When Creativity Eludes


Guest post from Stacey LaCoursiere, an international wedding and newborn photographer from Duluth, MN. Stacey and her husband Mitch are a dynamic duo when it comes to wedding photography. Their passion for making meaningful connections with customers helps them tell their clients’ story from a sincere and intimate perspective.

Here is the scene: You are in the middle of photographing your third hour of an eight-hour wedding. It’s time for portraits, and the bride and groom are a bit awkward in front of the camera and the bridal party couldn’t look less enthused to be there. You are posing the bride and groom in one awkward pose after another and nothing you do screams awesomeness. You worry you will not be able to get one decent shot from this day and then the nightmare of all that could ensue starts playing in your head… “What if they hate the photos? What if the mother of the bride freaks on me? What if they try to ruin me publicly?” What if, what if, what if! You wonder what exactly happened to you over the long winter break. When did you lose that creative chi? You think for a second that it’s not your fault, it is simply the un-candidness of the bride and groom and the glaring eyes of the bridal party… but deep down you know that is the most ridiculous excuse in the world. You are the professional. You can and will rock this super awkward difficult day like a pro.

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Yep, most of us have been there or will be there at some point in our photography career. And the creative block doesn’t just happen to wedding photographers, it happens to every photographer out there. At some point creativity will elude us and the brain fog of photography will cast a shadow on you. Whatever the case may be, this funk can cause a silent panic attack when you are in the midst of performance. So what do you do to prevent this right brain malfunction? And if you have already been there, what do you do to keep your creative powers in the forefront? Well here are just a few tips that have helped me:

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1. CONNECT WITH YOUR STYLE. It can be hard to find your photographic voice and style as a new photographer. In the beginning you will spend the first year aiming to please your clients and fulfill every need. It can also be hard to feel creative as a seasoned photographer. When you document so often for others, you may find it un-inspiring to pick up the camera during your down time. So how do you find your style amongst a portrait list of requests? One great way that produces multiple results is to hold a styled shoot. Styled shoots can be amazing for your creative energy because the only person you are shooting for is yourself. You are free to shoot in a multitude of styles without feeling like you are taking up a client’s precious paying time or that you are wandering away from your published portfolio.

You will find that during a styled shoot, you learn how to better communicate with your subjects and how to create the results you envisioned. Learn whether you prefer to create natural candid actions between clients or to create a perfectly posed portrait. During your shoot, experiment with lenses you don’t normally shoot with. You may just find yourself a new favorite lens. As a bonus, styled shoots are great for networking and getting to know other vendors. Our best vendor relationships have come from styled shoots. A styled shoot doesn’t have to be an elaborate expensive process and you will find that when you talk to the right people, things will fall seamlessly together for the shoot of your dreams.

After your styled shoot, take what you learned about creating results you envision and apply that to your clients’ images. You should envision something amazing for every client. If you find you aren’t sure about what to envision for your clients, read tip number two.

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2. INVEST IN GETTING TO KNOW YOUR CLIENTS. Yes, we have heard this time and time again but seriously, get to know your clients and invest in the relationship! If you don’t have a process for making sure that happens then I would suggest making one. The result of not knowing who your clients are before the wedding day can be disastrous to your creativity. Both of you may be in for a personality surprise leaving you unsure of how to create the best images for them. If you are stressed about your personalities meshing you will not have the mental time to focus on being creative.

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Our process starts by meeting with the clients for a consultation or at least setting up a date to chat on the phone or Skype. We don’t make this a super formal meeting and it is more so for us to simply get to know each other over coffee, lunch, or dessert. After booking we send the clients a detailed questionnaire that gears towards getting to know their personalities, likes and dislikes, and what speaks to them in general. I love to read this before their engagement session and wedding day in order to feel “re-connected” to who they are as a couple. Knowing who my clients are as a couple gives me inspiration for my photos.

Third, we include an engagement session with every wedding collection we offer in order to create a photography relationship with the client. I need to know how they react in front of the camera, and then I need to teach them how to create that camera relationship that will result in amazing photographs. If they don’t want to have an engagement session, I make sure to relay the message about “why” I offer the session and how their wedding images will be better as a result of their session. This session is where I truly connect with them as we spend a bit of time walking and talking and laughing at their “couple quirks”.

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Fourthly, I often send them a little gift and thank you card, just saying “HEY! Thinking about you both and your big day. We are excited!” It shows them that you are invested, that they can trust you, and that you care. Which in turn, makes them that much more relaxed.

Finally, if I feel like I still don’t know who they are before the wedding day, I will make sure to schedule a meeting to chat, have appetizers, and go over their wedding timeline. Investing in your client/photographer relationship takes time, but the result of truly knowing them is priceless. And who knows, you might just gain a few friends in the process.

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3. GET OFF THE INTERNET. Say what? Yep, you heard me. Stop looking around at every rock star photographer in the world and pull out the inner creativity from within. Specifically, avoid perusing for inspiration before a wedding or session. You became a photographer because you felt creative with the camera in your hands right? I certainly hope you didn’t do it as a get rich quick scheme, because that won’t happen. So pull out the chi that your right brain was meant to give and create something! Get out a notepad and sketch some poses. Jot some notes on the words you want to convey at your next shoot. Then get out there and shoot! The biggest damper to your creativity is asking your left brain to remember some poses you saw online that your right brain needs to recreate. Go straight to yourself as the source and just do it.

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4. PLAN AHEAD. We like to arrive to the wedding venue 45 minutes to an hour in advance. During that hour, we will walk the grounds and look for lighting and unique angles of interest as well as scope out potential challenges. If possible rain is in the forecast, we will scope out areas such as bridges, awnings, or indoor settings as a backup for portraits. I have found it nearly useless to go the venue in advance to the wedding day because the lighting, traffic, and decorations are usually never the same.

Also prepare the client for potential plan changes in the case of weather or crunched timelines. Ask the clients to be prepared with umbrellas, rain boots, and even jackets (you’d be surprised). The more willing the client is to be flexible, the more options for beautiful image outcomes you will have. If you are over prepared for what is to come, your readiness to be creative in difficult situations will be stellar.

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5. GO OUT OF THE NORM. It is easy to continue to go to the same locations again and again as a safety net. But going out of your normal comfort zone can have amazing results. As said, make sure to scout the area and lighting first. Be willing to find your own unique locations, and you will find yourself more inspired than you ever thought you would be. Experiment with different types of lighting and lenses. Try some techniques that you have always wanted to try. Overall push yourself out of your sweet comfy zone and surprise yourself.

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Hopefully these tips will give you some inspiration for making a creative set of awesome imagery. Just know that the creativity fog happens to us all. Just because you find yourself at a lack for inspiration does not mean you are any less of a photographer. Have faith in yourself, push yourself, and when creativity eludes you take some steps to get your right brain back in action.

Connect with and read more tips from LaCoursiere Photography at the following sites: wedding website, newborn website, Facebook, and Google+.

4 Responses to “When Creativity Eludes”

  1. liv Collins says:

    thank you so much for posting this! after 5 years of shooting weddings I am feeling a loss of my creative chi.
    the best advice you gave is to stay off the Internet-so true.
    your work is beautiful and I’m happy to have found new work to admire.

  2. Wonderful advice! I agree with you (and liv above) – Stay off the Internet! We’re being told to follow the super shooters, yet be original. I’m not sure how to do that – as you said, the left and right brain battle one another!
    Love Duluth! I have a friend who works at Lake Superior Magazine. Always trying to find a way to get up there to visit again!

  3. These are all wonderful tips. I have been at a wedding where I went, gasp they are not happy to have to be standing here and they want to be at the reception and out of these tuxes, kicking off those shoes. Hours of writing out poses, and still trying to find my style. It has made me wonder if I even want to continue down the wedding path even though I have enjoyed many of the ones that I have done. I think I will give it a go for one more year. Thank you again.

  4. Kimberly- Do NOT give up. You have to keep plugging away. Photography is a craft that requires work and fine tuning. No artist became was a Picaso from the very beginning. It takes baby steps, patience, and continued training. Best of luck, I know you can do it!