It’s that time of year. You’ve shot weddings all season long, you’re knee-deep in edits, and you’re exhausted. After all you’ve been through, haven’t you earned just one session where you take the easy way out? Bringing your clients to that same tried and true location, walking them through the poses that have worked before, and trying not to look at your watch too often. But that’s not fun–for you or your client. It really doesn’t take much to access fresh ideas, new inspiration, and great locations. Here’s what I do to battle the burnout:

Rip It Out: My staff and I keep a series of loose leaf binders filled with plastic sleeves in my studio. There’s one for engagement and family session ideas, one for weddings, one for female portraits, and one for male portraits. I subscribe to a lot of magazines–everything from W to JPG Magazine. When we read the magazines, we rip out images that inspire us, looking for funky outfits, cool hairstyles, fun accessories, and interesting composition. They are filed in the appropropriate binder, and then I look through them periodically to give me a creative boost. We also love to look through photography books for inspiration, of course we aren’t ripping out pages here, but the concept is the same!

Professional Photography Books - photographed by Millie Holloman

Mix it Up: Because our studio is in a beach town, many of my clients request shoots at the beach. The sand, water and sun are beautiful, but even such a gorgeous location can become stale. What to do? I challenge myself to think outside of the box, location-wise. Some of my best sessions have been in the craziest places: a grocery store, a warehouse, a junkyard, a library, an airport–even a cigar shop’s walk-in humidor! In addition to choosing a new location, try new techniques. For the photograph below I had to take two shots with two different exposures. In the first image I exposed for the couple and in the second the sign, I then did a little photoshop work to merge the two giving me a unique image that was fun to create!

stitched image of couple and absolut sign - photographer Mille Holloman

Make it Personal: One of the most refreshing ways to get my creative juices flowing, is to take on a personal, pro bono project that gives me artistic freedom and a meaningful reward. I never knew either of my grandfathers; by the time I was two years old, they had both passed away. Not having the opportunity to personally experience that special grandfather-granddaughter bond, I decided to explore it through my work. I sponsored a contest on my blog offering a free shoot for a special granddad/granddaughter duo, and had an amazing experience shooting a grandfather who is teaching his granddaughter how to ride and show horses. Other pro bono projects include chronicling a woman fighting aplastic anemia and photographing a girl living with progeria, a rare fatal disease that causes young children to age at seven times their normal rate. Meeting such incredible people, getting a glimpse into their lives, and using my skill to capture their bravery and beauty, changes my perspective and brings new depth to my work and my spirit.

grandfather teaching granddaughter to ride horse - photographer Millie Holloman

A grandfather and graddaughter by farm fence - photographer Millie Holloman

mother, nurse and little girl reading a book in hospital - photographer Millie Holloman

Dig a Little Deeper: We all spend a little time getting to know our clients, but if you dig a little deeper than “How did you meet?” and “Where are getting married?”, your clients could be the key to unlocking a new door to inspiration. I recently booked an engagement session for a couple that lives in the country. He’s a chef and she works at his restaurant. They love all things vintage, including her engagement ring and his classic T-bird. But the inspiration came when I asked them to tell me about their families. I learned that the bride’s father is a pig farmer, and she grew up on a pig farm. Now there was a location that I’d never shot in before! Next thing you know, I was traipsing through mud on the pig farm, photographing the happy couple holding a precocious baby pig.

engaged couple with baby piglet - photographer Millie Holloman

So, the next time you’ve got the burnout blues, try these quick and easy ways to find new sources of inspiration. They work for me!

Millie Holloman, professional photographer

Millie Holloman is a photographer based in Wilmington, NC. She travels all over the world photographing weddings, families, kids and grads. She specializes in a more candid approach to my photographs and most enjoys capturing people in a comfortable environment being themselves.

6 Comments

  • Excellent advice. Millie, great to finally see some of your work. I was at SCAD with Brent Holloman and have heard a lot about you. Best of luck!

  • Megan Clouse says:

    Great topic Millie!

    I keep inspiration photos too but in digital form and have a photo folder on my iphone. So when I’m out shooting and need a little zip I refer to it.

  • @Megan – I do that too actually! It’s like a little digital posing guide for me (an I am stuck and need inspiration moment) although I don’t usually have to pull it out, it’s great to know it is there!

    @Eliot – Cool that you were at SCAD with Brent, great school!

  • Thanks for the great advice… the title got me… as I feel that exact way! Thanks for all the fun and creative location ideas… I thought of a great cigar shop! :) I have a few “look Books” as I call them, full of fun ideas and shoot ideas…. they really help me out when I am stumped! As for the pro bono shoots… I love your ideas…. I will have to think of my own! :)

    Cheers!

    Rachael :)

  • Emily says:

    @Eliot… I think I just missed you at SCAD, I was class of ’06. Small world, Pictagers! :-)

  • tq says:

    Loved the idea about asking about families. I often have the same rehearsed spcheel and its starting to feel stale. I also like the idea of using a binder of images. I do the same thing online using Evernote but need to keep a version for offline images as well. Thanks for the tips.

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