Many people have heard about writer’s block, a dreaded condition that causes an author’s creative juices to dry up—sometimes even for years. It’s not unique to writers. In fact, “creative block” is just as likely to strike photographers and many other creative professionals.
Even if you’re not currently suffering from a lack of inspiration, there’s good news. Not only can “creative block” be cured, you can even prevent it by using a few proactive strategies on a regular basis. Here are three that are working for successful photographers in today’s market:
Even if you don’t have an assignment, get out there and take shots on a daily basis. Walk around with your camera and see what catches your eye. This is a great time to experiment with new shooting techniques or look for something outside your normal routine. If you’re really stuck, find three random objects or subjects and force yourself to combine them in a single image.
You can focus on a specific theme for your daily photos, but even if no one’s ever going to see them it’s important to just keep shooting. This kind of regular discipline is habit forming, and will make it easier for you to keep your mind on the task at hand even on the days when you don’t feel like shooting. You won’t just find your inspiration coming back—it will also become easier to tap into when you need it most.
Freelancers photographers don’t have 9-to-5 jobs. Unlike people who work in an office, you don’t have a daily commute creating a clear line between “work” and “personal life.” It can be especially tough to block out schedules of time for your family or leisure time if you’re on call and have to drop everything when a paying gig pops up. Distractions like these can make you lose focus, both at work and at home.
Block out a certain amount of time each week where you’re always focusing on photography. It doesn’t matter whether you use that time to work on assignments, do personal shoots, edit your portfolio, or research new techniques. Just make sure you’re specifically focused on your career during that time. It’s important to have a schedule so that you always have this time available. That way, if you get an assignment, you’ll have the time built it into your daily schedule.
Carve out time for your personal life too, and be firm about keeping that time work-free. Don’t be afraid of losing work because of this. You’re not discouraging business; you’re turning away clients who will bring more stress into your life than they’re worth.
If you work from home, devote a specific room or area exclusively to work. Make it a habit to work when you’re in that place, and not to work in other parts of your home.
These days every reporter and amateur shutterbug has an iPhone. Many photographers are discouraged by the feeling that their work is becoming a commodity. It’s tough to get inspired if you think the only people selling shots are amateurs working for peanuts.
Don’t believe it.
Despite recent high-profile events like the layoff of the entire photography department at the Chicago Sun-Times, it takes more than a kid with an iPhone to create professional, eye-catching photography. There are plenty of markets for great images out there, and savvy buyers know the difference a great image can make.
What is true is that it’s now more important than ever before to broadcast the quality of your work, and make it look as good as possible. Great photos aren’t enough if you have a low-quality website that looks like it was put together on Geocities fifteen years ago.
Make your site look great, and always put your best work forward. You’ll have a big advantage if you regularly update your portfolio. Not only is it the best way to show that you’re keyed into new photo trends and shooting techniques, regular updates also attract the attention of search engines like Google, making it more likely that buyers will find you instead of a competitor.
Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for creative agencies and green businesses. He publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month and periodically shares more casual wisdom on the WordStream of Consciousness Blog. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at wordstreamcopy.com.
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