Creativity Exercise: Look Back

We all go through creative slumps. ALL of us.

It took me many years to be comfortable with the slumps that come along with photography. I’d beat myself up and the negative thoughts would circle around in my brain non stop - enough to almost make me quit. Luckily, I always had great mentors surrounding me who told me this was normal and so I kept pushing. I pushed through feeling like all I was shooting was junk, and slowly but surely, it would always end up in me loving my work again.

Being 100% honest with you, I am in a major creative slump right now. When I’m working with a client I’m always inspired as it’s new subject matter, new locations, new light, etc. But my own personal work? It’s feeling stale and redundant. Everything in my house feels so blah and I can’t seem to get the gusto to pick up my camera daily. It has been MANY months since I’ve had a personal image that I felt super proud of.

But…that’s OK! I’m giving myself the grace to just let it go for a while, knowing that eventually something will spark within me and I’ll be ready to go again.

One thing that I find really helpful when I feel like I’m not producing anything stellar is to go back in my archives and look at where I came from. Remember when you first unboxed that DSLR, took a few shots and thought you were a total rockstar? Ya, me too. At the time you WERE a rockstar. You were trying and experimenting and I bet you felt inspired.

But, I’m guessing if you look back on those first images now, you’ll realize how far you have come since! Even thought it might not feel like you’re making progress, when you scan back to older images, you’ll see how all of those baby steps and ah-ha moments added up to a ton of improvement.

All I have to do is look back about 6 years in my Lightroom catalogue to see that my work right now is the furthest thing from junk, and taking 5 minutes to do so can make me feel really good about my work again.

Come on a little journey down memory lane with me….

This was one of my very first DSLR images, with my Nikon D3000, edited in iphoto.

Out of focus, weird composition and an awful black and white conversion. At the time? Oh boy did I think it was FANTASTIC. All good - that’s part of the journey.

I continued to work and work and would take hundreds of photos a day.


About a year later this was one my new favourite images. I was so proud of it and wanted to share it with the world. I do still love it for the moment, but when I look back at it now I can now see all of the things I have learned since that would have made this so much stronger.

my photography journey.

About 2 years into my photography journey I started sessions for other families. This is an image from the very first ‘client’ session I did. Oh, how I’d like to go back now and do it again!

I continued to work and and work and my skills improved. My editing became much more consistent and I feel like I finally found my ‘voice’.


It was around this time that I was accepted into ClickPro, which was a major accomplishment for me. But, it also made me feel like my work had to be consistently good, which was pressure and resulted in a pretty lengthy creative slump.

As it always does, the creativity came back and I continued to see my skills when working with clients grow.


Although I may sit here now feeling like I haven’t come very far, looking at the first client shot compared to the one below taken last week, it’s easy to see the growth. I can look at my images now and see me in them, which is where some of the biggest growth has come from, but it can sometimes be the hardest to see when you’re in the middle of a slump.


An even better example where I can see growth is with my self portraits. I’ve been working on a self portrait personal project this year and although I started out really strong, I feel like I’ve stalled and all my portraits are feeling the same.

But, when I look back at the very first self portrait I ever made (before selfies were a thing!), to one that I made just a few months ago, it’s easy to see that I am clearly not stalled and that I need to be a bit easier on myself.


So! This week’s creativity exercise is to look back. WAY BACK!

Look at where you started from and take in how far you’ve come. Take notes of what you’ve learned along the way that you might have forgotten about as it all seems like small potatoes now. Give yourself a pat on the back and take a moment to savour how much effort you have put into this, knowing that even where you are right now is going to feel like the beginning at some point as you continue to grow.

If you’re up for sharing, I’d love to see a comparison of where you came from and where you are now. It doesn’t matter if the beginning was 3 months ago or 10 years ago, it’s all progress! Share with us on Instagram using #unscriptedmentoring .

- Kelly

Kelly MarleauComment