Recently I had a nasty case of laryngitis, which left me unable to speak for four days. Although I was glad to be a source of entertainment for my husband and sister, who found our phone conversations amusing, what struck me most was just how little I could do without a voice.
This got me thinking that losing your creative voice can be equally, if not more devastating. I have to admit I’ve had a number of creative crises, where I’ve lost connection with what I was doing, and why on earth I was doing it! Perhaps you have too?
If so, here are a few tips which may help you regain a sense of purpose in your photography:
1) Rekindle your passion
Think about the spark that first inspired you to get into photography. Perhaps it was a desire to take beautiful photos of your kids or a dream of capturing amazing travel photos.
My original passion for portrait photography came from a genuine fascination with people, and a desire to capture authentic portraits which revealed something about a person’s character, to create an emotional connection with the viewer.
Reconnecting to these feelings can help you to reignite your passion and give you the motivation to continue to create images.
I started out using my husband’s old film SLR, and the photos I took, although imperfect, had a certain raw quality which spoke of how incredibly inspired I felt about photography. I didn’t think twice about taking creative risks, even though I had next to no technical skills.
2) Develop your creativity
Once you feel more of a sense of purpose, try challenging yourself to inject some creativity into your images. You might like to visit a photographic exhibition, a gallery, or plan a photography trip to try out some new ideas.
Allow your inner child to see the world with a renewed sense of curiosity to encourage your creativity to flow. As children, we didn’t think (or judge) our creative decisions or ideas, but as adults we can be so harsh with ourselves that we are terrified to even try.
When I was studying photography, a teacher set us an assignment of finding 50 potential photos on your way to work (without a camera). I must admit, I thought it sounded like a ridiculous exercise, considering all that I saw on my way to the city was an ugly train line.
What I found was that by challenging myself to find photos where my rational brain said there were none, I began developing my brain’s creative muscles. This taught me a powerful lesson that by exercising our creative thinking, we can find potential photos all around us, even in the most mundane of places.
3) Improve your skills
Are there some aspects of photography that you struggle with? If so, it can be worth dedicating some regular time to improving these areas.
It’s easy, with every second person owning an SLR, to feel like you have to have the latest equipment or know everything about photography before you can start taking great photos, and although photography can be very technical, take comfort that you don’t need highly developed technical skills to start create good photos.
Just a few minutes or hours a week spent reading a photography book, a blog, or practicing certain aspects of your photography can make a huge difference to your images over the long term. To avoid overwhelming yourself, try focusing on one area at a time and allow yourself plenty of time to practice what you’ve learned.
4) Be yourself
Be encouraged that you’re the only person on earth who sees the world in your incredibly distinctive way. By appreciating your unique qualities, and staying true to yourself, you can begin to use your photography to show others what it’s like to see through your eyes.
Try to stay connected with who you are and you’ll find that your creative voice will begin to flow
5) Tell a story with your photos
A good starting point for a photo, or series of photos, is to think about what message you’re trying to convey. For example, let’s say you want to take a portrait of a friend. By thinking about what story you want to tell, you might discover that rather than just taking a portrait, you actually want to reveal something about the kind, sensitive, intelligent person your friend is. This process can be applied to any type of photography, for example still life, travel, or landscape. It’s all about thinking about, then refining your motive for taking a photo.
You’ll find that this process will help you feel more focused and will improve your decision making skills
About the images in this blog
I wanted to share some of my old assignment images taken with a very average film camera, to show how equipment is only a small part of the photographic process. Some of the images were created using cross processing and some using multiple exposures.
Cross processing refers to developing film in the wrong solution, with unpredictable results, dramatic colour and high contrast. For example, I developed my slide film in a solution intended for regular film. A multiple exposure is when two or more images are combined (or overlaid) on a single film frame.
Have you ever lost your creative voice?
If you have, I’d love to hear about what steps you used to help recover your sense of purpose.