How to find interesting pictures when you’re overwhelmed

Julie paused in front of the Maga Design building and stared. She never raised her camera. Didn’t move around. Just stared.

On our Abstracts in Adams Morgan Photo Tour, most photographers stop in front this building. There is something that seems to draw most people in, but what attracts them differs with each person.

“What are you looking at,” I inquired?

“I’m not sure,” she said. “I can’t decide what I want to shoot here.”

I know the feeling. Sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You walk down an interesting street with your camera, and everything seems to clamor for your attention at once. 

Under the overwhelm, it’s easy to feel like shutting down. Like Julie, we stand there, stare and do nothing.

The next time you feel overwhelmed, try one of these approaches.


What’s the first thing you noticed?

“Stop for a moment and think. When you first decided to walk over here, what was the first thing you noticed?”

“I noticed the pattern in the balconies,” Julie said.

“Good, start there. Focus on the patterns and see what you can create.

In many instances, whenever you are drawn to a scene, there is something -- one thing -- there that grabbed your eye. If you take a moment to reflect, you are likely to pick it out. Start with it. That might be a satisfying way to begin.


Choose a theme

An easy way to avoid overwhelm is to decide on your theme or story first. Before you even head out to shoot, know what you plan to photograph. You can choose to focus on a color, texture, storyline, or anything. When you happen upon a scene with too many options, you can use your theme to determine where you start.


Sit still and wait

Sometimes our enemy is impatience. Maybe even a little creative ADD. 

In instances when there is too much going on, just sit still and wait. Patience can produce something interesting. In our webinar with Hannele Lahti, she shared that sometimes she will sit in one location for hours waiting for something interesting to happen. When it does, it is usually worth the wait.

If you have the time, pull up a chair and relax.


In the end, Julie decided to focus on the balconies and created some interesting images with the patterns. Overwhelm averted.