Perhaps you know that feeling. You’ve been shooting a LOT, a whole lot of client sessions … AND YOU’RE TIRED OF IT. Or, maybe not nearly as many sessions you had hoped to be … AND YOU’RE TIRED OF IT.
You look at your portfolio and feel like something’s missing. You know that you want to improve those damned photo galleries, but the fact is, you feel all backed up in the creativity department.
- Maybe it’s your jammed schedule.
- Or, a fear of straying from a shooting formula that you know truly works.
- A lack of confidence in your abilities?
- For some, even a little creative apathy, that comes along with stress and depression.
There are many reasons that we feel creative constipation. Whatever the reason, it’s a feeling building up inside you—this desire to do better, to be better, to set yourself on fire. The problem is, you don’t know how. You’re simply too backed up. Why? If you are spoon feeding yourself the same formula and expecting some magic output, it simply isn’t going to happen. And, the longer you let it go, the worse it will get. This is the nature of constipation, hehe.
Someone wrote in candidly and asked our contributors to write about about burnout. When I saw her question, I noticed she’s actually very successful photographer, who is also considered very creative. But for her, she simply feels stuck. Stagnant. Constipated.
I feel burnout in many aspects of my life, but never in the creativity department. It’s probably the one area I can give people sound advice, because I literally think about, dream about and concept shoots day and night. No, I’m not saying I shoot everything amazingly creative. But I try. And I try again. And I try after that.
I build so many visual plans and story lines in my head, I can barely keep track. I put them in a notebook and shoot them… eventually…without fail. While I can offer zero advice about everyday life or client burnout (I do feel that often), I can open the kimono and tell you how I stay ignited and feeling creative.
Not me. I DO NOT look at my non-paying, self-concept shoots as “hobby days.” I look at them as intensive marketing. Why? Because every non-traditional shot I take is telling clients that I am different. I am willing to do things other people won’t…or can’t. I view my creative time input as a valuable marketing expense. How? Because better, more creative images will get me more clients, their attention and hopefully their investment. Plus, I feel creative fulfillment, which keeps me happy in other aspects of myself.
THE “EVERY-SHOOT” CHALLENGE
Every single shoot, I create a little game for myself. I’ll take at least 3-5 shots I have never tried before. Maybe it’s a pose, or a lighting setup, wardrobe modification, color scheme, styling, or some direction with the client. Sometimes I fail and sometimes it’s awesome. But the point is, I try.
Every.Single.Shoot. I try hard things; things I don’t know how to do; seemingly weird things. Next time, these will be part of a new repertoire. It’s like building a playlist! No, I am not a risk taker in real life, but when I shoot, I am willing to totally be a risk taker. My clients love the results of this “game”, as do I.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
If you’re working from a studio, it’s easy to get into a creative rut. But you need to change things up. If not for yourself, then for your client. I no longer work in my former studio space, so everywhere I go is a potential location and therefore, a “concept” for me. I am constantly looking around me. “YES, I would totally shoot her in that antique store doorway!” “Wow, that empty house would probably make a great set!” I then dream up what my shots would look like, if I can get access. Then, I simply ask. Sometimes the answer is YES!
Or I don’t ask…One time, hotel security confronted me while my model was in her bra. My bad. …It was worth it!
BE THE SUBORDINATE
I like creative control, I really do. But sometimes, relinquishing control results in some really great ideas.
Rather than me tell my very talented hair and makeup artist Miranda Richards what to style/concept, I sometimes let her tell me how we will style a shoot and I design around that. She makes me a Pinterest Board and it becomes my assignment to execute that look. This is how many ad agencies work: she is my art director and I am the photographer. It is a complete collaboration, and very gratifying. I pay her for these shoots, because it is a marketing investment to me, and I want the best of her abilities that day
There are some people that are just really creative, or really fun. Or both. I sometimes buddy up with photographer friends and plan a shoot for a day. It’s part socializing but also we can bounce off each other’s ideas. And laugh our asses off the whole time.
I visit consignment shops and second hand stores constantly. No, it’s not because I have an affinity to used stuff. Not at all. It’s because I usually find inspiration here.
I see antique necklaces, old dresses I could rip the fabric from and use for a shoot, small props, you name it. I’ve collected things to shoot in the future (Antique ivory phone! 1920’s Hat! Black silk curtains for fabric! Interesting mirror!) No, I am not a hoarder. Most are neatly arranged in a giant suitcase just waiting to be shot. And I WILL shoot them…it’s all in the playbook! Which leads me to…
SCHEDULING & THE PLAYBOOK
On average, I schedule and budget for a creative session once every two months. I do this because I want to plan it, and sometimes it also costs money. (Not a lot, but sometimes.) But, I need a place to collect my ideas, my own little playbook. Whether it’s Pinterest, a folder, or a notebook, you need to collect your ideas and put them in one place. It totally helps you stage the whole production.
I have things I wish I were doing, times I wishes I lived in, or faraway places I wish I could go but cannot. I have three kids…it ain’t gonna happen now. But, knowing this sentiment actually allowed me to build an entire photo collection from this idea. Beyond wardrobe or hair styling, I reconstruct clients to a different era through ALL the elements. This keeps me very happy and helps stretch the client’s imagination too.
I hope I’ve given you enough “fiber” to relieve that ‘creative constipation’. Give a few of these tips a try! You’ll feel great when you do!
How do you avoid creative constipation? Tell us in the comments!
Cate Scaglione is a New Jersey Boudoir Photographer who also works as a New York City Boudoir Photographer. She specialized in beauty, boudoir and portraiture for women and girls. Cate is also a sought after brand consultant to photographers and artists across the world. See more of her work here.