Question #39: About Going Through A Creative Rut

Q: "I'm attending evening classes in a photography school - we basically have weekly workshops where we're given assignments on imposed subjects on a regular basis. So far I've been quite inspired by those and enjoying it a lot. The "end of year" assignment that's coming next, in contrast, is a freely chosen topic and our photos will be exhibited in a prestigious place and potentially exposed to lots of people.

I'm excited about this great opportunity to have my work shown but still can't possibly figure out which direction to head towards - a kind of "photographer's block" I guess. I'm most passionate about street photography, however I fear that my usual kind of street images is too mundane and not catchy enough to be exhibited. I believe in the power of simplicity and I'm aiming at producing striking, graphical pictures but I just don't know where to start. Every street around where I live I feel like I have roamed a hundred times for assignments or personal work, and there's not much new to get my inner photography flame kindled again. The deadline for giving out the photos for printing is June.

Do you have any advice on how to overcome that block ? Any artist you'd recommend as an inspiration, be it photographer, painter, filmmaker ?

Thanks and keep up the good work ! It's always a pleasure reading your blog and hearing you on TWiP." Guillaume


A: "Hi Guillaume, thank you for your kind words and for submitting a question to the blog. Tough question as I'm not sure if you are planning to pursue photography as a hobby or a career.

Street photography is really something you do for you and you alone. I wrote an article about that recently, which you might want to read: To Be Or Not To Be A Street Photographer. Street photography is not something that will get praises like landscape or nature images will. I don't think that's a bad thing. Not everyone understands the beauty of street photography and the audience is more limited. When you are out shooting, you should aim at pleasing yourself, not others. If they like your work and buy it, that's the bonus! 

You don't have to travel to exotic locations to capture beautiful street photographs. If you feel like you are in a rut, give yourself assignments. But not the same assignments that are required for your classes.  Some days you may just want to shoot some street portraits, other days focus your attention on silhouettes or motion. Find a stage and wait for the right subject to walk through. Maybe you need to do something completely different for a change. Pick up a macro lens and try your eye at macro photography for a while. Give yourself limitations, pretend you are shooting film for a day and shoot 36 frames only. That will make you slow down and think.  Get in your car and get lost on purpose, take a path you've never taken before and explore it with your camera.  You never know what is going to move the artist in you. Follow your heart!

I get inspired by art in general. Go look at paintings at your local museum, immerse yourself in a photography book, not only images that are available online. Watch inspirational videos on (Richard Koci Hernandez comes to mind) or (Wonderful videos featuring Jay Maisel). 

We all go through creative blocks. Don't look at it as a bad thing. On the contrary, it may just be a sign that you need to push yourself, to grow in the process. I think that a loss of passion may be an opportunity to renew and refresh your vision and turn it in a positive experience. 

I wish you the best of luck in all your creative pursuits. Keep in touch!" Valerie

Give yourself your own assignments. Work on silhouettes for a day for example. Find the right stage, wait for the right subject to walk through and capture the shot you envisioned. That is a sure way to boost your energy and passion! 

Give yourself your own assignments. Work on silhouettes for a day for example. Find the right stage, wait for the right subject to walk through and capture the shot you envisioned. That is a sure way to boost your energy and passion! 

If you received this blog post via email, click on the title to view the actual published post. If you found it useful, please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

Question #9: About HDR

Q: "What do you think of HDR? I haven't seen any pictures of yours that applies that process. Thank you in advance for your answer." Donald from Montreal, Canada

Note that the question was originally sent in French as follows: "Ma question est la suivante : que pensez-vous du HDR ? Je ne crois pas avoir déjà aperçu de vos photos qui résultaient de ce procédé. Je vous remercie à l'avance de votre réponse." Donald, Montréal, Canada.

A: "HDR... One of the most controversial photography topics in recent years! You may be surprised to hear that I jumped on the HDR (High Dynamic Range) bandwagon really early. Like most photographers, I was fascinated by the fact that I could take multiple exposures, process them in Photomatix and, within a few seconds, create this magic blend that would reveal details in the bright and dark areas of the frame.

We are given tools that can actually make an image look much closer to what the human eye can see than what the camera could ever capture. New technology allows us now to render a higher range of intensity levels with a single exposure. Some cameras also now have a built-in HDR setting. There's never been a more exciting time to be a photographer.

Do I like HDR? In my opinion, if an image looks processed then it's over done. That's my personal taste.  But we are talking about art and there is no right or wrong answer. Art is subjective and that's a beauty of it!

I think we need to stress the fact that no amount of post processing is going to make a picture better if it's not a good picture to start with. As the saying goes "You can't polish a turd..." It's all about light, content, composition and story.  I think that, in photography, post processing should be used as a fine-tuning tool. The true creativity of the artist is applied in the field."

Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear your opinion. If you receive this via email, click on the title to be redirected to the actual blog post and have access to the comment section.

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