How To Stay In The Creative Zone

Do you know what a creative block is? It’s when you go out there with an intention to photographs but you are so uninspired you end up going home with nothing or just a handful of shitty photographs. That’s the creative block. It’s like a barrier between you and your inspiration with no chance of meeting each other and coming up with something fruitful.

Around the year 2016 right after me and my wife came back from our Japan Honey moon trip was actually what I would consider my ‘creative block’. I was fine before that. I was able to enjoy our Japan trip and I had was able to capture decent images back then. Even prior to that, on our Indonesia trip where I sort of documented the Sulfur miners who work day in and day out. I even won a couple of awards from that year’s IPA photography contest. 

Fast forward to now, I’m back, obviously. More active than ever, I think. I even started this blog. *Hats off to myself while tapping my shoulder.* So here I am wondering what did I do to overcome that dreaded creative block. And I came up with this: Here are the things I did to bounce back with a more vigorous attitude towards street photography and photography in general.

I kept  shooting

It sounds easy because you know, this is what we do. But it’s tough as hell knowing that I was uninspired even to go out of my house. This laziness was even made worse by the almost every day rain. But I had to power through. I had to go out there and push myself and at least go back with one good photograph. Whatever photograph that got my interest.

In a way, I kind of exhausted myself but in a good way. I became resourceful. I learned to find ways to find even a tiny bit of inspiration.

 Jalan Sultan, Singapore. 2017. I just... you know, whatever. Shoot everything!

Jalan Sultan, Singapore. 2017. I just... you know, whatever. Shoot everything!

I tried something new

Trying something new means many things. I took a different path instead of going to the same place over and over again.  Because sometimes you get so used to the place you photograph that you bore yourself out. Sure different people walk that place, but it’s the same feeling, still. I needed something different. Something that will test me. Something new that will lure the curious cat out of me.

I love it when I get myself lost in the city. Singapore (where I’m currently based) is pretty small and easy to navigate so even if I think I’m lost, I find my way back easily. And when I get myself lost, that’s where I feel like a tourist. Everything is new to me. Different textures, different crowd, the mood changes. All of a sudden the creative in me starts to get inspired. I get motivated all of a sudden.

Unfortunately on the latter part of 2016, I wasn’t able to travel as much after my trip to Japan with my wife. We sure wanted to but the budget doesn’t permit us to go. But I’m sure that if I get to out of town, I’ll be coming back home with some worthy photographs I’d be proud to share.

 Outram Park, Singapore. 2017. I rarely wait in an area to do street photography but I saw this reflection of the clouds so I just had to do it.

Outram Park, Singapore. 2017. I rarely wait in an area to do street photography but I saw this reflection of the clouds so I just had to do it.

I photographed different genres and subjects

I shoot almost 80 to 90 percent street photography, then the remaining genres that interest me are landscapes, minimalism, and portraits. And I realized that these genres that I mentioned are also great ice-breakers to what I photograph most. Every time I take landscapes and portraits is a breath of fresh air to me. And when I lose my grip in street photography, I try to focus on other genres. I try to learn new things about portraits and landscapes.

Aside from the fact that I have a genuine interest in landscape and portrait photography, I believe that I photograph other genres because I just need to give myself a break and keep my mind off it for a while. Don’t quote me for this but I think that it’s a healthy approach and a win-win move. A part of your creative brain rests while the other works, and vice versa.

Check out my other Instagram account that focuses on landscape, portraits and the mundane things. It's still a work in progress though: 3daystillmundane

 Mt. Batulao, Philippines. 2017. Aside from street photography, I also have this interest in taking landscapes and portraits.

Mt. Batulao, Philippines. 2017. Aside from street photography, I also have this interest in taking landscapes and portraits.

Join photo walks and shoot with you friends 

For the past few months, I've noticed myself getting more and more active in photography. The reason for this is that I’ve been joining with my friends a lot lately and going out for some photo walk sessions the whole afternoon. I found myself learning more things and trying out some new styles I wanted to develop.

Just this weekend, I and my friends joined this photo walk hosted by a quite known group in the Philippines with, I guess I can call it a chapter that is based here in Singapore. They are called the Filipino Street Photographers or FSP in short. They were kind enough to share us some of their knowledge in street photography. Later on, they held an open themed street photography contest with a book for a prize. Guess what. Yes, I won the book and I was surprised how well I did that day. I'm normally less aggressive but that day was different.

My point is, you may not feel inspired today but If you go with the people that are enthusiastic about the common things you do, you will naturally gravitate towards them. Next thing you know, you are prowling the street with a renewed passion to photograph.

 Serangoon Rd. Singapore. 2017. This is the image that won me the contest. It's the processed version, but during the contest, we are required to submit the unprocessed image. Thanks FSP!

Serangoon Rd. Singapore. 2017. This is the image that won me the contest. It's the processed version, but during the contest, we are required to submit the unprocessed image. Thanks FSP!

I took a good break

 Zero photos. You can bring cameras, read photography related books and articles and you can even watch videos about photography. Point is, do not pressure yourself to go out and take photographs. Creativity is limited. One day you’ll run out of it and sometimes the best way to recover is to wait it out until the bucket of ideas back and full.

Every athletes or body builders need to take a break, after the break, they feel better and stronger. The muscle memory works more accurate than ever and they generally feel confident about themselves. The reason behind this is they allow the muscle fibers to heal and rebuild itself, they allow the mind to relax and process what it had learned from that training session. Same goes with us photographers, we allow our mind to relax and let the ideas to naturally build up. We let the ideas find us instead of the other way around.

A word of caution: Taking a break is good but don’t veer away too far. You may not notice but you may stay too far from the photography scene that you become so used to it and your lifestyle starts to change. So if you plan on returning to photography as soon as you’re ready, just keep yourself always close to it.

Revisit your old self

Go back to your old self. Look at your photographs that you took before. Maybe it’s time to compare your 'old' you to the 'now' you and see how much has changed. What made you better a year ago? What style are you trying to develop now? What do you like photographing now versus the 1st images you posted on your Instagram page?

I did this. I even deleted some photographs that I no longer like.  I took it as an opportunity for me to assess myself and see what else I can improve myself from.

 This was the first image I posted on my  Flickr  account that is related to street photography. Well I'll be damned.

This was the first image I posted on my Flickr account that is related to street photography. Well I'll be damned.

Embrace the creative block

The creator’s block is an awful, awful feeling. Something you would not wish to happen to anyone. But it’s an inevitable thing and one day or another someone will fall for it. Whether you like it or not, the only thing you can do is delay it but once it happens I guess the best way to overcome it is to embrace it. Acknowledge it and slowly work your way back into the game.  Keep it easy try what I have written above one by one, nice and easy and without pressure. You’re gonna bounce back. We all will.

Being a creative is tough. Even the best ones and the most artistic people will reach this point in their life. So if you are starting to feel that you are getting detached from photography, visit this article again and read it. Try these things that I did and see if it will work for you.

Now, let's keep that burning and go out and shoot!