8 ways to get out of a creative rut | Branding Portrait Photographer

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One of the things I dread the most in my line of work is getting in a rut. After so many weddings and engagement shoots it can feel a bit repetitive, so I have to find ways to get the creative juices flowing again. Sometimes that means doing something a little out of my realm of expertise. 

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to do a branding/lifestyle session for Bree Mason at White Sparrow Farms, located here in Rexburg, Idaho. With her expertise in interior design, she and her husband Bud friggin belong on HGTV. They have a beautiful home and even more beautiful relationship and family. She needed headshots and content for her social media channels and website, so I was lucky enough to be their photographer. This shoot pushed me to do things a bit differently. It wasn’t just the usual headshot session, but a fun mix of styles (environmental portraits, interior and product shots) and it got me to think outside the box. From this shoot, it got those creative juices flowing again, and frankly inspired this blog post. So here you have it—8 ways to get out of a creative rut.

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1. Change up your routine

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results right? So why keep the same exact routine when you’re stuck in a rut? I’m not saying cancel plans with friends or change meal times, but find ways to switch things up a bit. Somedays I’ll work on editing first thing in the morning, and others I’ll work on marketing strategies. Doing the same thing at the same time everyday is perhaps efficient, but changing your schedule a bit helps you think a little outside of the box. 

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2. Do something you love (do a shoot)

We love our creative outlets, but sometimes you can’t force something new—Just have to go where the wind blows. For example, instead of writing a song, just sing a song for a while. Instead of planning a photo shoot, just go for a walk or a hike and just start taking pictures. 

This should also be a leisurely experience with no rush or restrictions, so that you can be in the moment rather than stress about the end result. I’ve come to find that this sparks some new ideas for posing and lighting that I can apply to shoots I do with clients.

3. Talk about the rut with another creative

Truth is a creative person you know is either in the creative rut, or just got out of it. There’s a good chance they have some pretty good ideas to get out of it, and often it can turn into a collaboration—bouncing ideas off each other. 

I experienced this for one of my last college classes in Idaho. I had to come up with some type of composite image for an editorial. My ideas weren’t flowing well at all and I racked my brain about it for nearly a week. I talked this concept and rut with another designer. After just 15 minutes, she suggested the simplest idea and it was enough spark to light the fire. 

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4. Look for inspiration in unlikely places

Jessica Janae is one of my favorite wedding and fashion photographers,  and I had the chance to listen to her speak about creative motivation and inspiration at a Pinner’s Conference in Sandy, Utah last year. She mentioned how she found inspiration for posing, lighting, color schemes, outfits, in movies, magazines, books, etc… In some instances, her and her husband will be watching a movie, suddenly pause it and take a picture of the paused screen, because she loved the lighting, composition, or whatever it was in that moment.

SIDE NOTE: If you don’t know who Jessica is, go follow her—she’s such an awesome photographer and the biggest Harry Potter nerd you’ll ever meet. 

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5. Get off social media

This is such a double-edged sword. Social media is a great place to get ideas, but the problem is you can get stuck recreating the same ideas over and over again, or just repeat what someone else has done before.

The other thing is social media is the perfect vehicle for unhealthy comparisons. Sometimes we just need to take a break from it, so we can refocus on creating our own ideas and stop comparing our work to others. 

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6. Clean or reorganize your workspace

This is strangely such an empowering method to kickstarting the creative juices. Taking the time to reorganize or clean a workspace/room provides a clean slate to your thought process.  

I did some major decluttering/reorganizing a few weeks ago, and it was like all the clutter preventing me from actually focusing. 

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7. Take the time to be bored

One of my college professors, Cory Kerr, loved sharing this idea of being bored, so we can be more creative. He researched this idea and found that when we take the time to eliminate distractions, we are so much more likely to come up with our own ideas and focus our attention on creating, rather than waiting for inspiration to strike like lightning. He’s also an incredible illustrator and designer, so take a look at his work, https://www.corykerr.com/ 

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8. Ask for feedback

This one honestly scares the poop out of me. It’s hard to ask for feedback—real feedback—on your work. You take so much pride in what you’ve created, and then you hand deliver it to someone and say, “OK tell me how much it sucks, and how I shouldn’t even do what I do, and how I’m a complete failure who should rethink their life.” 

Am I being dramatic? Oh, 200%, but I think it every time I ask for a critique. It’s scary, because it requires some vulnerability, but it’s a perfect way to grow. Sometimes we are the ones putting ourselves in this creative rut, and we need someone to tell us what we’re doing wrong. 

From a critique we can get some new goals and insights. We have something to work towards, and there’s no better solution to a creative rut than simply moving forward in a new direction. 

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