How to Overcome Creative Block and Criticism in Photography

Finding yourself in a creative block can be the biggest killer for a photographer. You can start to resent your camera due to a struggling imagination and your passion for picking it back up again begins to wane.

It happens to all photographers at some point, not just beginners, so it’s vital we take a look at how to overcome that creative block and rediscover the love for photography.

As well as creative block, some of us suffer criticism by clients who don’t like our photographs or internet trolls who make deflating comments on our social media pictures.

This negative criticism can impact our artistic confidence, so this article will be a great help to those wanting to pick themselves up and turn a negative into a positive!

woman desk struggling dark computer camera creative block
Firstly, remember this one universal truth; YOU WILL MESS UP at some point. But DO NOT put your camera down.
man balance lighting strike danger gorge creative block

Endeavour to see any criticism, no matter how seemingly harsh, as a challenge to prove people wrong. Do not let one ill-informed remark cripple you.

Look at the great achievers in Science, Politics and Sport such as Einstein, John F. Kennedy and Lionel Messi, they were all criticized and failed at certain points in their career.

But their name and work will live on in history simply because of their will to succeed and ability to overcome obstacles and creative block.

Remind yourself why you started this journey to begin with and what you wanted to achieve?

Keep that goal in mind and use it to help yourself get back on track. Get your family and friends involved to help you rebuild your artistic confidence.

Self Pride

But it’s not just negative comments from others that can demotivate you; photographers are very proud creatures and we can be our own worst enemy, which is sometimes the hardest type of criticism to deal with.

When reviewing your images, if you don’t like the colors, sharpness or composition, then the immediate reaction is to delete it.

But before you do, write down what you don’t like about the image and build up a list of obstacles to overcome next time you take your camera out.

men balance see-saw suits creative block
lady camera laptop cafe creative block

Comparing your work against more experienced photographers is another way to see your images in a negative light and therefore inflict your own creative block. It’s best to look upon these versions as inspiration for how to improve.

It’s unfair on yourself to expect the same quality of work as a 30-year veteran if you’ve only just taken your first steps.

If you are new to photography then look to others for inspiration, after all, every photographer had a ‘day 1’. You may just be at the start of your journey so make it a positive one and don’t compete with others, otherwise you’ll never enjoy it.

Constructive Criticism 

Negativity can turn photographers into recluses, but it’s important not to hide from the photographic community completely. Sometimes criticism is well intended but our personal pride interprets it differently.

It’s important to learn that not all feedback is negative, we must accept that there could be faults in our photography work, and by taking on board the constructive reviews, you can progress quicker.

man yellow camera cafe photography creative block

The less you listen, the less you progress. Only you are stopping yourself. You should see constructive criticism as a positive thing, think about the fact that your photograph motivated someone enough to offer their thoughts – if it was terrible, surely they wouldn’t waste their time? It obviously had a good base for someone to suggest some improvements. It is important to self-assess your work and listen to other people’s opinions – they may be right.

Is your image too contrasted? 

Is it lacking sharpness?

Could the crop be better?

Is it boring or repetative?

Be honest with yourself or someone else may be – and that may hurt.

female ladies camera desk work photographers creative block

Overcoming Creative Block

camera film photography books desk creative block

It’s impossible to say what is going to inspire you and when it’s going to happen, so the best advice we can offer is to take your camera with you wherever you go.

Whether it’s to do the grocery shopping or on the morning commute, then throw your camera in your handbag or backpack just in case you spot something you want to remember.

Every single artist, no matter their genre of art will experience a creative block at many points in their career.  But, it’s how they get out of it quickly is what we’re interested in.

If you’ve had your camera in a drawer for a few months and forgot about it, then you’re going to need a large injection of desire to dust off that stagnation and get snapping again.

camera desk computer work office creative block

Even here at the iPhotography offices, some of our Course Tutors bring their cameras into work, just in case they have a moment of inspiration!

But sometimes you have to reprogram your mind to see things in a creative manner when it’s been dormant for a while. We’ve put together a few tips and tricks that we’ve personally found are great ways to get over that creative block when you’re looking down at your camera and feeling uninspired;

The 3 Word Challenge

If you have a subject to work with, think of 3 words to describe that person. Use these words to create visuals in your mind of what ‘funny, charming, scary, polite, quiet or shy’ might look like.

Pick a Colour

Try picking a colour theme. Grab your camera and shoot as many frames as you can featuring only one colour in your scene. No other colours are allowed apart from this one. (This is actually a fun game!)

New Angles

Don’t assume the same angle all the time. Revisit landmarks or buildings that you may have photographed before, but ban yourself from the tripod and force yourself to look for new angles.

Try Pastures New

Go to a new location. If you normally shoot indoors (or at home) all the time then this is a great tip – get outdoors and use natural light and your surroundings to push you out of your comfort zone. Close your eyes and pick out a place on map and see where you end up!

Props

Add one prop that you wouldn’t normally use. Drive yourself to use an unusual item in a shoot that wouldn’t normally be associated with the subject. Choose an item at random and see how you can incorporate it into a portrait or landscape scene.

Enter a Competition

Photography competitions are omnipresent nowadays, for example the iPhotography Weekend Challenge, issued every Friday with a keyword or phrase to offer some inspiration. Joining in these competitions is a great way to test your skills on varying subjects and who knows – you could even win a prize?

Join a Community

And there’s no better place to start than iPhotography Course! (Of course we’re going to say that – but it’s true!) With over 90,000 photography students, then it’s an ideal community to be involved in.

If you’re not already a student of ours then you’ll be pleased to hear that you can upload your photographs to our private Photo Feedback Gallery and get genuine feedback every day from other students and the Tutor team of professional photographers.

It’s a perfect location to remove that creative block inside you without being made to feel like a newbie (even if you are!). There’s always a chance that you may win the #POTD (Photo of the Day) title for 24 hours or the prestigious #WeekendChallenge winner, where your photograph features on the dashboard of the website for over 90,000 other students to see!

Sound good? Then click here!

Fingers crossed that’s the last you’ll see of a creative block for a while and we hope you are feeling a lot more motivated and inspired if you weren’t already.

We are going to leave you with one final thought on this topic, using the very poignant words of Vincent Van Gogh;

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”

We wish you all the best on your journey!

The iPhotography Team

Learn photography the iPhotography™ way

There’s no right or wrong way to take a photograph. But, if you spend all your time obeying the ‘rules’ of photography, your work will simply look like everyone else’s.

A shot can be technically perfect but aesthetically boring! That’s why iPhotography Course not only teaches you all the standard technical expertise, settings, skills, and special effects with your camera – but we also show you how to use these skills to develop your own individual style as a photographer. By the end of iPhotography Course, you’ll see the world differently, and the world will recognize your shots as your shots.

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