Landscape Photography

Break Out of a Creative Rut: Strategies for Rediscovering Inspiration

May 17, 2024

favorite reads:
I'm Chrissy!

 I’m glad you stopped by. I cover a range of topics that I'm confident will benefit your photography. Explore the site and discover valuable insights to enhance your photographic journey.  Until the day when our tripod legs cross out in the landscape, cheers to happy photographing!


Get on the List!


Monthly tips and inspirational content delivered straight to you!

Have you ever picked up your camera and simply felt stuck? In our journey as photographers, there are times when inspiration wanes and our creative energy seems to vanish. Whether it’s due to a hectic schedule, burnout, or simply feeling uninspired, experiencing a creative rut is something every nature photographer encounters at some point. 

While a creative rut is a common experience for landscape photographers, it feels incredibly isolating and lonely when it happens to us personally. Recently, I went through a period of, I guess, burnout. I took on too many projects. Between trying to still be present for my family, I simply couldn’t find enough time to maintain a healthy balance. While the work projects were beyond successful, they left me feeling drained and devoid of creative energy. For me, this burnout affected not just my mood but also my photography, making creating personal work feel more like a chore rather than a passion.

Blue hour sunrise of fog drifting in an out of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Experiencing a photography rut isn’t just a temporary hurdle. It can have profound effects on a photographer’s artistic journey and overall well-being. When we find ourselves stuck in a rut, unable to muster the enthusiasm or inspiration to pick up our cameras, it’s not merely a matter of creative frustration. It can also erode our confidence, dampen our passion, and even lead to feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. Knowing this was at stake, I chose to overcome my photography rut by adopting strategies and techniques to reignite my creative spark rather than simply waiting for it to pass.

Surprisingly, when I was on work assignments, I could find the energy and excitement to photograph. However, I struggled with the subsequent workflow. I had almost a visceral reaction at the mere thought of sitting down to edit a photo. After spending many consecutive hours each day in front of a computer, the idea of editing photos for fun was suffocating.

Then one week of this rut turned into two. Then, two weeks turned into a month. At some point, it dawned on me that this wasn’t a few bad days. This was a photography rut, and here’s what I did about it.

Strategies for Overcoming the Creative Rut

1. Reducing Pressure & Stress

When feeling depleted, it’s essential to replenish our creative reserves. But I still have daily chores and work that need attention. I focus on making any task fun or mixing things up. For me, this means finding ways to include music and comedy throughout the day. Whether through listening to my favorite music, watching my favorite movies and/or TV shows, or immersing myself in a captivating book, exposing myself to diverse art forms helped rejuvenate my passion for creating.

Even having something play in the background while I go about my day works. I find myself laughing at jokes from Parks and Rec while I’m cooking or swaying to the rhythm of my favorite music as I fold the laundry. It’s about experiencing more smiles throughout the day. It’s an easy way to enjoy other art forms. Also, it starts to bring down my stress levels while still getting all the work I need to accomplish completed. While it seems so simple, it’s often the last thing you think about when you feel stressed.

Straight path over a wooden bridge through a lush, summer Appalachian forest with a waterfall flowing underneath.

2. Disconnect to Reconnect

In today’s digital age, constant connectivity can be both a blessing and a curse. This is single-handedly the most difficult thing to do. When I’m overworked and stressed, scrolling through social media and video clips seems relaxing and like I’m decompressing. In reality, constant screen time clutters my mind and disrupts my sleep, which is vital for creativity. 

The only thing that I’ve found that worked for me is making a conscious effort to disconnect from technology during designated periods. Once the family is home from work and school for the evening, the phone goes away – answering any emails or messages can wait until the next morning. These consecutive hours of no phone time work wonders after you get through the initial hump.

Sunlit forest path filled with lush summer greens and blooming mountain laurel in Pennsylvania

3. Purposeful Recharging

Engaging in purposeful activities that nourish the soul is essential for overcoming a rut. Reducing the amount of time I scroll on my phone recreationally frees up the time to engage in more purposeful activities to recharge. By taking time to sit outside listening to the birds with my coffee, calling and catching up with a friend, or watching the heat lightning from the porch in the evenings, I foster connection – connection with nature, people, and my inner thoughts. All this fuels my creative spirit. This reflection and reconnection lead to journaling, quiet contemplation, and even other art forms like playing music, painting, singing, and reading. 

Personally, I’ve found reading (or listening because audiobooks are what fit best into my life right now) is the fastest way to spark that curiosity back into my life. I often reach for books that I can pick up and read only a chapter or two. The goal is to learn or re-learn something that makes me think “Wait, that really happens?” Here are some of my favorites:

See My Recommended List of Naturalist Books

The above are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase,
I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Additionally, I do my best to dive into photographic inspiration whether that is admiring the work of others in photography books or physically going to an art museum or exhibition.

Autumn waterfall in Appalachia in Pennsylvania with yellow and green trees above and orange leaves scattered on the rocks of the creek

Taking Action to Get Out of the Creative Rut

Little by little, motivation and energy reappear. Then at some point, I have enough energy to force myself to get back to it. You never truly feel ready to jump back in – it’s difficult to take that first step. There is this pressure to get back on the horse. Although, typically, that pressure is not helpful so I do my best to relieve it.

To reduce the pressure on myself, I start by setting small, manageable steps to ease back into my creative routine. I know I probably won’t finish a full edit on a photo without feeling stuck or unsure on some aspect of it. Instead, I tell myself, “Let’s sit down and edit for only 5 minutes”. I may get up after 5 minutes. But more often than not, I find myself wanting to continue beyond those initial minutes.

It’s that first step which is often the hardest part. It’s daunting to set a goal of “let’s edit one photo” or “cull all my images from my last trip”. Taking only 5 minutes out of my day is more practical and easy. There’s no pressure and it gets me to simply start, two essential things to get out of a photographic rut. 

Conclusion on Overcoming a Creative Block

Before I know it, and after one or two bad edits, I’m back hearing and listening to my inner creative monster. I feel that renewed sense of purpose, curiosity, and openness to experimentation and experiences. While this method may not work for everyone, I hope it will give you some direction or a spark to get out of your creative rut when the time inevitably comes.

Remember, every creative journey has its ups and downs. By taking small steps and reconnecting with what inspires you, you’ll find your way out of the rut. What strategies help you reignite your creative spark?

If you enjoyed this article, you’ll probably enjoy
The Three Most Important Words to Transform Your Photography as well.

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

Leave a Reply

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.

Fine art nature and landscape photographer, speaker, and Lightroom educator.

All Content Copyright © 2017-2023 Chrissy Donadi Photography LLC | All Rights Reserved  |  Privacy Policy | Terms and conditions

Get Around

Get on the List!