looking at it through a different pair of eyes.

4. Shutter Speed

Changing shutter speed can completely change the look an feel of an image. Most of the time photographers are probably looking for the fastest shutter speed they can achieve without introducing too much noise into their image. Fast shutter speeds freeze motion and minimize blur so you get a nice crisp image, right?

But a slowing the shutterspeed way down can create some really interesting looks. The classic example is probably waterfalls, but you shouldn’t limit it to that, other uses include:

  • Rivers – Capture the motion of a large river
  • Clouds – Long shutter speeds create lovely cloud trails
  • Sea – If you time it right you can capture the movement of the water going out
  • Trees – It’s hard to photograph trees on a blustery day because of the movement of the branches, unless you slow things down and make that movement part of the image.

5. Macro Photography

Macro photography is popular in part because it allows us to look at the world in a way that we as humans do not normally. If your lucky or have invested in multiple lenses then you may even have a macro lens.. Those lenses are designed to focus very close up and allow you to take pictures at a 1 to 1 or larger magnification. They can also be a little expensive.

Fortunately you don’t have to own a specialized lens to take these sorts of photos as a telephoto lens can achieve a similar effect. It’s a little harder as you are trying to focus from much further away, but you still get the nice bokeh and an image that is close to 1:1. Another cheap way to achieve macro is to buy magnifying filters that you screw on to the front of your lens but I have to admit I’ve never had much success with those.

One great thing about macro photography is that there’s almost no limit to the possible subjects. Yes certainly flowers or insects are favorites, but you could just as easily photograph feathers or rust or really anything with texture.

6. Change Your Subject

Another way to change things up is to change your subject. I don’t mean you have to do anything as drastic as going from Landscapes to Sport (though by all means do if you want to). I’m thinking of more subtle changes. The point here isn’t to completely change what you do just to give you a spark of something different.

  • Landscapes – If your normal subject matter is sweeping vistas then try for a more intimate landscape or maybe some woodland photography. Or change the time of day that you go out and photograph sunsets instead of dawns.
  • Portraits – What about experimenting with self-portraits for a while instead of photographing other people? Or maybe animals instead of people?
  • Urban photography – if you feel like you can’t take one more black and white photo of an isolated individual crossing the street, then maybe turn your attention to the buildings in the city?

What About You?

Have you found yourself stuck in a photographic rut? And if so what did you do to jolt yourself out of it? Let me know in the comments below.






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