No Sessions on the Horizon? Here are Five Alternative, Creative Outlets for Photographers

Summertime in Virginia is hot. Like the inside of a dog’s mouth, hot. Very few people are brave enough to sweat it out in front of the camera in the evening sun when it’s over 90 degrees.  So yeah, things have been a little bit slower, but that doesn’t mean the need for me to find creative outlets has gone away.  When I’m stuck in a rut or the cats are sick of seeing my camera, I look for other areas to focus my energy.  As an artist, it’s important to continue trying new things and expanding ones repertoire of skills.  It will ultimately enhance your marketability and street cred as a creative genius.  Trust me.

Here are five new hobbies to try out when you’re not picture-making:

1) Calligraphy

This one is easy and inexpensive to get into.  Any craft store will have fancy and not-as-fancy paper as well as a wide variety of calligraphy pens or markers to get you started.  I actually took a calligraphy class in grade school and the principles of it have stuck with me for the most part.  I won’t say that I have nice handwriting, because I don’t.  Not by default, anyway.  It takes practice.  Like childhood-sacrificing-Russian-ballet-dancer practice.  Practice until your hand cramps and bleeds.  Then practice more.

yellow lamy calligraphy pen
Behold: the Lamy Pen

A few years ago I dusted off my old calligraphy supplies because I got on this whole American Revolution kick with ancestry.com and a writing club, etc.  Back then they used British-American or Colonial Script.  Which is kinda cool but totally fruitless to learn because it’s not easy to read.  I really wanted to learn the more recent (late 1800s) Spencerian Script, aka – American Cursive.  It’s very fluid and oval and pretty.  All one has to do to expand their calligraphic horizons is download some lesson pages and start with the As.  Imagine how pretty your Christmas cards and shopping lists will look once you’ve mastered this classic art!

spencerian script practice letter a
aaaaaaaaa…

2) Video

I don’t mean full blown cinematography here, but more like adorable iPhone video-making. Learning the basics with little investment (a phone and a few apps), will make you see amateur videos in a whole new light. I use 8mm to film all of my video and I edit with Perfect Video – the paid version. It uploads right to my YouTube channel and does a better job than other apps I’ve messed with (hate Capture). If you screw up and film something portrait when you meant to shoot landscape, Video Rotate is a good app to quickly fix it. Just make sure your phone has plenty of memory and battery power before venturing off unplugged. I typically do a little three-minute video for fun every few months. Here’s one I filmed of my mother doing her ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Her Facebook friends loved it!

If you’re looking for a good tripod mount for your phone, I use the Kirk Photo Mounting Bracket for the iPhone with the regular Kirk Photo Ball Head and tripod.  That puppy will get you some amazingly steady video and you’ll be surprised it came out of your phone.

3) Music

So I don’t actually play any instruments. And I don’t write lyrics or really do anything creative with music apart from building playlists and finding new stuff to enjoy whilst editing photos or hot-gluing something. But I do find that a really good playlist will get me in the proper mood to focus my energy on a project. I would share a thoughtfully procured playlist with you, but you like what you like. If you need a little kick start to your next project, I suggest spending a solitary afternoon finding your new jam. Get energetic then get super moody. Then take a bath. This is like hitting a reset button on your up and down, unfocused mind. I’ve been getting some serious mileage out of the Toto Pandora station this summer, btw. You’re welcome.

4) Drawing/Doodling/Sketching

Doodling is said to be a great way to focus. In an effort to watch less television, I’ve been using the Overdrive app with my library membership to download free audiobooks. So far, I’ve plowed through some good books. If I find my mind wandering while I’m moving around the house, I’ll sit and doodle to focus. I also draw during meetings and when I’m on a long call.

When I want to actively create something, though I’ll break out my pencils or charcoal and draw with intention. Usually, it’s a part of an animal I’ve always struggled with (horse legs, for some strange reason), or faces or something abstract. Most of these drawings are throw-aways, but sometimes I mail them to my dad to file away in a drawer somewhere with my other elementary art projects.

pencil case
Pencils should be organized by hardness, preferably hard to light from the left.

5) Letter Writing

This one is along the same vein as numero uno up top. Writing a letter to someone requires imagination and creativity. But be careful. Don’t write letters to people who simply don’t understand or appreciate the gift you’re bestowing upon them with your tangible and carefully selected words. Same principle applies to giving quilts to people who have no flipping clue how much work goes into a quilt. Be discerning. And once you’ve found a humble audience, put your thoughts together and get going. I keep all of the letters I receive. They’re mostly from my brother or uncle and they’re fun to read again and again. I have two functioning typewriters I use for most of my letter-writing. My favorite is by far my Royal El Dorado. If you use a typewriter, just make sure to use two sheets. This will keep your keys in better shape and will absorb the ink from the ribbon better. Tip from my brother on that one. The feeling of slipping that envelope in the mail slot is truly joyous. You’ve just made someone’s day, my friend.


doctor handwriting And sometimes it’s just the thought that counts when you can’t quite read a person’s terrible, doctor handwriting.

And for those really willing to invest, wax seals are a must.

typed letter with wax seal
Credit: Caitlin Wixted/Instagram

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