There are times when the artistic instinct suffers a mental block. Writers don’t know what to write. Sometimes they sit with a blank paper not knowing where to start. Similarly photographers too suffer a mental block. The creative side of our mind stops working. What do the photographers do then? Most photographers end up clicking mediocre images, just for the sake of capturing. A few others don’t use their cameras and end up brooding and even sad.
(Sunrise – photographed just for the sake of capturing the various hues and light-rays. The sun was still hidden. This could have been photographed in many wonderful ways but all I did was capture a mediocre snap without much of efforts or thinking)
This happens with me too. I call it the Photographers’ Block. Recently it struck me when I visited a place where I had photographed many many times. There were subjects all around but nothing seemed to stir my creative instincts. Initially, I ended up capturing some forced shots, which I captured because there was nothing better I could think of. Later when I realized that I was suffering from the Photographer’s Block, I just packed my camera for sometime.
Was it the same location that I had visited multiple times? Was I tired or stressed? What was it that caused my creativity to take a back seat on that morning? Come to think of it, Ansel Adams spent years in Yosemite National Park. Visiting the same location multiple times may not be the reason after all. I was not at all tired but yes, I was stressed a little. Something to do with finances. Could that have caused the Photographer’s Block? No. I don’t think so. Photography relaxes me and so it should not have been the problem.
The cause for Photographer’s Block is ‘idiopathic’. This is a medical terminology which has been very nicely decrypted as ‘the doctor is an idiot and the patient’s condition is pathetic‘. For me, I could not identify any particular reason and yet things were not working out for me on that particular photowalk. The scene in front of me was spectacular but the photographs did not convey that feeling. The sunrise photograph above was the best that I could do then.
(Tall Grass and Tractor – photographed on the same location some months back)
Over the next few days, after some introspection, I have formed my own methods to overcome this. These are the things that I do now to take care of the Photographer’s Block –
Switch to a prime lens – I rarely use zoom lenses but what I figured out was that whenever I have a zoom lens mounted on my camera, chances of my mind blanking out are more. Maybe it is to do with the indecisiveness that comes with the plethora of focal length choices. Switching to a prime lens improves mental focus.
Stop and think – Tell yourself what you like and hate about the location or your surroundings. I was disgusted at the garbage and plastic packets near the river side on that particular morning. The colors in the sky were nice but the disgust rode on my subconscious, suppressing the happiness that comes while holding the camera. Now I try to segregate the things around me and focus on whatever stirs my soul. Should I have photographed the garbage? That’s food for thought.
Step out of your comfort zone – Try changing your genre. If it is street photography that you mostly do, try looking at scenes as a cityscape or macro photographer would. If it is the birds that interest you, then try capturing some portraits at close quarters. If most of your photography is done using a wide-angle lens, shift to a short tele! This small change can help bring out the creativity.
Role playing – Think of some of your favorite photographers and put yourself in their place. Try to see things as they would have. No, I am not telling you to copy them. Just try thinking like them. Be influenced. This is the fastest way to get rid of Photographer’s Block.
Take a break – Stop photographing for sometime. Take a short break. It helps to give time to mind to relax. Don’t panic if the photographs are not as you expect them to be. Don’t force yourself to click camera. Just take a break and soak yourself in your surroundings. On one fine evening, I did the same thing. Nothing was interesting me and so I took a short break and had some snacks at a road-side kiosk. The short five minute break refueled me and I was able to capture some good photographs.
(The road side snack which refueled my creativity. The first photograph on that evening was of the confident savior who had cooked that delicious dish for me)
The Photographer’s Block is real. Learn to recognize it. Sometimes it is better not to use the camera than creating mediocre photographs. However the best option is to overcome the Photographer’s Block and let the creative juices flow again.
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” – Ansel Adams