I’m sure a lot of you know what it feels like to plateau with your work. I know that I go through the same thing and it’s incredibly frustrating because as a creative I always want to be getting better. The best mindset to have in dealing with this is something that Jonathan Canlas says. He approaches each and every shoot with the goal that it’s going to be the best work he has ever produced. I can’t imagine a better way to approach a creative field than that and I try to apply that to everything I do as a photographer.
It just isn’t that easy all of the time though is it? Sometimes you hit points in the creative journey where you want to give up or just put whatever you’re doing down for a while in hopes that you will refocus and have a better vision of what you want to create. What in the world do you do then? Obviously giving up isn’t an option but sometimes standing back and getting some perspective is a great option but what if you don’t want to put what you’re doing down?
You have to challenge yourself. You have to find the borders of your comfort zone and push beyond them. The thing that’s awesome about pushing yourself past your comfort zone is that in a lot of cases that’s where you will make the best work you’ve ever made.
The following exercise is something that I do to push past my creative boundaries. It’s simple, doesn’t take a lot of time and has also helped improve our time as a family because it forces me to put the camera down and be present with Abbee, Noah and Patience in whatever we are doing. We believe in this so much that our entire About Us Video is based on this exact idea. If you have a family and have trouble with being behind the camera too much this is the perfect exercise because it will force you to put your camera away.
I call it the one roll project and it is exactly what it sounds like. I take one roll of film and an old 35mm camera with us during family outings. Once I shoot that one roll of film my time behind the camera is done. The challenge with it is to create something that is worth displaying as a story. It’s easy to pull that off when you have nearly unlimited frames to use but when you have a maximum of 36 photos you have to be very conscious and calculated with the photos you decide to take.
Here’s my challenge to you in those times of artistic frustration. Simplify what you do and find a way to limit yourself while also challenging yourself to create something cohesive and complete. It definitely isn’t easy but it is incredibly rewarding when you do it right. If you don’t shoot film? Challenge yourself with your digital camera. Limit yourself to the exact same number of photos and don’t delete anything. When you get to that limit put the camera away and remember that if it doesn’t turn out exactly how you hoped that your next session will always be your best work.
All of the photos in this post are from one roll of film during a day when my son Noah and I walked around downtown Bellingham. They’re all really simple and I wanted to capture him being himself, crazy faces and all. More than that though, I wanted to spend time with him exploring the city we live and work in. By only using one roll of film I wasn’t attached to the back of my camera the entire time. I was spending time asking him questions, watching him be silly and enjoying his company. The fact that I was able to use this time challenge myself artistically was just a bonus.
If you don’t shoot film but want to give it a try feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and mention the film guide. We have a free guide to shooting film that we would love to share with you. Film has had a huge effect on the way we now approach photography and we love to help people get started with it.
All photos were taken with a Nikon F3 on Agfa Vista Plus 400 and scanned by PhotoVision.