A beautiful woman watches the sunset over the appalachain mountains at Doughton Park North Carolina. Photo by Mabyn Ludke.

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When I first started shooting, It felt like I was always inspired. Every time I picked up my camera a light bulb with go off above my head and I would get SO excited. As the years went on that “excitement” became less and less and for creatives that can be a death sentence. I had to learn how to get out of a rut and stay inspired with photography!

I found myself getting too busy to be creative so I would recycle the same shots, different location. Sometimes this lack of creativity would last a few days or weeks and sometimes it lasts years!

I recently just got out of a period of life where I was simply dissatisfied with my work. It wasn’t bad mind you, it just wasn’t what I wanted to be producing. But there was just SO MUCH going on in my life that getting back to what makes me inspired wasn’t a priority. I literally spent 3-4 years or more simply being “okay” with my work. My clients were over the moon, others really loved my work, but there was something in me that just felt “meh.”

So this year I set out on a mission to fall back in love with my craft. To stop letting “life” get in the way of focusing on the joy of what I do. Let me tell you what, it’s like I’ve gotten fresh eyes again and everything is exciting again! I’m loving every photo shoot and can’t wait to share it with everyone. Editing makes my heart sing & my blood flow faster through my veins.

How did I do it? Did I simply say “I’m going to be creative again!” and it happened? To be honest, YES, part of it is actually setting out to do it. But my disclaimer to you is this; you can’t force creativity. We are highly emotional people and our art is tied directly to those emotions. So if you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it and give yourself that grace. With that said, here are some things I did that helped me get over my “photographers block” if you will…

#1 – Be intentional – The reason I spent so many years or more in  dissatisfaction wasn’t because I instantly went into a void of creativity . It was a slow decent into my state of “meh.” You see, I spent the past few moving, trying to re-establish my business in 2 new locations, met my husband, got married, and the list goes on and on. Essentially LIFE got in the way. There were so many things to focus on outside of my craft. I had a signature look, happy clients, I didn’t really feel the need to grow or learn more in the “art” of photography. There were just so many other things that were more important to me at the time. It wasn’t until the middle of last wedding season where I realized that I needed something to change. So I opted to learn a new editing style. Once I found it, my heart leapt for joy and it was then that I realized 4 years had gone by without really trying to learn something new and that I needed to fall in love with my craft again. Not just that, but I needed to make it a goal of mine so I wouldn’t let it slide again. Sometimes it’s hard to see what needs to be a priority, but when you’re feeling that creative slump hit, it might mean that you need to be more intentional about getting creative!

A beautiful woman watches the sunset over the appalachain mountains at Doughton Park North Carolina. Photo by Mabyn Ludke.

#2 – Learn something new – As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, learning a new editing style is what caused the sparks to ignite. It opened my eyes to the fact that I hadn’t learned anything new in several years in my craft. When I first started out I was very methodical in my learning style. Every new wedding season I gave myself a goal: get manual settings ingrained in my brain, learn flash, learn composition techniques, and the list goes on and on. It’s easy to get to a place and feel like you’ve learned all there is to learn, especially if you have happy clients & others are giving you praise for your work. When we’re not learning, we’re stagnant and that is a death sentence for creativity. We become robots regurgitating the same thing over an over. I don’t know about you, but my skin crawls at the idea of producing the same exact thing twice. I know not everyone is wired like I am tho, there are tons of amazing photographers who produce the same thing for their clients because that’s what their clients want. But even in that place, there is still more to learn! When you learn a new skill your brain creates new synapses and sparks literally fly! So find something new that you’d like to learn and watch your creativity start to ignite!

Blue Ridge Parkway engagement session at Black Balsam Knob

#3 – Push yourself to do something scary – I just watched a video where Will Smith described his first experience sky diving (you can listen to his story here). The entity of time that he had to think about sky diving leading up to the actual jump was riddled with intense fear. He builds the whole experience up in his head thinking about all of the terrible things that can go wrong (rightly so I think!) until he gets to the edge of the plane and jumps! Within seconds of leaving the plane he realizes that he’s in a complete state of bliss! He goes on to state that “The point of maximum danger is the point of minimum fear!” He found such joy in doing this thing that terrified him that it left him wondering “why was I scared in the first place?” He ends his story with this: “God places the best things in life on the other side of terror.” Wow! That hit me hard between the eyes and he’s so right!
Will Smith, just described my entire career in one 6 minute story! It’s something that I didn’t consciously acknowledge that I was doing until recently, but every time I’ve been faced with something scary or uncomfortable & I’ve done it anyway it’s brought immense reward!

The most current example of this, which doesn’t sound super scary but for whatever reason was for me, was getting physically close to my clients when they’re all snuggled up during our sessions. I’ve had it on my list of challenges for years, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually DID it. It also forced me to use a different lens (put the 70-200 down!), changing my perspective. All of a sudden I found this incredible intimacy that I was craving in my work. There’s something about this beautiful closeness that I had been missing and I’m so mad at myself I didn’t do it sooner!

A sweet embrace on a mountain top in NC by Mabyn Ludke Photography

There you go, 3 tips for getting inspired and creative! If you have your own ideas or tips that keep you inspired please put them in the comments below! As you know, I’m always looking to learn!

XOXOXO,
Mabyn

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How to Get Out of a Rut and Stay Inspired with Photography