HOW TO: Survive being creative – Step 5 and 6

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Step 5 – Give yourself a break!

Do you sometimes feel up one day and down the next? Well, the good news is that’s normal for most creative people! Once I recognised this and allowed myself to be this way I found life was much easier.

Don’t beat yourself up about it – creative people simply can’t be creative all the time – you have to recognise when you’re having a down day and plan accordingly. And the best way to deal with this is to plan for your moods and emotions, which sounds crazy, but it actually works!

Get out your diary and look at what’s in it. If you have a big shoot planned for next Wednesday, or a wedding on Saturday, then you need to be upbeat on that day. You will need to have all your creative juices flowing and be in a motivated and inspired zone. You can’t afford to be tired – so check out what you are doing the day before and make sure it’s not something that requires huge amounts of energy and thinking.

If you shoot weddings, then you will know that the next day you will be exhausted – plan your diary around this. If you do 3 weddings in a weekend, then you will burn out eventually. Many people work 5 days a week, then do a wedding nearly every Saturday – this can only lead to exhaustion, which inevitably leads to creative block. Perhaps you can cut down to 3 days a week in your main job to allow you to maintain a balance between weddings and your day job, so you don’t become uncreative. Or, if that’s not possible, try doing less weddings – you will enjoy them more if you have more time to plan them. If you are getting plenty of weddings, then try increasing your price a little and doing a few less for the same income.

Do you ever have days where you just can’t motivate yourself to do anything?

Don’t worry, this is normal too! Recognise that you are probably tired from the major thing you did yesterday – so today you deserve to take it easier. If you can’t take the day off, then do some of those mundane tasks you’ve been meaning to do for ages – the sort of thing that doesn’t need much thinking about – that you can do routinely. Even if it’s just clearing out cupboards or doing some filing, at least you’ll have achieved something and it’s one less thing on the list!

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Step 6 – Always keep an open mind

I don’t know if you’ve ever had that “creative block” feeling – where you just don’t know what to do next, feel uninspired and uncreative? It happens to us all at some stage – sometimes occasionally, sometimes regularly depending on how your shoot’s going or just on how your life is in general!

I find the best way to deal with it is to keep an open mind. You can plan things as much as you like, but sometimes over planning can spoil your creativity. It is essential to plan, for instance, if you are doing a wedding, but make sure you have planned everything BEFORE the day – so that you can focus on going with the flow on the actual shoot.

On a portrait shoot I don’t usually plan anything before the day, apart from knowing who I am shooting and where the shoot will take place. I love to turn up on the day and get creative. I feel so much more inspired and motivated when I haven’t seen the place before. People will often ask if I want to come and check out the location first – but if I do, then I feel like I’ve already done it. I would much rather turn up at someone’s house and think, “Wow, look at this!” If I turn up and think, “Oh my God, what can I do with this?!” then it’s equally as creative, because I have to find the best places, and work with what I’ve got – either way it makes you think, which makes it so much more fun, and may lead to some great images which you never imagined you would be taking. Where’s the creativity in knowing exactly what you are going to do?

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25 years ago, I used to work in a studio, but soon got totally bored – it was always the same four walls whatever you put in it, and I found it really hard work coming up with new ideas all the time. So, when you turn up to a brand new environment on every shoot – it’s always inspiring and exciting to see what you can create from what you’ve been given on that day – no matter what the weather – that’s all part of the fun too!

Many of the photographers I teach, say they worry about what they will shoot, what backgrounds they will use, how they will dress the people, etc. I always tell them to keep an open mind. If you arrive with preconceived ideas you will set yourself up to fail, and be disappointed if you don’t get what you expected. Whereas if you don’t expect anything, then everything is a bonus! You don’t have to know what you’re going to do; you’ll find out as you go along. Just make sure your equipment works and is set up easily, and then plan things with your subjects, at the beginning of the shoot. Check out: Set up your camera the easy way…

The fun part for me, is making it all up together – looking for clothes that might work with a certain background for instance, and then experimenting and trying things out. People actually prefer it if you are working together, it helps them to relax.

Don’t worry about trying new things – experiment – it doesn’t matter if some things don’t work – but it will be great when they do!

Annabel x


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