This guest article by Katrina Kennedy is a subject that is close to my heart and one I believe whole-heartedly. That in order to grow as a photographer or a person, you need to step out of your comfort zone. As soon as you do new things and push yourself you'll be on the road to doing better photography. Enjoy! – Darlene
Have you found a nice comfortable spot for your photography? Are you stuck in your comfort zone or are you in a rut? Do you want to do better photography?
Do you long to be more creative? More interesting? Just do things differently than you have been?
We all get there. That spot where we must do the work to push our game forward. No matter where you are in your photography journey, getting to the next level means YOU have to face your personal boundaries.
It takes effort and persistence. It takes time to push your limits. You must have the courage to expand your creativity. You have to ignore the voices in your head beckoning you to go back your comfort zone.
Daniel Pink, in his book DRIVE, describes a place of productive discomfort that we all have to push ourselves to. “If you’re too comfortable, you’re not productive. And if you’re too uncomfortable, you’re not productive.”
That push can lead you to photography breakthroughs. Moments when you begin to see the world differently. We are in search of that spot psychologists call “optimal anxiety.”
Just how do you get out of your comfort zone? How do you move your creativity forward and find your optimal anxiety? It takes work, but it’s worth it. Here are a few ideas to get you started and help you move toward that and better photography.
#1 Get out of your routine
Want something different? Then you’ve got to DO something different. Want to do better photography? Then you need to shoot differently.
Think about your habits. Think about when and what you photograph. Try a different style. Shoot with a different lens. Go out and shoot at a different time of day.
Or try using only one lens for a week. Do you always use your 24-70mm lens? Change it up and just shoot with a 50mm or a 28mm for a week (or longer if you dare). See how it changes how you see things and how you photograph.
Do the opposite of whatever you have been doing.
#2 Consider everything a subject
EVERYTHING you see has potential to become a photograph. Even the most mundane things, the typical and the overlooked.
Think about the things you cherish most in your life, the things you would miss if they weren’t there. Photograph them. And then do it again. You will see them differently. The light will be different. The day will be different. You will be different.
Taking everyday photographs requires you to slow down and notice things you may otherwise miss. You must let go of control when you focus on the everyday. It helps you to begin to see details, texture, color, and patterns. The more you begin to look, the more you will find.
Set comparison aside. Focus on light and feeling. Let your subjects guide you. Some days your photos will be snapped with only a little thought and some days may be orchestrated and arranged. Both are okay.
Explore. Play. Experiment.
Shoot with childlike curiosity. Think “What happens if…” then do it.
Photograph for the pure fun of it.
When you play with your photography you will discover how things work. It's the easiest way to increase your understanding of the buttons and dials on your camera.
Move through your shutter speeds or the apertures. Use a tripod or leave it behind. Go somewhere you’ve never been before. Photograph something you wouldn’t normally bother with or even notice.
Shoot from the hip or throw your camera in the air (with a little caution there). Play with light.
Photograph something odd or strange that you would normally overlook.
#4 Look for another perspective
There's more than one way to see a subject placed in front of your camera. When luck is on your side, a subject presents itself exactly as it needs to be photographed. You see the light, the composition, the details all align and shout, “photograph me.” You aren’t always so lucky.
Shoot from eye level. Shoot from above. Get down and photograph from below the subject. Take one step to the right and one step to the left. See your subject in a way that you haven't before. Fill your frame with the subject. And then focus on just a tiny segment.
Walk closer. Back up. Shift the subject. Shift your feet.
Pick one subject and see how many ways you can photograph it.
It’s through discovery, practice, and trial and error that you create. Consider that there is always more than one way to see your subject.
#5 Take on a personal project
Personal projects help move our photography forward. We learn something about our relationship with our camera as we learn something about ourselves.
Your personal project can happen over a few hours, days, or weeks. It can include five photos or 365. Create a project with a specific goal in mind. Write it down, and give it parameters.
Setting limitations can actually help you push your boundaries! Think about creating rules to guide your photography. Create parameters and rules you’ve got to shoot within. Quantify the project and give it a deadline. You can only shoot three photos of something, for example.
- Make 10 (or 20 or 100) portraits of people you don’t know.
- Shoot the same item over time (different times of the day, different seasons).
- Create a collection of hearts, leaves, or faces. Look for that thing everywhere.
- Start a 365 project (take one photo a day for a year).
Make the project your own. Set a date to complete it and a method to share your project with others.
#6 Do the work. Even when you don’t want to.
You’ve got to do the work if you want to improve your photography. Pick up your camera more often. Practice more. Carry it everywhere.
Pick one thing to work on. Practice that A LOT, then move onto the next thing.
There is no shortcut for moving out of our comfort zone that doesn’t pass right through doing the work. On the other side of your creative rut is an opportunity for doing better photography. It will be worth it.
Have you tried any of these ideas? What others do you have to shake up your comfort zone and try new things?
Katrina Kennedy, founder of CaptureYour365.com has taken a photo a day for the last nine years. She is passionate about documenting the everyday moments of her life. Katrina has helped thousands of people improve their photography at CaptureYour365 through classes and daily photo prompts. You can see her on Instagram as CaptureYour365 or herself, Katrina Kennedy.