”In the Zone” my top tips for finding creative flow…..and how to stay there!

Have you ever been under the illusion that being creative on a daily basis is all genius ideas hitting you from every angle, loving all the work you produce and constantly being open and able to create your best work ever. I have, but let me be the one to tell you this unfortunately is not true at all. I personally spend far more time out of the creative flow than in it but just so we are clear that doesn’t mean that you still can’t create great work, it generally just takes longer and feels much harder.

Being in the creative flow is somewhere every creative strives to be, it is a magical place where your imagination runs wild, you have a creative solution for everything in a heartbeat and you happily follow your intuition to producing your best work. And the buzz of excitement you get from being in this state is just the best.

I have learnt a thing or two about the state of creative flow since I have been a photographer. Going right back to the beginning I remember working on a particularly difficult project and being completely stuck for ideas (even tho the brief was right up my alley) and thinking that was it, I had run out of creative ideas, used them all up or something and I really couldn’t understand why this was happening.

Looking back, I think I was trying to force things way too much, I needed to be somewhere and was trying to get the project finished – you know that never works with creativity, right? Well, I didn’t then but I sure do now. Before I actually worked full time as a photographer I had only had to count on creativity in small doses, never under pressure and only while doing things I loved.

There are 3 key lessons about the flow of creativity right there:

It doesn’t work to a timeframe

It doesn’t do well under pressure

You need to be passionate about the project you are working on

More often than not as a product photographer I have to work to a deadline as clients need their images for their product releases, social media posts and advertising and I imagine it wouldn’t really go down well if you said ‘’it will be done when it’s done’’ so how do I work around the deadlines, still managing to get my work done on time while also trying to avoid that dreaded pressure?

Over time I have reduced the number of shoots that I work on every week, some weeks I don’t shoot anything. I have raised my prices so that the projects I do work on are brands that I am fully aligned with and passionate about and who are equally stoked to work with me. I give very clear deadlines and usually give more time than I think it will take just so I have more freedom and time to explore and go down paths that may not have necessarily be in the brief….if your creativity calls, you gotta go!

I have also figured out that not every brand that walks through the door is the right fit for me just as I might not be the right photographer for them. In the interests of preserving my precious creativity I only work with brands whose products and message I love. Most are products I use myself so right from the get go I already have a personal connection with them and this definitely helps to bring forward my best ideas.

Putting my prices up was another key moment for me. At my previous lower rates (and they were low) I always felt like I was never being paid enough for the amount of work I was putting in. That’s the thing with being creative you always want to go above and beyond, and you ALWAYS spend way more time working on a project than you think you will, I do anyway. I felt I had to get work done quickly so I could move onto the next thing and I felt so resentful that I really wasn’t getting compensated fairly for the work I was doing. That was my own fault so I had to do something about it. Often as a creative I am so grateful that I get to call this my job and often it doesn’t even feel like work but that doesn’t mean I can do it for free….I gotta eat!

I know that freelance life doesn’t always allow us to just pick and choose the clients that we work with and sometimes you have to take the work on offer especially when you’re just starting out. In that scenario I would suggest working on personal projects at any opportunity to keep your passion and creativity alive. Personal work also helps to develop your style, test ideas and really figure out the types of brands that are your ideal clients.

So, when you have worked around your deadlines you love the work you’re doing and you’re getting paid what you are worth is that when creative flow kicks in? Maybe sometimes but there is no guarantee, those things just put you in the best possible position to be open to creating your best work and following your intuition and that is what it is all about…..I will say that again – you need to put yourself in the best possible position to be open to ideas.

You will never know when this is going to happen, your creativity might desert you when you need it the most or it might pop up and surprise you when you were least expecting it. That is another key lesson, you cannot force it! You can’t go to work in the morning thinking you are going to be in the flow then struggle and push to get there, it will be available to you when your open to receiving it.

Another way you can bring forward this magical experience is by making your space as inspiring as possible, also keeping it clean and tidy helps, remember your putting yourself in the best possible position to create your best work. My space is small and it is kind of dark so not super inspiring, that is why I painted some of it pink, I display all my colourful props on a self, I have some images of my favourite shots hanging on the wall and I tidy and reset after each shoot and actually between each image that I shoot.  No matter the size of your space you can always do something to make it more inspiring and uplifting and that creates a great base for your ideas to flow.

Embrace a challenge! It helps not to see challenge as something that you need to step back from but rather move towards. Challenges often don’t feel that great at the time but can be huge learning experiences and once you overcome the challenge you feel like you have really achieved something. There is a difference between a dud idea and something that has potential but just needs some creative solutions so learning to differentiate between the two can be super helpful.

The last key element to setting yourself up for success (and you may not like this one) is get rid of any distractions – yes that’s right your phone! If your anything like me you do a bit of work then check your socials, messages and see how many people have liked your posts. I know I shouldn’t be doing this because it is completely interrupting any flow that I may have been building. Sometimes the phone is a necessary part of shoots for taking behind the scenes etc so if I have mine in my room I always have it on silent, this doesn’t stop me from looking at it. This one is definitely a work in progress for me but what I do know is that being in the moment is where the action is happening, by stopping to look at your phone you are no longer present with the work at hand.

So, let’s assume that you have now made it to the creative flow state, your work is such a vibe and your excitement is overflowing for everything you are producing. My only advice in this situation is ride the wave until there is nothing left!  Go with every idea no matter how crazy but most importantly have fun and enjoy the experience, be present for every moment and watch closely as your creations come to life. Take a moment to enjoy and reflect on just how connected to the work you feel and how deeply passionate you are about what you have created.

Ok I know this was a long one so a quick round up/recap of the important points:

Creativity doesn’t work to a timeframe

It doesn’t work well under pressure

You need to be passionate about the work you are doing

You can’t force creativity

Keep your space tidy and organised

Make your space inspiring and somewhere you love stepping into everyday

Eliminate all distractions

Embrace the challenge and the learning opportunity

Ride the wave of creativity until there is nothing left

Thank you for making it this far, I hope this has been helpful. Remember to just enjoy the process which will lead to better results when you get to your destination.




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