One of the pitfalls of being a professional photographer is dealing with the inevitable creative slump. Simply put, a slump is a downturn in either creativity or available photography work. Slumps are common among creative professionals who burn out or exhaust their energy and motivation to keep producing. On the other hand, sometimes slumps can also be seasonal low points where photography work dries up. Wedding and event photographers almost always experience a seasonal slump every winter after the holidays when clients are on holiday and aren’t booking photo shoots.
More often than not, a creative slump is temporary and you’ll bounce back quickly. However, sometimes slumps indicate a broader shift in the economy or in the creative direction of your business. Either way, it’s important to take advantage of this downtime to evaluate the cause of photography slumps and also invest in parts of your business that will help you in the long run.
In the spirit of full disclosure, this post has a few affiliate links, which means that I may get a commission if you decide to purchase anything from Creative Live in particular. Any commissions earned go towards the costs of maintaining this website so I can continue to offer you more content free of charge.
How to Tackle a Creative Slump
In some cases, photographers simply need to increase creativity to get through a slump; other times, it’s a business or workflow issue that needs to be addressed. In either case, these tips below will help you get through your creative slump.
1. Conduct a performance review.
Whether your slump is seasonal or part of a lack of creative energy, a performance review is essential for celebrating achievements and identifying areas for improvement. For most photographers, the seasonal slump arrives in the winter following holiday festivities. This is typically when your clients are taking a break, so it’s reasonable for you to do so as well. Conduct an annual performance review and assess what went well and what didn’t go so well. Take time to relish in your hard-earned achievements. What made those moments achievements? How can you re-create similar achievements in the future?
Also, evaluate the areas where you could improve and set goals for the new year. The more brutally honest you are, the better you can identify what might be causing the slump and how to defeat it.
2. Fill your calendar with networking or social events.
It’s a cold reality that self-employment can be a lonely adventure. Sometimes, a creative slump happens when there’s a downturn in work and social events to keep you engaged and motivated. Check out the local events calendars of the venues in your area or any trade-related publications. Take note of any events, trade shows, or networking opportunities that might be beneficial to attend. Put those events in your calendar and note any deadlines to buy tickets. The more you fill your calendar with fun events to look forward to, the more your inspiration will increase.
3. Learn something new.
Given the rate that technology is accelerating, there’s always something new to learn in the creative field. Slumps are a great time to finally take that YouTube course you’ve been eying or read the eBooks you’ve had on your wishlist all year. Take advantage of the many online photography resources out there, or invest in classes at Creative Live. You might be surprised at how recharged and inspired you can feel after learning a new technique.
Recommended Creative Live Photography Classes
- Free Live Classes
- Wedding Photography Bootcamp
- Mastering Outdoor Photography Fundamentals
- Beginning Photography Bundle
- Mastering People Skills
- The Portrait Photography Bundle (my personal favorite that has helped me grow leaps and bounds)
4. Take care of business tasks.
A creative slump is a great time to catch up on business tasks that might have slipped through the cracks during the busy season. Some tasks you could focus on include:
- Update your photography website and portfolio
- Backup your photos to hard drives and cloud services
- Refresh marketing materials
- Make sure old invoices have been paid
- Catch up on accounting and bookkeeping for tax season
- Evaluate your current pricing plan to see if raises should be implemented
- Clean your camera gear and consider upgrading
Upgrading Camera Gear
Shifting your perspective and the way you take photos can certainly lead to an increase in creativity. If you’re been using the same camera gear for a while, adding a new lens to your kit or upgrading your camera body might be a good idea. Technology has evolved at such a rapid pace over the last couple years that you’ll probably be surprised at the new features available on newer camera models. You could even invest in a totally new toy such as a drone or 360-camera, both of which are incredibly affordable these days and can definitely renew your enthusiasm for photography.
5. Consider revising your photography mission statement.
Sometimes creative slumps are rooted in a change of vision or direction. If you’re feeling uninspired, consider the type of work you’re doing and if it aligns with your original photography mission statement. A mission statement is critical for the success of any business as it declares your purpose as a photographer, answering the big question of “why do you do what you do?” As with any business, mission statements can change over time, and it’s possible that yours could be in need of an update. Take time to carefully consider and implement any changes that result in a mission statement that gives you motivation and energy.
6. Evaluate your photography pricing and rates.
Another common reason for a creative slump is a disconnect between your photography pricing rates and how much you need to get by. There are many ways to approach photography pricing, but it is typically best to align with current industry standards. Do some online research and try to get a sense of what your competitors might be charging. It may be hard to get a sense of local rates, but with some persistence, you’ll find photographers who openly display their prices online. Just remember to account for the current and projected cost of living in your area and any raises in state or federal taxes that might be taking place in the near future.
If you do make any changes to your business, such as rate increases or refreshed marketing campaigns, be sure to tell your clients and family and friends! Don’t hesitate to also include charts and data points explaining your changes. This will help people be more receptive to them.
7. Reconnect with former clients.
One of the best ways to get more photography work is to reconnect with former clients. Word-of-mouth referrals are the strongest form of lead generation, and clients typically have on-going photography needs. Use the downtime of a slump to send a quick message to a former client to check in. Send a quick recap of the work you’ve done recently and see if they have a need for your services. Depending on your relationship with the client, you could even invite them for coffee or lunch for an in-person catch up. Above all, keep your messages concise yet interesting so that they catch the attention of your client.
8. Connect with your local photography community.
Thanks to Meetup and private Facebook Groups, there are tons of online communities for meeting fellow photographers. Connecting with other creatives is great for networking with others in your field and possibly finding a new partner to collaborate with. I’ve found my fair share of hobby projects and paid jobs just by attending meetups and exchanging business cards with attendees.
When searching for new groups to connect with, also consider looking some that correspond with your other interests outside of photography. While it certainly helps to meet other photographers, you’re not likely to gain any new clients by networking with a group of other camera wielders. Instead, consider entrepreneur, startup, or business groups. As a photography business owner, you can probably learn a thing or two from them, plus pitch your photo services.
9. Recharge your mind and body.
One of the only ways to stimulate creativity is to do something completely unrelated from photography. The easiest activities that come to mind are physical activity and travel. Exercise in any form gets your heart rate pumping while also getting you away from your desk or photo studio. This, in turn, stimulates creativity. Traveling someplace foreign or new to you is another way to gain new perspectives and increase your creative drive. Exciting travel needn’t be in an exotic overseas adventure. For most people, inspiring travel destinations can be found within a few hour’s drive of their current location. Relaxation and taking an opportunity to recharge is important for sustaining output and longevity in your photography journey.
Over To You
Do you face a seasonal or creative slumps in photography? What steps do you take to recover? Let me know in the comments below!