12 Tips to Break Your Photography Rut

Are you in a photography rut? Are you having trouble getting motivated to pick up your camera or get creative?

Though I have built my business around photography, I do not have a portrait business. I prefer do photography on my own terms, when the mood strikes me. I love taking pictures but sometimes I just need a break.  But after a few weeks or a month, I want to get back into it again. Here are some ways to excited, break a rut and start shooting again.


  1. Try something different: For example, if you normally shoot portraits, take pictures of nature. If you normally shoot macros, photograph people or buildings.
  2. Find fun props: For example, dig through closets and get big hats, purses and heels for a little girl to try on (as shown above).
  3. Create an assignment for yourself: For example, say to yourself, I am going to take pictures of 10 faces today, or 5 flowers, or 12 buildings. Or create a task such as every day this month I will take a photo of a household object. You would be surprised how these little things can get you going again.
  4. Change settings: For example, if you normally shoot in the suburbs, go to a downtown areas or the country. If you usually shoot inside, get outside.
  5. Shoot for yourself: If you are a professional photographer, take a few hours and just photograph what you want and how you want it. Leave customer expectations behind.
  6. Shoot high or shoot low. Instead of shooting straight on, shoot from the ground or go to the top of a stair case or even another level of a house or building and shoot from above.
  7. Change your lighting: For example, if you like strobes, shoot with natural light. If you prefer flat lighting, try some harsher directional lighting.
  8. Be inspired: Go through magazines and pull out ads that you like. For your own personal experience, study them, and try some of the posing or lighting techniques.
  9. Find new subjects: If you are a hobbyist and mostly shoot your own family members, go borrow a relative or friend. Find fresh faces to model for you. If you are out shopping and see someone you would love to take pictures of, just ask.
  10. Attend a workshop: Photography workshops can get expensive and not all are created equal.  But for me, when I have gone to them, I have learned not only from the instructors, but from the participants.  Being around other photographers can be very inspiring.
  11. Arrange a photographer meet up in your area: These are like workshops, but more informal, and usually free. Go on Facebook, Twitter or even a photography forum, and get a group of photographers together to shoot. Have a few kids or friends come along to model. You will be surprised how fun it will be – and also how much you can learn.
  12. Do not worry about editing: Often times when doing photography, photoshop is in the brain. You start thinking, if I take 500 pictures, I also need to sort and edit them. So just forget it. I am not saying you should never edit them. But shoot with the sole purpose being the experience. Worry about editing images later.

This list is just the beginning.  Please share below how you break out of your photography ruts and how you get inspired.

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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  1. 5


    Thanks – I needed this. I hate doing routine photography and keep telling myself to eliminate events. I need time to be creative and can’t be rushed.

  2. 7


    I love your #3 idea of creating interesting assignments for yourself. I think this can be an excellent way to jump start the creative process. For 2010, one of my goals is to read a certain number of books. In conjunction with that, I am going to capture images that evoke the feel of passages I particularly like. Kind of a random assignment, but it’ll definitely get the creative juices flowing! Thanks for these great tips!

  3. 8


    This is great… thanks for writing it up. For me – it’s exploring – similar to #8. I’m a blog lurker – I love to check out what everyone is doing – it’s inspiring.

  4. 9

    Christy says

    thanks for the wonderful tips! i like #12 as well & need to learn to let go of my obsession w/ editing ALL my photos that i keep!!

  5. 10

    Jennifer B says

    I AM in a rut. I think I took 5 pictures during Christmas. Horrible. Thanks for the ideas, and the suggestions for inspiration. Even during the dead of winter, I can still get out my camera! As for my own inspiration, I love looking at other people’s work and seeing their creativity. And it so helps to meet up with other photographers!

  6. 12


    This is just what I needed. Winter in the Northeast kills my desire to shoot. It’s just too darn cold out there! I have begun taking studio shots and learning more about panoramas. I have also been reading and writing blogs to pass the time, but keeping them photography oriented to keep the edge. Thanks for sharing this!

  7. 13


    Dear Jodi,

    Good morning from Ireland. I found you this morning via Twitter where someone referred to you and I followed the link. I’m struck by your points about how to do differently.

    While reading down the list, I remembered Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I thought you could develop your list into a version of The Artist’s Way for photographers.

    So I thought I’d make the effort to read your “About” and see what kind of a person lay behind the writing…

    With best wishes,
    @omaniblog (twitter name)

  8. 14

    Dr. Jacqui Cyrus says

    I’m not a professional photographer, but I do get in a rut. I am now saving my pennies in order to purchase a Nikon DSLR. I think that might get me out of my rut.

  9. 16

    aloozia says

    I’d love to find photographers in my area for informal meetings. Maybe I’ll post my own meeting and see who shows up! Thank so much for the list; it’s getting me motivated :)

  10. 18

    Shelly Frische says

    #12 will be a tough one to follow. I feel that my images will look a bit naked without a little somethin’-somethin’.

  11. 22


    Like these ideas, but I would rather have them e-mailed to me so I can print them instead of writing them. Is that possible?
    Thanks either way. I found this site via “I Take Pictures” blog site.

  12. 23


    Hello from Luxembourg!
    To me, there’s a simple key that keeps me from getting into a rut: emotion! I shoot only what I like and when I process my pictures there are always my personal emotions involved. I would never mass produce pictures only because people expect it of me. That’s the big advantage of a hobbyist like me over a pro who makes a living from photography. I’m free to shoot what I like. Sometimes I do 6 or more macros until I`m fed with it. Sometimes I do no shoots at all for weeks until something jumps into my eye that I really want to shoot and write an article about it on my Blog. For instance, there is this old radio from 1960 that I still own… I thought about shooting it’s inner life for months but never did it, until I felt now the day was come to do it and write about it. You can read the article here if you’re interested: http://quaffit.blogspot.com/2012/06/steam-radio.html
    So the conclusion for me is, if I concentrate on what I really like I won’t get into a rut ;o)


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