How To Shoot Your Way Out Of A Rut

Mar 25, 2017 | Photography Tutorials, Tutorials

The Rut. It happens to me every single winter, usually around mid March, when my client volume is low, the excitement of snow has worn off, but spring is not yet in the air. This time characterized by “in-between” – when I am in-between client jobs, in-between seasons, in-between emotions…..well it just seems to squash my creativity.  

Given that this late-winter rut happens to me each year, you’d think I’d be better prepared. You’d think that knowing it’s coming would make it possible to prevent the arrival of The Rut in the first place. But no. Here we are.

The life of the creative includes the inevitable ebs and flows of creative greatness. Staying fluid through the creative process is essential….. But that doesn’t make it any easier, or make me any more prepared, for how I feel when I slide into a rut.

I am hard on myself. I don’t know why. Do I really expect to create portfolio-worthy images every day? But I want to. Photography is like breathing for me, so when I am not creating the way my heart longs to, it feels like there is a heavy weight on my chest.  

I am a huge advocate of the transformative power of daily shooting, and daily shooting perhaps has it’s greatest influence when shooting feels hard – when creativity, vision and desire just don’t all seem to be lining up the way you want them to. This is when shooting, and pushing through can truly take you to a new place. 

It’s like climbing the last stretch of a long hike. Your legs are tired, your feet ache, your lungs are burning, but you push through, step by step by step…..for you know the peak is before you if you can just will yourself to climb there. And when you do arrive, the view is worth every ache or pain you endured along the way to get there.  

So this week I decided I was done with this rut. I decided that I was going to shoot my way out The Rut. To do this, I set the following 5 rules for myself:

1. Shoot and process at least 5 images a day for 5 days.

I knew I simply had to start shooting more. I had been keeping up with my 365 project but hadn’t been shooting much beyond that. There seems to be a correlation between how much I am shooting and how well I feel like I’m shooting. Not enough shooting = feeling like I’m in a rut. So I started shooting. A lot.  

2. Swap lenses. 

My Sigma 35mm 1.4 ART lives on my camera 99% of the time. I love this lens so much, and it will always be my go-to, but to kick myself out of this rut it was time for a little change. I pulled out my macro, my 85mm and my lensbaby. I love each of these lenses, but just don’t use them much – especially in the winter months. Forcing myself to use these lenses instead of my 35mm comfort lens, led me to see the winter light and simple moments around me in a different way.

3. Try new subjects.

Aside from my client work, I almost exclusively photography my kids through a very documentary style. This week I tried to open my eyes to the additional beauty around me – the flowers on my kitchen table, the dishes in my sink left behind by my kids before they raced off to school, the light that streams into my tv room late in the afternoon. There is a story to be told within all of these elements of my life as well, and this week I opened my eyes a bit more to them.

4. Take the big camera absolutely everywhere.

I am on year four of my 365 project. At first my camera went with me everywhere all the time. However, now that my kids are in school at least some of the day I find myself not carrying my camera as much. And as I loose the habit of grabbing my camera on the way out the door, I am also limiting my opportunity for capturing the beauty in my everyday. Most of my day is still spent racing around town (errands, drop-offs, pick-ups….), and by leaving my camera on the kitchen counter I am missing out on capturing the little moments around me that tell such big story of this phase in my life.

5. Take the pressure off.

I put so much pressure on myself to capture something meaningful every day. I know I shouldn’t do this, but that is who I am. This week however, I paid extra attention to take the pressure off. I wasn’t always going for the perfectly composed artistic image. Some of my captures were simply snapshots of moments that made me smile. Taking the pressure off allowed me to take a deep breath, to relax and to simply see the beauty around me through how it made me feel…..And in letting myself feel first, and create second, I found true beauty emerging from my camera once again.


So after 5 days of shooting my way out of The Rut, I really do feel better. I feel lighter and more inspired. I captured some images that I love, but more than anything, I spent a week laser-focused on seeing and capturing the beauty in my everyday. And that just feels good.

So, I start this new week feeling refreshed and inspired.  And I will file this post away in a not so far place for next March when I find myself yet again in my inevitable Winter Rut.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.