Guest Post from Michael Kormos, a boutique portrait photographer based in NYC and San Diego. Working together with his wife, Michael has a fun and fresh approach to family photography. He has two beautiful children who keep him very busy and constantly inspired. Like him on Facebook and follow his blog to continue being inspired by his beautiful work!
My daughter is about to turn five in a few days, and my son is just a few weeks away from the big 0-3. When did this happen?! It feels like just yesterday that I was cradling them in my arms as tiny newborns, their little fingers clasped tightly around mine. Now they’re talking nonstop, running around like maniacs, and negotiating (for things like chocolate) as if it were their full-time job. Thankfully, they still make time for cuddles in between the madness. But, oh, how the time flies!
The birth of my daughter, Lilly, five years ago, inspired me to dust-off my Nikon, and give it some vigorous exercise. Childhood is a paradise of fleeting moments, and I wanted to capture every perfect moment before it passed. That Nikon was soon thereafter retired (due to premature shutter failure).
My children are a constant source of inspiration. Not just visually, but with the things they say, the things they do, and the personalities that seem to have developed overnight. Lilly has the patience of an angel, and can spend hours drawing the most imaginative creations. The cork boards in my office have become her personal gallery, and they are now overflowing with her latest and greatest artwork. Mark, on the other hand, is a rambunctious bundle of energy with a completely fearless approach to life. He keeps us constantly entertained, and there’s never a dull moment in our home.
Occasionally, though, I find myself stuck in a creative rut that seems to creep up out of nowhere. I start to feel like all my work looks the same, and I need a jolt to get the creative juices flowing again. This happened at the start of this year, and I’ve put together some of my personal steps to creative recovery. Hope you find them helpful!
1) Challenge yourself. Imagine, for a moment, that you are a contestant on “Whose Camera Is It Anyway?”, and the audience calls for an impromptu study of… doorknobs… with your uncle’s point-and-shoot. Could you make it interesting? How would the photographers you idolize capture such a theme, and how would YOU stand out? Challenge yourself NOT with big projects, but with the nuances of everyday life. Don’t waste time endlessly brainstorming the perfect thing to shoot. We’re surrounded by beauty, and there are endless possibilities for creating art. A painted fire hydrant, an intricate railing, a strange looking bug that lands on your sleeve. Even if your photograph turns out to be less amazing than you had hoped, just going through the process of exploring your surroundings with a renewed curiosity should be enough to spark your creativity.
A snapshot I took on our recent vacation in Jamaica. I didn’t have my DSLR, nor my tripod with me. I used an Olympus E-M5, pressed against rocks. Luckily, the camera had manual controls, so I tinkered with the shutter speed until I got the water blur just right.
2) Get out of your focal-length comfort zone. No, really! Leave your favorite lens at home, and pick a random one from your bag. There is nothing more refreshing than seeing the world from a whole new perspective! I love renting lenses I’ve never used through LensProToGo. There’s nothing like the older manual focus types. Before we started photographing lifestyle sessions in our clients’ homes, I never would’ve thought that a wide-angle would end up being my favorite piece of glass. I rented it for a few days, and, it was love at first sight. Her name is 35 f/1.4. I’ve found that stepping outside of my comfort zone is one of the best ways to overcome a creative block.
The 35mm is the perfect lens for environmental portraits. Just keep your subjects close to the center to minimize distortion. I would’ve never tried this lens had I not rented it.
3) Get together with local artists. Networking and collaborating with other artists is a great way to reignite your creative fire. Sometimes I’ll connect with a fellow portrait photographer, other times a photographer who specializes in a completely different genre. I love exposing myself to unique styles. Just last month I collaborated with a talented stylist on a project that combined our artistic visions. We chatted, shared stories, exchanged tips, and in the midst of it all I felt a renewed love for the art of photography. Back when I started, I had to really go out of my way to meet fellow artists. These days, you can easily make connections through Facebook groups, Google+ groups, and dedicated online forums.
For this springtime maternity session, we collaborated with a local hair stylist and model to take advantage of the blooming magnolias.
4) Remember the value of your work. We recently had the honor of photographing a little girl whose father was recently diagnosed with terminal stage-4 melanoma. His wife was eager to capture the last of their sweet moments together, in the few weeks they have left. We’ve had several of these sorts of sessions, and I can tell you that it never gets easier. It’s always a heart-wrenching experience that takes an emotional toll. However, it is also most fulfilling and rewarding. To be able to capture special moments for a family that is about to have their world turned upside down; Life is unpredictable. There is no better reminder of the underlying passion for my work, and inspiration to push myself to the creative limits to capture the very best work possible. Sometimes we just need a gentle (or not so gentle) reminder of the importance of what we do.
Creative blocks of any kind are no fun, to say the least, but they are inevitable. Be reassured that every artist goes through this phase, at least once (if not several times) over the course of their lives. Embrace the challenge, and allow yourself to take the time and effort to get your creativity back in full swing.