5 ways for photographers to overcome creative blocks

@watchstudies on InstagramWhen that creative idea is just out of reach.

We all know that feeling. The coffee is hot. The camera is charged. The watch is polished. You’re all revved up and well armed to shoot your next masterpiece. But there’s just one glaring problem: you’re uninspired.

Creative exhaustion is a real thing. As someone who has been actively creating content in one form or another for over two decades, I know how crippling it can feel when the creative tank feels empty. And in today’s reality, where digital engagement feels like a primary currency for social sanity, the pressure we put on ourselves to keep creating is heavier than ever.

Rest assured, you’re not alone. And to help you get over that next hump – or maybe even the current one you’re on – I’d like to share 5 methods I’ve used over the course of my career to fight creative blocks. Enjoy!

This week’s challenge

In your posts this week, share your own favorite remedies for creative blocks. What works, what helps, what doesn’t? As always, tag #watchstudies and let’s keep cheering each other on!

How to overcome creative blocks

1. Practice what you know

A common thing that exhausts me creatively is trying to constantly do something new and different. And for all I preach about pushing yourself to be different and better than your past self (a critical ingredient in self growth), this approach can also sometimes be a little draining.

@watchstudies on InstagramNothing more comforting than going back to one of my trusty mega flatlays.

If you’re finding yourself hitting a wall and unable to find that new ah-ha moment, give yourself a break and fall back on what you know. That trusty, dependable, and signature shot of yours that you know intimately well. That shot that makes you feel right at home. That shot you can practically take with your eyes closed. Do that.

It may seem boring or played out, but you’ll find that practicing what you already know can help to get the creative juices flowing. Think of it as giving yourself a running start – something that gets the creative muscles warmed up and helps you find your stride. It just might be the confidence boost you need.

2. Change one thing

@watchstudies on InstagramIt's amazing what changing one thing, like a strap, can do.

Extending from the first method, another great technique to solve creative conundrums is to challenge yourself to tackle a familiar task but with one significant detail completely changed. This is a great exercise if doing something completely new feels overwhelming, and doing something tried, tested, and true feels uninspiring.

Maybe it’s changing up your standard lighting setup or maybe it’s swapping out a prop or surface you’re comfortable shooting with. Whatever you choose, this method can sometimes give you the psychological safety of doing something you’re used to with the creative challenge to work around one new variable.

Getting new gear can sometimes give me a similar hit of creative adrenaline too. Shooting with a new camera, a new set of lights, a new prop, and certainly a new watch can sometimes be enough to make a creative block feel weightless. But there are also plenty of ways to make an old challenge feel new without breaking the bank.

3. Play the imitation game

@watchstudies on InstagramMy imitation of one of my favorite @mediumphormat shots, created for when she was a guest on Direct Messages.

Another great source of inspiration is the wonderful community of talent around us. We sometimes take for granted how many great creators we surround ourselves with on a daily basis and forget that each one potentially holds the key to unblocking our creative endeavors.

So if you find yourself stuck, seek out your favorite creators and try to reproduce one of their shots. In the same vein as the first method, the reason why imitating a shot works is because it gives you a known outcome to benchmark your work against, eliminating one of the biggest (and sometimes most stressful) variables in the creative process.

Two crucial pieces of advice to append here though. Firstly, don’t let yourself get caught up in comparing your work against others. Use it as a source of inspiration, not as a measuring stick. It’s okay to put your own spin on it.

Secondly, if you post the work, don’t forget to respectfully credit the source of inspiration! A gentle hat tip in the right direction goes a long way.

4. Look elsewhere for inspiration

I often find that the best creative work takes inspiration from other great work in adjacent domains. This is because the atomic unit of a great idea is often highly extensible and transferable to many other contexts.

A beautifully directed film can inspire beautiful writing. An immersive novel can inspire immersive product design. A stunning product can inspire stunning photography. You get the point.

@watchstudies on InstagramBeautiful interior design books are my go-to for creative inspiration.

One of the best things you can do when you’re feeling creatively stuck is to take a few steps back and give yourself a wider perspective. Looking more broadly for inspiration – whether it’s in film, writing, architecture, sports, nature, or literally anywhere else – is a great way to do that. Hell, even pausing the task at hand and just doing something else creatively stimulating may subconsciously kickstart the creative engine. The underline here being do something else.

5. Take a break

@watchstudies on InstagramTurn brain off. Play John Mayer covers. Rinse and repeat.

By far the most rewarding and impactful advice I can give, and one that is likely way more potent than the 4 methods mentioned above, is to put the camera down, walk away, and take a break. Take a nap, go for a walk, have a snack, binge the rest of Never Have I Ever.

I know this advice triggers eye rolls harder than being asked to reset your modem to fix your internet, but when you’re hammering away non stop at a problem, it can sometimes be hard to remember that rest is fuel for creativity too. And sometimes restarting the modem actually does help.

I’ve truly admired those who have taken extended time away from the #watchfam to simply enjoy life and focus on other priorities. More often than not, they come back fully charged and even more inspired than before. I’m sure I’ll take one of these breaks at some point and trust you’ll all be here when I get back.

Your turn!

In your posts this week, share your own favorite remedies for creative blocks. What works, what helps, what doesn’t? As always, tag #watchstudies and let’s keep cheering each other on!

And that's a wrap on this week's Study Club and my go-to methods for fighting creative blocks. Needless to say, remedies are always personal and subjective, so what works for me may not work for everyone. I’m always looking for new approaches though, as I’m sure everyone is, so be sure take part in this week’s challenge by sharing your own ways to get inspired!

Thanks for joining this week’s Sunday Study Club! Have a great week!

PS: If you made it this far, drop a 💡 in the comments of today’s post to let me know!

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