10 Projects to Pull You Out of the Photography Rut

As an artist, there’s nothing more frustrating then a creative block. A total lack of inspiration and motivation to create. You keep shooting, but nothing you’re capturing moves you. Or maybe you don’t even feel like picking up your camera.

We’ve all been there. The photography rut.

Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s life getting in the way. Maybe you’re just trying too hard.

Throughout my attempt at a 365 project I often found myself there. It was in those moments I felt like throwing in the towel. Chalk it up to another failed 365. That’s also when I started exploring things to keep me motivated.  I started searching for ideas and was noticing people talking about personal projects.

A project! Yes! That’s what I needed; to stop trying to figure out in the moment what to shoot. To stop trying to force something that wasn’t there. To turn my attention and focus on something more specific. Over the last couple years I’ve explored a variety of personal projects and I’ve found that they are the perfect cure for pulling myself out of that rut.

I’ve complied a list of ideas for you to try. Maybe one of these will work to get you inspired again. Maybe these ideas will spark your creative juices and you’ll create a whole different project of your own. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or a lot of work. Even something very simple can be that little push you need.

  1. The Hour-by-Hour Project. A mini “day in the life,” if you will. Taking one photo each hour to document the moments of your day.  This has quickly become my favorite project. It forces you to pick up your camera and shoot even when you’re not feeling it. Just grab it and document the moment. Not every moment will be magical. Not every hour will be inspiring but, picking up the camera and shooting the little moments will ignite you. In the end, you’ll have a beautiful overview of the details and memories of your day. If nothing else, putting a collage together of the day will make you feel accomplished.  Example: This year I’ve been working on a weekly hour-by-hour project. It quickly became a little less rigid and more of a day-in-the-life type project. I completed 6 months, 26 weeks, of this project. I’m so grateful for all these little moments, but ready to tackle a new project. Here is one of my favorite weeks to give you an example of the weekly collage I created. Also including a final collage of all 26 weeks. family photography kansas city documentary kidsfamily photography kansas city documentary kids
  2. The Object Project. Shooting one object everyday for a week, month, or any specific amount of time. Or you could shoot one object all day long; seeing how it changes throughout the day. Or just take 15 minutes and shoot one object from as many different angles and perspectives as possible. Challenge yourself to make one object look different, feel different. Capture all it’s details. All it’s significance.  Example: Last year I chose to do an object project revolving around my son’s blankie; The Blankie Project.  It was a time in his life where blankie was becoming more and more significant to him. Blankie was starting to follow us everywhere. So, I captured the adventures of Blankie for a month.  family photography kansas city documentary kids family photography kansas city documentary kids
  3. The Color Project. Chose a color. Let that be your color of the month. Look for it. Capture it. It can be on clothes, in nature, in details, anywhere. At the end of the month create a collage of all your images from that month. Choose a different color for the next month. This project is plain and simple, but you can increase the challenge by choosing more rare or obscure colors. This teaches your eye to look for details in the everyday. family photography kansas city documentary kids
  4. The Same Time Project. It’s simple. Shoot at the same time daily for a week, month, or any specified amount of time. You could change it up; shoot at 5pm everyday for a week then shoot at 10am everyday for a week. Pick a different time each week. This is another project that forces you to pick up that camera and shoot even if you’re not feeling inspired. I challenge you to try a time of day that might be difficult such as that “witching hour” of 4pm when the kids are crazy and you’re starting to stare at the clock and wonder if it’s too early to send them to bed. Shoot through the chaos. Find the beauty in the simple moments. I also challenge you to choose a time when the light isn’t perfect. Most of life doesn’t happen in the middle of beautiful golden hour. Shoot before the sun comes up, at high sun or after dark.  Example: Bedtime with Daddy. I had a realization one night that I was hogging bedtime with our youngest. I always did his routine. It was second nature. He’s our last baby and I realized that these bedtime moments of diaper changes and lullabies weren’t going to last much longer. I decided to let daddy have a turn and I documented these bedtime moments each night for a week. They ended up being some of my favorite images from the year.  family photography kansas city documentary kids father son
  5. The Gear Challenge. We all have that piece of camera gear in our bag that mostly just collects dust. Well, bring it out. Spend a whole week using it in as many ways as you can. Maybe it’s a lens, a flash, some fairy lights. Step outside of your comfort zone. Break out of your mold and try something new.  Sometimes all you need is a new perspective. We all have certain focal lengths that just feel right. Well, bring out that lens that’s so different from your norm and shoot. Maybe you’ll be reminded why you bought that gear in the first place. Or maybe you’ll remember why it sits in your bag all that time. Either way, you’ve challenged yourself to look at moments a little differently. Example. I love the special detail that fairy lights bring to an image, but I always forget about them. They just sit in my bag. Here’s a few attempts at me being more intentional with them. family photography kansas city documentary kidsfamily photography kansas city documentary kids
  6. Get in the Frame. I know. Those are frightening words. You have thousands of pictures of your kids, your significant other, your friends, but how many pictures does your family have of YOU? Start simple. Set an easy goal of getting in the frame once per month. Bump it up to once per week. You don’t have to share the images with anyone but yourself. Well, you must share them with your family, too because they want those images. Example: My husband and I love to travel. It’s our thing. We don’t spend a lot of money going out or buying things in our day to day, but we indulge ourselves by spending time away together. I’m also not much of a landscape/scenic photographer so, on our last trip away, I decided I would document our time by capturing us together in all the things that we did. family photography kansas city documentary kids colorado vacation
  7. Styled Shoot. Let your imagination run wild. Create the session of your dreams. Search for that perfect dress. Perfect location. Make it happen. This is a great way to collaborate with other creatives, as well. Shoot together. Get a florist or hair/makeup professionals involved. Or make it simple. Dress up your kids is sweet outfits and create a little photo session just because. Play with different editing styles. Step outside your comfort zone. Create something different. Example.  Our church is surrounded by amazing property. We drive there mulitple times/week between church and preschool. I admire the trees and flowers every time we’re there. I finally decided to put together some special outfits and take a couple of my kiddos out for a little session. family photography kansas city documentary kids
  8. Chase the light. Spend some time and watch how the light moves and changes in your house throughout the day. Spend some time in each room and look for shadows. Follow it. Document it. Play in it. This will not only give you a project to do for the day, it will also open your eyes to new places to shoot within your house.  Example: You can think of this like an hour-by-hour project except instead of documenting your moments, you’re document the light. Each hour see how it changes. family photography kansas city documentary kids
  9. Ongoing Collection. Is there an activity that is special to your family? A daily routine moment. Something that has become a special part of your story. Document it. It doesn’t have to be everyday.  Capture it over an extended period of time. In the end, compile all those images into a collection. Example: This last Christmas we decided to get a trampoline for our kids. It instantly became a source of joy for everyone. I found myself falling in love with capturing moments and memories of the kids on the trampoline. I’m currently working on creating a collection of these images I’ve called it The Trampoline Diaries. {If you’d like to see and share images of trampoline fun you can follow us on IG at trampoline.diariesfamily photography kansas city documentary kids
  10. Photo Scavenger Hunt. Create a list of prompts or topics and start searching. You can make a list for each season and then create a collage or collection of everything you found. What a fun way to look back at all your summer or holiday memories! Example. The Clickin’ Moms site has an annual summer hunt you can follow along and participate in. Find the list here.family photography kansas city documentary kids summer

 

There are hundreds, thousands, of projects you can do. The main objective is to narrow your focus a bit. Stop thinking so hard about trying to capture everything all the time. Think about a time, a place, a thing, a person, a color, anything that inspires you and create your own project around it.

You’ll find that you feel refreshed and accomplished when you complete a project and you’ll feel inspired to try something new. Many times, I’ll be shooting for a project and find myself lost in a moment. The inspiration will strike and I’ll just keep shooting. I’ll be shooting things that have nothing to do with the project, but without the project I never would have been shooting in that moment in the first place.

Remember that the goal of a project is to break out of a rut. It’s not meant to create more stress. Rules are meant to be broken and these projects are only for you. There’s no right or wrong way to complete a project.

Now, go, create.

6 Comments

  1. Oh my gosh as a new photographer I absolutely love this!

    Like

  2. Erika Kao says:

    These are great tips, and bit did I need this!

    Like

  3. This is chock full of great ideas!

    Like

  4. Blimie T says:

    Courtney, love the object project idea! And I like the color one (in theory). For some reason whenever I “have to” stick to a color I can’t seem to make decent images. What great ideas!

    Like

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