How To Get Out Of Your Creative Rut

How To Get Out Of Your Creative Rut

We creatives have a problem.

Our gear consumption is out of control.

Once you step into the world of off-camera lighting it gets even worse.

Light stands, sandbags, soft boxes, beauty dishes, battery packs, ND filters, sync cables, triggers, etc.

You get the point.

It gets out of hand quickly.

We don’t want to be left unprepared for a certain situation that might pop up, so we bring everything.

Last year, this was my list of gear I took to every wedding.


5D iii x2
5D ii


70-200 2.8L
135mm f2L
100mm 2.8L macro
85mm 1.4
80mm lensbaby
50mm 1.4A
35mm 1.4A
24mm 3.5L Tilt-Shift
16-28mm 2.8


Ice Light
4X Canon 600EX Speedlights
Canon ST-E3-RT  Transmitter
Profoto d1000 Air
– Vagabond Battery pack
– Profoto Air Remote
3X light stands
2X Tri-flash brackets
2×3 Softbox
2X2 Speedlight Softbox
Micro Apollo softbox
Lighting gels

I probably forgot a couple things.

We have two minor issues and one big problem.

Let's start with the minor issues first.

 Moving Everything

On location this becomes a huge burden to effectively transport everything from location to location. Our backs hurt and time was lost from being slowed down by our gear.

 Keeping Track of it All

At the end of a 14 hour wedding we had a number of instances where we either

  • Misplaced something and had to backtrack
  • Simply lost something in the madness of a shoot (I will miss you 135mm f2L left at the public park north of Columbus)


The Big Problem – Paradox of Choice

We are paralyzed by all of the options in front of us. We already have an infinite number of ways to pose the couple, a slew of locations to decide on, and now have to make additional choices between 9 unique lenses, lighting possibilities, and a handful of creative techniques.

This paralysis usually results in two scenarios.

1. Feeling overwhelmed, we don’t do anything… (or more realistically we buy time to think. “Let's walk over here” we say as we frantically try to come up with a decision on what to do next).

2. We return to the safe thing we know (50mm, sun at backs. “OK now kiss great, now look here and smile”).


The Solution

I attended WPPI this past year and one of my biggest takeaways came in an unexpected way.

The highlight of the event for me was being able to attend a talk by Sam Hurd.

Sam is shooting full wedding days on a super minimal set up, and still coming back with the most jaw dropping imagery I have ever seen.

Seriously, go look at Sam's work!

So here we go, this year my goal has been, and will continue to be, stripping down my gear load while on a shoot.

Each shoot I intentionally place a restriction on myself. I have left behind the profoto one shoot, 35mm the next, digital camera on another (shot all film).

Here is what I have found

  • Restrictions can be liberating.
  • Restrictions can open your eyes to see differently.
  • Restrictions can give you more time.
  • Restrictions can force you out of your comfort.



I recently shot an engagement session with one lens. Walking into a shoot knowing that I only have natural light to manipulate and my one focal length focused my mind in a way that made me hone in on the couple, their enjoyment, interaction, and the space. I had one of the most remarkable times shooting this couple and ended up with incredible results and a better understanding of all the possibilities I could do with my 50mm.



See Differently

I am finding unique solutions to problems that I would have never come across. I had a wedding recently where I did not have my wide angle lens on me. I had to do a group photo on a bridge. but could not back up far enough because of the width of the bridge. I Instead used my 35mm and created a 3 image panorama that I combined in post of the big group shot. I would have never done that, and the result was really interesting.
 Style & Story Group Shot-1


Break your comfort zone

Have you ever been stuck indoors during a bridal portrait session? It stretches you doesn't it? I would have never taken this shot on the dirty church floor if it wasn’t for such a restriction.
Or what about shooting an engagement shoot with a 24mm tilt shift? I brought with me a 50mm and a 24mm tilt shift. This image would have never been made if I had not pushed myself out of the norm.

I do not regret owning everything that we do. We have been able to do some amazing things and better understand our craft through experimentation and experience with the gear that we own.

My message is certainly not, “Stop buying stuff” but rather:

  • Don't take everything to every shoot
  • Push yourself
  • Get uncomfortable
  • Make something new with something old

… just don't do this on your first wedding of the year 🙂