Get Outside Your Comfort Zone

Ever feel like you’re stuck in the doldrums and can’t seem to find something to shoot?  Don’t you just hate it when you get a bad case of “the blahs”?  How do you get your creative juices flowing?

Try getting outside your comfort zone.  Get an assignment (either from yourself or from elsewhere) and go try to complete it “right now”.  Personally, I find that the stranger the theme the more creative I’m forced to be in order to fulfill it.  Regardless of how well you complete your assignment, you’ve accomplished something by taking on the project–you’ve gotten yourself moving and doing something.

OK, why did I put that in italics?  Because it is key to creativity.  Sitting still and “thinking about it” does not get you any closer to the goal of adding something creative to your body of work.  Nothing happens as long as your gluteus maximus is still in contact with the easy chair and all the “thinking about it” in the world won’t trip that shutter and make the image.  Activity triggers creativity.  Doing something (anything!), especially something that is outside your comfort zone, has a higher probability of inspiring some creative work than just sitting on your butt just thinking about it.  Creativity needs a stimulus and you’re more likely to get that needed stimulus with some action.

Getting out of the lazy chair is the first step.  What else can increase the likelihood of creativity happening to you?  As I’ve already mentioned, get out of your comfort zone! Walking the same old street…seeing the same old sights…doing the same old thing is less likely to inspire creativity than doing something different.  Take a photo walk along a different route.  Visit that local park that you’ve driven by but never been to.  Take a day trip to a nearby state or national park.  Maybe your comfort zone is that you only take certain types of shots (landscapes, architectural, portaits, flowers, etc.).  Choose a different subject type and see what you can do with it.  If you normally shoot macros of flowers and bugs, get out of your comfort zone and shoot people for the afternoon.  Maybe you shoot people all the time….in that case give yourself a project to shoot the interesting architecture of your town.  Get out of your comfort zone to spur creativity.

I was talking to a friend about this recently and their response was this:  “Sounds like a recipe for frustration.”  That is one possible outcome, but without risk there is no opportunity.  Are you willing to risk the possibility of being frustrated for the opportunity of sparking your creativity and giving yourself the chance to capture some amazing images?  My answer to the frustration argument is that there are no hard and fast rules in photography…only guidelines.  Does the shot look better if that rock is placed dead center in the frame?  Then do it!  You may get it into your digital darkroom and decide that it didn’t work out the way you thought it would, but you’ve lost nothing for trying.

Creativity is like a muscle.  You have to exercise it in order to increase it.  Get out of your comfort zone and experiment.  Learn something new and add it to the mix of your photography.

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