Staying motivated in any field of pursuit is a problem for all of us at one stage or another during our lives. Even the greatest of athletes need help to stay motivated, so that they can reach their peak. How then do photographers combat that terrible time when their motivation sags like a wet balloon.
Unlike the top athlete, the business executive or the high earning professional photographer, most of us can’t afford, or have access to, a personal trainer or motivational expert. We have to rely on ourselves to find something that motivates us personally. We need to actively seek some type of trigger, something that will propel us to lift our camera to our eye and press that shutter button.
It’s not that we don’t like doing what we do, in fact most photographers love the art of photography. It’s just that there are times when we lose our mojo for one reason or another and can’t be bothered going out to a particular location, or setting up the necessary equipment, to take a photo. It happens, so it’s good to know it’s not just you who is going through this feeling.
Let’s be honest for a minute. Who enjoys going to work each day? How many people would do the job that they are in, day in day out, year after year, for nothing? We do jobs because we get rewarded. When we work, we get paid money. That is our motivation.
In photography we are rewarded with a nice image, some with money for producing that nice image. But those who are not paid for their work can find it difficult at times, the reward has diminished for them somewhat. You may not have lost your motivation, you simply may have lost your creativity.
It may be that you have hundreds of images from your local area. You may have taken great shots of every bird, animal, or friend in your local surrounds. You have a gazillion shots of sunrise or sunset, a dragonfly, your child playing sport, your dog or your cat. It may be that you have plateaued, everything you shoot feels the same, looks the same. Call it what you may. Motivation, passion, love, creativity.
So how do we get that love or passion reignited? How do we get out of that rut we feel trapped in? Here are our best tips to help you find motivation.
- Start a project. Projects are great because you have a start and an end in mind. It could be as simple as the 365 project where you take one photo a day. You could do a project where you photograph a different car, once a week, every weekend or once every day. You could photograph every flower at your local park or gardens and find out their botanical name. There are endless projects you can make for yourself.
- Don’t take your camera everywhere. If you find yourself without your camera you will probably miss it on occasions. You will see something that you wish you could photograph and can’t. Nothing better to ignite the passion when you can’t do something.
- Change your camera settings. Instead of taking all your landscapes in F/11, take them in F/2.8. If you always use a wide angle lens for landscapes, use your longest zoom lens. Doing things differently adds spice to your life.
- Study your subject closely before taking a shot. Most animals do things the same way at the same time. Even us humans do things repeatedly. We make our coffee in the same way, we eat the same things regularly, we go to work at the same time of day. So too with animals. Watch a bird long enough and you will know which trees they like to roost in, what flowers they feed on, what type of bugs they eat. Same with flowers. What time of year do they bloom? What animals and bugs do they attract? Studying your subject will allow you to gain a better insight into their world and make them much more than a simple photo opportunity.
- Don’t be a perfectionist. Photos don’t have to be perfect. They don’t all need to be tack sharp. Some of your photos need to be memories. Striving for excellence can be the biggest killer of motivation.
- Share your work on social media. Facebook and Instagram are fantastic platforms for sharing your work with friends and family. It’s also a great avenue to make new friends who are like minded. Instagram in particular is filled with photographers who you can gain motivation from and harvest ideas. Just remember the old adage that to gain a friend you must be a friend. Friendship is not a one way street, in real life or online. If you want people to like and comment on your work, reciprocate by liking and commenting on their photos.
- Learn new ways to edit your photos. Don’t just stick to the same old crop / sharpen / vignette / saturate style. Learn how to split tone an image or use luminosity masking. Crop your landscapes square. Add a bird to the sky or swap a different sky into the image. Editing images differently will add creativity to the way you shoot.
- Be flexible. Allow yourself some time off. It doesn’t matter if you miss tomorrows sunrise, there will be another the next day and the day after that. If everyone is adding images to their social pages daily, you don’t have to. If you feel like you are not shooting enough, don’t worry about it. Sometimes on a morning shoot there’s nothing better than stopping for a coffee to enjoy the sunrise. Just because you are not shooting as much as others seem to be doing, doesn’t mean you have lost your motivation.
- Find beauty in ordinary things. There was an old song that went “Everything is beautiful in it’s own way” and it’s so true. Find something that’s fairly ordinary and take it’s photo to show how exceptionally beautiful it is. One of the most amazingly beautiful photos I have ever seen was of a common spoon. The photographer simply realized it’s beauty.
- Print your Own Photos. Even if you take them to the local print shop or upload them to be printed by a website, the simple act of getting your images printed will improve your creativity. Too many images are left to die on a hard drive. Too much of your creativity is dying with those images. Print your images and when you need motivation, look at them. Study them and fall in love with the simple art of photography all over again through your own work.
- Join a club. Chances are there is a photography club in your local area where you can enjoy socializing, learning from like minded people and sharing your own experiences. If not local, there are literally hundreds of groups online. You will find there are some groups online that can be uplifting and supportive, others not as friendly or kind. Gravitate towards the club or group that best suits your personality, where you will learn and grow, as a person and as a photographer. A good group will help you stay motivated in many areas of your life.
- Enjoy the process. Don’t just take photos because you have a camera. Take photos because you enjoy being in the moment. If your a landscape photographer, stop every now and then to enjoy the wind in your hair, the sun on your face. A portrait photographer can enjoy brief moments of conversation with the model, putting you both at ease. A wildlife photographer can pause in shooting to admire the hunting skills of the beast. Whatever you are shooting, step away for short breaks to appreciate the beautiful moment you are capturing. The light, the sounds, the smell in the air, they are all as important as capturing the shot. Noticing the little things will add to your enjoyment, creating a mood which will motivate you to continue taking photos for as long as you are able.
If you have misplaced your photography motivation, we hope that this rather long blog post will help you re-discover a flicker of hope within your soul. To have taken up the challenge of photography in the first place clearly shows you are a person who desires creativity, a person who loves the challenge of capturing beautiful memories. A person who can overcome any obstacles to satisfy the hunger to improve their art.
Use your camera to be who you are. To see the world through your own eyes. To capture memories. To enjoy moments in time.