Sometimes I get unmotivated to take pictures. There are many reasons that this can happen. It can be anything from being burnt out, thinking that there is nothing to take pictures of, or just not feeling satisfied with your work and putting the camera down. One thing that sometimes happens to me is that I start looking at other photographer’s work and think that mine is not good enough. This happens to most photographer but you shouldn’t get down on your work. There are too many things to take pictures of in a new way and so much time to learn how to become better. I wanted to talk about how to stay motivated to take pictures and keep learning to become a better photographer.
We all get burnt out at times. Sometimes all you may need is a little break from taking pictures. Don’t totally forget about taking pictures though or you will end up leaving your camera in the closet for a year. Other times you may have your camera but don’t feel the desire to take a picture. Sometimes you just need to enjoy everyday life without taking pictures of the moment. I bring my camera with me almost everywhere but there are times that I stop and just enjoy the moment without having to record it. I am not saying never take pictures, I just want to state the fact that you should enjoy taking pictures and if you want to pull your eye away from the viewfinder for a little while it is okay.
There are times when you feel like there is nothing to take a picture of and you have no inspiration. Don’t wait for the inspiration to strike you, just go take pictures and work through the times when your work isn’t at the high level that you expect it to be. I think this is the biggest thing to think about. Artists don’t wait for inspiration to create great work. They keep working until they create something that is great. There is always something to photograph. You can start any kind of photo project to get you started and keep working at it.
Learning in photography never ends. You can go out and learn how to do flash photography, which has endless things to learn. Or you can learn to take pictures at night with slow shutter speed photography. It can even be taking pictures of something that you are not used to taking pictures of, like doing landscape photography if you are used to taking pictures of people. By doing this you will broaden your creativity and it will reflect on how you take pictures. Who knows, you may even find a branch of photography that you like even more than what you are currently doing.
I think this is one of the most important. You need to be confident that you can or are creating good photographs. If you start browsing other photographer’s work and think that your work is horrible don’t worry about it. Everyone feels this way about their photographs at some point. Just keep practicing and learning and believe in the fact that you can become better. You can even go through your older work and try to find the reason why your favorite pictures are your favorites and what you dislike about the ones that haven’t made your favorite list. Everyone has their weaknesses, you just have to find them and try to overcome them.
Try getting a new lens or camera if you feel like your photography has hit a wall. It’s not that you absolutely need this gear to be a good photographer but it can help you stay interested or broaden the areas where you can successfully take photographs. I have just recently bought a Canon 5D Mark II and it has opened a world of low light photography (due to being able to use high ISO) that I have never experienced before. The pictures out of the camera look so much different than they do with my cropped frame camera which has made me view my pictures differently. Don’t fall into the trap of needing to acquire new things to drive your photography passion though. The newness of something can ware off really fast if you let it. Appreciate what you have and make sure you use it.
There is a lot of argument on blogs about whether you should use zoom lenses or prime lenses. I am not going to feed this argument but I think that by using a prime lens it can help you be more creative. You have to work harder to get your subject in the frame in a pleasing way by using your feet to zoom. You will also be able to predict how an image will look with that prime lens without actually having to look in the viewfinder so it will be easier to find more interesting subjects.
By starting this blog it has me thinking of new photographs that I can take to share and explain. I am also motivated to take more pictures so that I can share them on my blog. By sharing what I know it also helps me to better understand the subjects that I am writing about. To teach something you really have to know it. Starting a blog is like starting a new project to accelerate your photography.
The biggest thing photographers gripe about is not having enough time to take photos. If you’re passionate enough about something you will make time for it. Even if you only take pictures for 15 minutes a day, in the long run it will help you grow as a photographer. Just take out your camera and take pictures, even if it is just at home around the house. If you mark down all the time you waste during the day, like watching tv, staring at Facebook, or just browsing the internet, it will really show you how much time you let slip away. Make sure you are using your time efficiently because none of us really have that much time to live and enjoy life.
If you shoot outdoors then you definitely want to take this advice. Just by being out during the golden hour, which is an hour at sunrise and an hour at sunset, it opens the door to many more photo opportunities. The light is soft and warm and not harsh like it is during most of the day. Your pictures will look a lot more interesting when they are taken during these times, which in turn will make you want to go out and take more photographs. I take most of my pictures during the winter because the days are shorter and it is easier to get out at these time because they are at more reasonable hours. During the summer the days are long so the sun rises early and sets fairly late, which are the times that I am not out and about. I think it is definitely worth getting up early or staying out later to catch this time of day though.
Travel to a new place, it can be either really far away or just to a new city. By doing this you will see the place with fresh eyes and will be able to come up with more photographs than if you were just shooting in your regular areas.
There are many more ways to stay motivated in photography than this but I believe this is a good start. I think the main reason people get unmotivated is because they are not doing everything they can to stay creative. For this I would recommend Steven Pressfield’s book: The War of Art. In this book he talks about overcoming resistance and fighting to not become mediocre, but to become what we are called to do. Don’t be afraid to work past the fear and don’t be afraid to succeed.
We all see the world differently and we should try to use the camera to show how we see it. The more you take pictures the better you will be at using your camera to convey what you want out of a scene. You will also be able to better see what lighting conditions will make a great photo. In photography it is all about the light. Not every photo you take will be great but even the best photographers have to take lots of pictures to even get a few keepers. Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson said that “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Just get out and shoot everyday and it will pay off.
If you can’t think of anything to take pictures of look at great photographers’ work online and replicate it for learning purposes. After a while you will eventually be able to forge your on photographic style. I am still working on my own style and don’t think this process ever ends for photographers. I think this is a great way to learn off camera flash. You can usually tell what type of diffuser someone used by looking at the shape of the reflected light (either in the subject’s eyes or off of the object in the picture). An example is the picture below. When you use an umbrella to reflect the flash, the highlight in the subjects eyes will be round.
Whenever I am driving around or just out without my camera I always look around to see what could make a great picture. By doing this you help develop your photographic eye. There are also times when you will see an interesting location that you want to come back to later with your camera.
It can be anything like a 365 project where you take and post one picture a day or a 52 week project if you can’t handle everyday. Or you can do a 100 strangers project where you take portraits of strangers so that you can get out of your shell and experience something new in your photography. If you aren’t up for these then you can make almost anything into a project. Some of my ongoing projects are pictures of fire hydrants and a photo project of the county where I work. You can do a project of your daily life for a specified amount of time, like a year, and pick the best ones to make a book out of.
When you organize your work you will find that there are pictures that you have overlooked in the past that you like now. These photos can become an inspiration for you to shoot more of that subject or start a new project building off of what you already have. By organizing your work it will be easier to find and build your long-term portfolio. I have just recently bought Lightroom 3 and hope to get my photos better organized.
Post your work online or show it to others in print form to get some feedback on it. Flickr is a great place to do this. You can find other photographer’s great work to inspire you or join groups to get feedback on your work. Many of the groups constantly have conversations going on that can answer many of your burning questions.
If you don’t want to join an online community try to join a local photo club or shoot with friends. If you know someone who has a good artistic eye you can have them give you some constructive criticism of your work so you can get another point of view to improve your work.
A lot of people are worried about not having enough equipment or the right camera to take good pictures with but this shouldn’t stop you. Use whatever you have and learn to work with what you have and find solutions for not having a lot of fancy equipment. You may not have a DSLR but your iphone or point and shoot can take good pictures, you just have to develop your eye to see good pictures. You may not have a professional off camera flash but you can always use natural light and reflectors to create good light. Some day you may be able to acquire more equipment that can make your life easier, but don’t let it stop you from shooting today.