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50 Ideas to Beat "Photographer's Block" by Playing With Light and Setting

A researcher by trade, curious by nature. Writer, photographer, tech lover, crazy about cooking and eating (or maybe I'm just Italian).

Are you sad that you're out of ideas for a new photo? Worry not! Inspiration can come from the most unexpected a street sign!

Are you sad that you're out of ideas for a new photo? Worry not! Inspiration can come from the most unexpected a street sign!

Photographer's Block Strikes Again!

We've all been there, amateurs and professionals alike. You grab your camera, and you have no idea what to shoot! You just start taking random pictures, and you realise they are boring, dull, and uninspired.

I actually quit photography for over a year because of a spell of photographer's block, and I wish somebody had given me a cheat sheet to get inspiration from so I could keep going and be excited about photography!

Well, here is such a cheat sheet, just for you.

Play With the Light

  1. Take two articulated lamps, set your camera on a tripod, and experiment with all of the possible lighting combos shooting a common object.
  2. Use light painting (check out my ten tips and techniques to be a better photographer article — link is below).
  3. Set a tripod in a spot where you can see the whole sun arc during the day, and shoot a picture every hour for the whole day, then get creative with editing.
  4. Do the same for the moon.
  5. Use Christmas tree-lamps (you know the tiny coloured LEDs held together by a string?) to make night portraits or light up the scene or an object.
  6. Put a mirror in front of your in-camera flash and take pictures orienting the mirror in different directions.
  7. You can also use a coloured transparent plastic or a stained mirror to do that.
  8. Use LEDs to your advantage. They produce a very sharp light, and you can use 10 or 20 of them to create extremely creative combinations.
  9. Use your car's lights as your only light source in night portraits. Sit on the hood while taking the picture.
  10. Use your fridge light for portraits: make your subject look into the fridge or something, and shoot.
  11. Use a PC screen, phone screen, cigarette lighter, or car dash-lights to take creative pictures (e.g. a person mesmerised by a phone screen).
  12. Use matchsticks.
  13. Use candles.
  14. Use smoke or vapor to create mists and reflections — great when paired with coloured lights!
  15. Buy loads of cheapo flashlights and use them creatively.
  16. Light your subject from the back with a strong light and on the front with a weaker light (30% weaker give or take).
  17. Use lens flare to your advantage (you can also create it using a flashlight).
  18. Use slightly crumpled-up tinfoil to reflect light on your subject.
  19. Use water (e.g. a pond or a stream) to reflect light on your subject.
  20. Use a subject with a light-coloured shirt as a light reflector for another subject.
  21. Use a creatively-shaped light (like a ring or a square/butterfly softbox) and catch the reflection of it in your subject's eyes.
  22. Close your window shades enough to just let a blade of light into the room. Raise some dust and take the shot.
  23. Light your subject from every side to have a Rembrandt-lit portrait (the nose shade joins the cheek shade).
  24. Combine any of the above.
Bonus tip: focus on the co-protagonist while just hinting at the real protagonist!

Bonus tip: focus on the co-protagonist while just hinting at the real protagonist!

Almost half-way through! Are you feeling inspired yet?!

Change Environment

  1. Go room-by-room in a building, and scan for anything you've never seen (or noticed) before
  2. Leave for work one hour earlier, and take a different route to get there
  3. Leave for work one hour earlier, and walk there (I mean one hour earlier than it would take you to get there on foot)
  4. Take a map, draw a 30km circle from the point you are right now, and then use a random number generator. Generate a number from 1 to 60 (there are apps on the AppStore and Google Play), and imagine the circle you drew was a watch. If you draw the number 21, for example, you will go where the 21-second tick is, anywhere between you and that circumference you drew. You can also divide the line between the center of the circle (you) and the edge of the circumference by 10 and generate another number from 1 to 10 to be more specific!
  5. Visit a landmark you never visited.
  6. Look at the people you cross paths with on the streets and take their picture (ask for their consent).
  7. Go to a bar you've never been to before.
  8. Go on Wikipedia, select a random page, and try to get inspiration for a picture from that.
  9. Get on top of the highest building or hill in your area.
  10. Go underground (sewers, tunnels etc.).
  11. Shoot from inside a bush.
  12. Look for a bridge.
  13. Take pictures of cars passing by (remember to censor the plates if you publish them).
  14. Go to another state for a one-day trip.
  15. Visit a library.
  16. Look for patterns you never noticed (like a fence, a railway, or just a brick wall).
  17. Ask a passer-by what their favourite place is, and go there.
  18. Talk with a homeless person and try to capture their history with a picture. They are nearly always great people with big hearts and bad luck. Help them out if you can.
  19. Try a cuisine you've never tried and portray the experience in your pictures.
  20. Go to a place with no light pollution, and take a picture of the Milky Way on a dark night.
  21. Find an exotic plant or tree and take a picture of it.
  22. If you live in the country, go into town and vice versa.
  23. Visit an enormous metropolis.
  24. Visit a breathtaking waterfall.
  25. Attend a concert.
  26. Go to a social event or a charity event.
Change your point of view! There's always a picture waiting for you to take it.

Change your point of view! There's always a picture waiting for you to take it.

Did any of these tips help you beat photographer's block or take some creative pictures? Let me know your favourite tip in the comments below, and tell me if you want more in the poll!

Happy shooting.

(Hungry for more? I have an article on how to be a better photographer, with my 10 tips and techniques, an article on white balancing, and an article on how to take better, razor-sharp photos.)

© 2017 Marco Arista


Angelica Perduta from Christchurch, New Zealand on September 24, 2017:

I've never had photographer's block... and thanks to you I think that I never will :o)