5 Exercises to Get You Out of A Creative Photography Rut

We’ve all felt it at one time or another - we’ve got no idea what we could even take photos of, every image we DO take seems boring and “snapshotty”, and we’re left wondering if our creativity has got up and gone.

For some, just putting down their camera works a treat, and for others, such as myself, a small but firm kick up the pants is needed.

These creativity exercises are those kick in the pants, so pick one, and get out there and start shooting!

Photography project ideas - 5 creative exercises you can do to help you out of a photography rut

30 in 30

This is definitely one of my favourite exercises to do when I’m feeling a little creatively blocked! It really helps, plus it doesn’t take much time and you can do it anywhere :)

It’s also super simple to do. All you need to do is go to a contained outdoor location of your choice, and take 30 different photographs in 30 minutes. 

The location can be anywhere - your back or front garden, a local park or beach, or an area of interest. The only “rule” is that you want to stay in the same location and not move about too much - we want to force you to use your creativity by limiting your options.

Then try take thirty unique photographs - you can take more than one photo of the same subject, but each image needs to look different, so not just a small change in perspective for example. Keep the word unique in your head!!

Some ideas for you:

  • Try using different depths of field

  • Show then freeze the motion in the picture

  • Look for interesting lines, shapes, colours and textures

  • Use the available light in different ways.

  • Shoot from different angles and perspectives

  • Use different compositional tools and elements

As you can see, although you are limited in location and time, you’ve still got plenty of options!

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You can also help build in your muscle memory for changing your settings, so be sure to shoot all of these in manual mode! If you aren’t yet sure about shooting in manual mode, or just need some help deciding which settings to use when, be sure to download my free manual mode cheat sheet! In it, you’ll get suggested settings for Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Print it out and pop it in your camera bag! Go here to grab it.

One subject, 10 photos

This one is slightly similar to the first, in that we are again limiting our options to force our creativity to kick in.

For this one, you’re going to photograph ONE single subject in 10 different ways. It sounds pretty easy, but it can be harder than it looks!

It can be any object, but again, you want 10 unique photographs of it! Look at the list above for some ideas of how to make each image different.

This is a great one for when you are stuck indoors as you can use absolutely any object at all, and the plainer the better. (if you want me just to tell you what to use, your subject is going to be an egg. And you can also see some inspiration for that subject here)

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Photo Essay

This is another great exercise! This time, we aren’t limiting ourselves with regard to time or object, but instead we’re shooting very purposefully.

A Photo Essay is when we shoot a number of images that all work together to tell a story, and the good news is, you have a framework you can work to which will help you know which images to take! But most importantly, for the purposes of a creativity exercise, force you into creating something from scratch.

Rather than go through the full framework here, you can head over here and read this blog post on How to Create a Photo Essay, where you can also download the free Photo Essay framework so you can have that with you as you go through this exercise!

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Shoot to one composition “tool”

Annnnd, we’re back to limiting ourselves again (are you sensing a theme here?!)

In this creativity exercise, we are going to shoot using only ONE composition tool. It can be any tool you like, for example, rule of thirds, framing, or diagonal lines.

Just pick one that you haven’t really used too much up until now to give yourself a bit of a challenge. So if you are new, you could stick to the rule of thirds, or framing. If you are more experienced, then branch out into something new.

Some suggested compositional tools to give you an idea:

  • Framing

  • Rule of Thirds

  • Colour Contrasts

  • Golden Spiral

  • Triangles

  • Leading Lines

  • Negative Space

  • Symmetry

  • Layering

  • Shapes

So in this one we are shooting both purposefully AND limiting our options.

It’s a good ‘un I tell you.

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Shoot to a theme.

My final one that I have for you today is to shoot to a theme.

Again, the theme can anything - in some ways, that’s not important (unless you want to keep the theme going all year, in which case, you’ll obviously want to make it something you can stick to) as for a creativity exercise, you’ll only be doing this for a short while.

The easiest way to do this is just to pick a word, and then take photos that represent that word.

Once more, I have some one word ideas to kick start your brain!

  • Street

  • Yellow (or blue, or green, or red)

  • Black & White

  • Shoes / Feet

  • Circles

You get the idea :-)

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There you go, five different exercises you can do to help get your creative juices flowing freely.