I always find it interesting when students tell me that they are lost taking pictures without humans in the frame. My classes go on field trips and these are often to natural areas where we focus on photographing flowers, plants, light, building textures etc. , all things that are great for practicing exposure and composition. In my classes I do have a good deal of budding retail photographers who are starting, or have recently started, photography businesses that focus on families, children, weddings and the like. Usually the story is that they started taking pictures for fun, of family members, and then others started asking them to photograph their family, children, or wedding. And from there they decided to turn it into at least a part-time business.
This is so different than my experience of finding photography. I dabbled in retail photography (families, kids etc) years after I had been shooting, but realized soon after that it just wasn’t for me. I prefer nature, food, animal, commercial, and editorial work. Those are just my niches. And families, children, and weddings are just those students’ niches. And that’s ok.
Regardless of your focus however, I do feel there is great value in taking time out from your comfort zone and shooting, just to shoot. Taking a few hours, or even a day, to devote to shooting for no other reason than to be out shooting, can be a type of therapy for me. For that time, especially if I am by myself, there is nothing except me and the camera and all my focus is 100% on what I am shooting. I have a goal and it puts me in a type of tunnel vision mindset. All else seems to fade away, and I just shoot. It is a type of decompression
The pressures of performing, producing, and deadlines are lifted. There is a wonderful sense of freedom in that realization. It forces one to see the things he may not normally see or photograph. It forces one to think and problem solve creatively in a way he may not normally, in regards to lighting and environment. It gets you out of your box. And the other stuff, the learning and practice part of it, is just a fantastic added bonus. Two birds, one stone.
And yes, going out to shoot flowers, a car show, architecture etc may be completely opposite of what you are used to shooting, but the moment you feel uncomfortable and ask yourself, ‘What am I suppose to do with this?’ is when the magic starts to happen. Challenge yourself to see what is in front of you from different points of view, different perspectives, different light, different angles, through different lenses. Exploit all of these things. This is where 'making an image' instead of 'taking a picture' begins.