5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps

5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film
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Written by Jennifer Stamps

As creatives, we attach so much of ourselves to our art. Whether you’re a graphic designer, painter, writer, or photographer – being creative takes energy. Creativity isn’t something we can use up. In fact, I believe that the more we use it, the more we have. Almost like a muscle. The more we train that muscle, the bigger it will get. However, it can be easy to get into a funk or feel uninspired. We see it all over social media, especially in the winter: “I’m so uninspired lately.” “I’m in such a creative funk.” “I don’t even feel like I want to pick up my camera.” 

We’ve probably all been there. I know I have. Many times. There is nothing wrong with feeling that way, but if you’re tired of feeling that way, it can be frustrating. Over the years, I’ve learned some tricks. Here are a few ways I help get myself excited to pick up a camera again.

5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut with Your Film Photography
5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut with Your Film Photography
B&W Holga - 5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

1. Pick a Project

Sometimes we are just tired of shooting the same things. Or feel like we don’t have anything exciting to shoot. It’s normal. Picking a project can help. A few projects I have done off and on over the years are: 

One Roll, One Day

Literally shoot your entire day (the more “normal” the day, the better) from morning until night with just one roll of film. You’re learning (or reminding yourself) how to tell the full story and making it a challenge by only using one roll of film. You’ll probably be surprised by all the special keepers in that roll. 

B&W One Roll, One Day - 5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

One Roll, One Kid

Similar to the project above, but it doesn’t have to be in one day. You photograph one of your kids (or a pet!) using the entire roll of film. This could be portrait style, candid style, or a mixture of both. This is a very fun project to do monthly. At the end of the year, you’ll have a special collection of images. 

B&W One Roll, One Kid - 5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

One Camera + One Type of Film

This is a personal favorite of mine. I started this project in 2018 after feeling stuck in a rut. I decided to shoot at least one roll of Ilford HP5+ in my Olumpus OM-1 each month for the year. I learned so much about the camera and the film stock. I shot the film from ISO 320-1600 several times. Some months, I would set out to shoot the entire roll in just one day. And other months, I just popped the roll in and shot throughout the month. Some of my favorite images ever are from this project. And since then, Ilford HP5+ has become the film stock I shoot with 98% of the time. 

B&W One Camera, One Type of Film - 5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

2. Shoot with a Toy or Box Camera

I’m a little bias. My first camera in the digital age was a Lomography Diana (the medium format replica of the original Diana camera) so my love for plastic toy cameras runs deep. Picking up a toy or vintage box camera is special. You rarely have any settings, and if you do, they are very basic. You, as the artist, are left with deciding how you’re going to make this image work.

My favorite way to shoot these types of cameras is the same way I’d shoot with my Olympus OM-1 or any other SLR with crisp beautiful lenses. I basically pretend like I have a “real” camera in my hand while I’m documenting my surroundings and always end up with these amazing, dreamy images that look like they are from another world. If you’re not used to using a camera like this, it will help push you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

Toy Camera - 5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

3. Shoot a New Type of Film

Do you usually shoot dreamy Fujifilm PRO 400H? Or Kodak Portra? Both stocks are absolutely gorgeous and tend to be the first chosen among photographers – and for good reason.  If that’s you, try something new for a few rolls. Have you shot Kodak Gold? Or how about Psychadelic Blues? Lomography and Revolog also have really fun stocks to play with. Or, if you mostly shoot color, try black and white for a bit. Trying something new is fun and gives you a whole new challenge to focus on. 

One Type of Film - 5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

4. Join a Photo Walk

Join a local photography group or reach out to a few photographers in your area and set out on a photo walk together. Try going somewhere new and just enjoying the time outside with new friends and a camera in hand. 

Photo Walk - 5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

5. Lastly…Don’t Shoot

*Gasp* What is she talking about? You read that correctly. If you’re feeling uninspired, you might need to take a creative break.

Instead of shooting, do something else. Try writing – actually writing with a pen to paper. Or pick up a new book that has nothing to do with photography. Try your hand at watercolor painting. Sometimes, we really do need to just rest or brains and our creative juices.

Recharging is important and usually doesn’t take long. But when you’re ready to get back at it, try one of the four suggestions above to get you back in the grove. 

5 Tips to Get Out of a Creative Rut by Jennifer Stamps on Shoot It With Film

Thank you so much, Jen! Jennifer is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and be sure to check out her other articles, like Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review and Intro to Scanning Your Own Negatives. You can also check out more of Jennifer’s work on her website and Instagram.

Leave your questions and share your tips for getting out of a creative rut below in the comments! You can also check out more articles on how to shoot film here!

Jennifer Stamps

Jennifer Stamps is a regular contributor for Shoot It With Film. Find her other articles here, such as Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review and 5 Film Cameras Under $50.

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Thank you for some inspiration. I’m getting reacquainted with black and white film photography and my teenage son is being introduced for the first time. We have been active shooting for the last 3 weeks with our Covid-19 quarantine and it’s good to hear/read someone else who is enjoying the passion.

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