How to Beat ‘Photographer’s Block’ When You’re Stuck for Inspiration

It can be really frustrating when you’re stuck in a rut and can’t seem to muster up the drive to take new photos. If you’re stuck for inspiration, it’s tough to break the trend of running blank when you’re thinking up new ideas for shots. We’ve all been there, and you can feel totally hopeless. At its worst, you may start questioning your skills or competency as a photographer! Sounds familiar?

With this article I’m going to run through some ways you can buck the trend and get back that drive you need to start creating great images again.

#1 Force yourself to use a different lens

If you’re used to using a particular lens, then send it on sabbatical and leave it in your camera bag. Instead, attach a lens you wouldn’t normally use for your nature photography. Try using a wide-angle for wildlife photography, or a telephoto lens for landscapes. This is a great way to force yourself to be creative and you never know what it may result in.

A good lens to choose for this is a standard 50mm. They’re nicknamed the ‘nifty fifty’ lens, and are favoured for their representation of what we see with our own eyes. If you don’t have one, they’re available pretty cheaply and are a good lens to have in your camera bag anyway. Try the Canon 50mm f/1.8 or the Nikon 50mm f/1.8.

#2 Try out a different field of nature photography

Try something really different. Step away from your usually genre of choice and try your hand at macro photography, or natural abstracts. Of course, there are plenty of tutorials for all sorts of areas of nature photography on our website. Why not use the search function at the top of the page to delve deep into the archives?

get out of photography rut
(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

#3 Try revisiting old photos in post production

Load up some of your oldest images and try to edit them again using your improved skills in post production. This can be a nice way to look back at your work, and maybe regain a bit of that keenness you had when you were fresh behind the lens.

(Photo: Shutterstock.com)

You may find that some photos you had destined for the bin can actually be revived and used. We always strive to improve as photographers, but rarely do we think about how we are improving as editors too. I’m not talking about photo manipulation, but just understanding the capabilities of the software. For me, using Lightroom has greatly improved my ability to simultaneously sharpen and reduce noise in my shots.

#4 Book a trip away

One of the best ways to bring back that love for photography is took book yourself onto a trip or workshop. It gets you into a completely new situation, doing what you know you love, and will boost your confidence again. I’m not saying that because we offer workshops on Nature TTL, but because it’s helped me get through photographer’s block.

I wasn’t getting out with my camera very much because of my studies for my degree, so booked a trip to Finland last summer. It really helped, and I took some photos I am fairly proud of. I’m feeling more inspired now and totally got out of the rut!

Spending some time with bears in Finland brought back that spark for photography when it was slipping away!

There are all sorts of places you could go, both in the UK and abroad. As I mentioned, Nature TTL does offer some really good workshops. Lots of our readers have enjoyed them, so if this sounds like the ‘fix’ for you, then you can see what we have available in our shop.

#5 Stop comparing your work to others

If you’re lacking in inspiration and feel a bit down about your work, the worst thing you can do is compare yourself to others. If you’ve taken a shot you like, it’s easy to say “but it’s not as good as X”. Well, that’s just helping no one.

Perhaps take a break from gawking at viral nature photos online and be a little more realistic about your expectations. Everyone has to start somewhere, and just because you didn’t win Wildlife Photographer of the Year it doesn’t mean your work isn’t any good! Competition season is probably the worst time for self-confidence in nature photographers, but contests are so subjective and one judge may like an image that another dislikes. It’s definitely not the be all and end all.

#6 Look for inspiration online

If you’re not going to end up knocking your confidence, study the work of a range of photographers. Check out 500px.com and look at what’s popular. There are some beautiful images there taken in a variety of different styles. Look at what makes each photographer’s photo work, and think about how you could do something similar. Be sure to put your own spin on it, rather than purely trying to recreate a photo you’ve seen online, and before you know it you’ll be over photographer’s block!

Will Nicholls is the founder of Nature TTL and a professional wildlife photographer and film-maker from England. Having been photographing since the age of 12, Will's images have won a string of awards, including the title of "Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year" in 2009 from the British Wildlife Photography Awards. Will is also the author of the book On the Trail of Red Squirrels.

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  • skipc43

    Thanks for this article, Will. I’ve been in a slump for a while, both from boredom due to the limited areas this time of year, and I suffer from the blahs this time of year when it’s dark and grey most days. I never thought to revisit some of my past work in Photoshop as a way of breaking the rut.

  • Andy O’Brien

    Great article Will, it is really easy to get stale at this time of the year. I’m setting up a little project at the moment for a bit of wide angle stoat & mouse photography….hopefully I’ll get some decent images!

    • That sounds really interesting – do share the results with us.