How to Stay Motivated as a Photographer
At some point as a photographer you’ll hit a wall in which it’s just too much effort to get out your camera to shoot, maybe because you can’t think of anything new or interesting to shoot or you feel you lack the necessary skills, and so you lose motivation and never improve. But there’s still hope and this post will hopefully get you kick started with some useful ways to keep that spark alive.
Shoot What You Enjoy
If you just shoot for the sake of shooting you’ll soon end up bored and as a result get nothing out of it and never improve, so the key is shooting something you’re passionate about. Perhaps there’s an area you have some knowledge or experience in, such as a hobby or for example most people like sports so maybe you could get some tickets to a football match or go to a racing track and try out some sports photography.
Inspiration is the best source of creativity in photography and will motivate you and allow you to actually enjoy shooting.
I used to buy a few different photography magazines every month and these are a great source for not only learning about photography but just to browse through all the photos for some ideas.
Another option is just browsing the internet which has an endless amount of inspiration and information available. But if you don’t feel like reading long blog posts then just searching through other photographers photos is really good for motivation. If for example you’re interested in Landscape photography just Google “landscape photographers” for a list of photographers websites and these usually have photo galleries on them you can browse.
Personally I find the best sources of inspiration, which I actually use a lot are social networks for photographers, in particular 500px.com where you can create your own profile and upload your best photos and browse other photographers work.
Share Your Photos
As I previously said I use social networks for photographers and upload my own photos to them because being able to show your photos to other people can really motivate you to get better and shoot more often. I really like these because of the satisfaction you get from people leaving nice comments and likes on your photos. This will also help to build your confidence and any constructive criticism you may get goes a long way.
Another platform I use to share my photos is Instagram, which is a pretty popular app at the moment that’s mainly used on smartphones to share photos taken on your phone, but you can also upload photos taken on your DSLR if you want. Instagram is more often used for just casual snaps of day to day life rather than professional photos, but there’s still lots of photographers on it and it’s a good place to showcase your work.
Make Money from Your Photos
You don’t have to be a full time professional photographer to make money from your photos. There’s loads of options for earning a bit of income from your photos, and this is a good way to motivate you to shoot the best photos possible, as this is important for them to actually sell.
#1 Selling your photos on stock photo websites is the easiest option because you don’t need to process prints or do anything except upload them to the websites. Stock websites are basically sites where people can buy a license and download the photo to use for a project etc. depending on the license given.
#2 Setting up your own website to sell prints on is another option but requires a bit more work. You don’t need to be a web developer or even know any code to do this, there’s many websites where you can easily set all this up such as Shopify. Depending on where you decide to make your website you may have to handle the process of getting a print of your photo sent to the customer, but if you do a bit of research there’s some that will automate this process and print your photo and send it to the customer for you.
#3 You could try selling to an art gallery or shop that sells prints if your photos are high enough quality. There’s lots of places that might be interested in buying your prints such as restaurants and almost any type of business has pictures on their walls. One way to approach them is by cold calling and taking some samples of your work and asking to speak to the owner or a manager, or if you’d rather not do this contact them to arrange an appointment beforehand.
#4 For these options you’ll need to have a lot of experience and be able to shoot a professional looking photo with minimal room for errors. You could start a career as a wedding photographer or just do a few on the side, or shoot portraits like family photos in a studio. But to do these it’s best to have a bit of experience before you jump into the deep end, so assisting a pro photographer first is a good idea.
Just shooting one type of subject can get tedious and eventually you’ll get bored of it if you don’t change anything up. Try branching out and using different subjects or even try out a different category of photography. Maybe you’re interested in Landscapes and you’re shooting in the same locations or subjects over and over, for example you could just be shooting your local countryside like fields, trees and fences when you could be including rivers, rocks or completely change location and travel to some mountains. If you’re changing up your subjects and still losing interest then perhaps pick a different category like portraits, architecture or wildlife for example.
Start a Project
Giving yourself a goal to achieve is something you’ll find is useful not for just photography but in anything, and it’s a great motivator to actually get something done. There’s a huge amount of projects you could try out and I’ll give you a few examples below:
#1 The 30 Day Project
This idea is a popular one and you don’t have to limit it to just 30 days, some people even do it for a year. The idea is to choose a theme and shoot a photo related to the theme every day, for example you could choose to do a self portrait every day and change the backdrops to make them more interesting. Another idea you could try is capturing the changes in the seasons for example find a location in some woodlands or your garden to capture the green foliage in summer, the changing colors in autumn and snow in winter.
#2 Choose a Theme
This is a simple idea in which you choose a theme and only shoot photos related to this. Here’s a few ideas to try out:
- A specific food
- A type of animal
- Shoot only in black and white
- Public transport
#3 Water Splashes and Droplets
A common creative idea is capturing close-ups of water droplets suspended in mid-air or objects dropping into water creating a splash for example. To do this firstly you’ll need a tripod because you’ll be shooting only in a specific spot and also because you’ll be using manual focus mode. A fast shutter speed is obviously a must for freezing the splash in time, and using external flash guns and higher ISO settings will allow you to do this.
This idea is easy and quick to set up and it’s simply out of focus bubbles of light. For this all you need is some kind of shiny subject such as some tin foil with a light shining on it or fairy lights, and you then put your camera into manual focus and set it out of focus. Another idea you could try is placing an object in front of the bokeh and then focusing on this.
This is another simple project to try out, simply shoot a subject for each letter of the alphabet, for example:
But another couple of ways to approach this idea is shooting actual letters of the alphabet for example letters on signs or shooting subjects that are in the shapes of that letter, for example a banana for the letter ‘C’ or an upside down door knocker for ‘Q’.
This is something I’ve dabbled in before when I owned a telescope and I got some pretty good shots with it of the Orion Nebula. Attaching your DSLR to a telescope is one way to shoot the night sky, but an easier option is simply placing your camera on a tripod and pointing it up at the sky. One problem with this is if you’re in an area with lots of light pollution (street lights etc.) then you’ll risk ending up with photos with an orange color cast which can ruin them. For this you’ll need to use long exposures and to avoid any camera shake from touching the camera you’ll need to use a tripod and a remote shutter release or alternatively you could use the timer setting.
Capturing peoples emotions and feelings can make for some very powerful photos that will captivate your viewers. Simply choose an emotion for example anger, sadness, happiness, loneliness etc. and you could get your family or even hire a model to pose for you to depict these emotions. Or if you’re really dedicated you could go searching for people to capture these emotions in reality.
#8 Drone Photography
Drones with cameras capable of shooting very high quality videos and photos are becoming more and more affordable and common, especially with Youtubers. If you have the money to invest in one of these you could use it to capture for example life in a City or your journey up a mountain.
#9 Use an Old Film Camera
If you own or have access to an old film camera then this idea is well worth a try. Photos from old film cameras have a unique, vintage look very different to what modern cameras produce. Another benefit for only shooting with a film camera is they are much harder to get a good photo out of and you can’t check if you’ve shot it right until you develop the film, so this is a good way to learn how to use a camera properly.
Travel the World!
You don’t have to take a year off to travel the world obviously, but perhaps a holiday or just a day trip to a new location can really help give you more insight and new ways of photographing things. Travelling is my favorite time to photograph and when I’m most inspired, so I always make sure to take my camera with me.
Learn Something New
If you’re serious about photography then progressing your skills as a photographer is important. Reading up tips and techniques from blog posts and guides is the easiest option, but perhaps try taking an online course or workshop. The benefit of this is it’s a good way to meet other photographers and share some of your skills with them but also to learn new ideas and obviously improve your photography.
Do Things Differently
I’ve come across this issue before in which I find a new way of taking a photo, usually some composition technique and I start shooting loads of different subjects, but they all look the same because I’m shooting each one the same way.
My main interest is in Landscape photography and as an example in the past I used a certain composition technique, which although I got a load of great photos out of it, they all looked very similar. At first I didn’t notice I was doing this but I found myself using this one techniques with lots of my photos and I wasn’t changing anything up. The problem with doing this is firstly it prevented me from developing new skills, secondly it looks amateurish doing this for every photo, and thirdly it makes shooting a bit boring doing the same thing over and over. So I would highly recommend learning new techniques to try out to keep your creativity alive.
Don’t Leave Your Camera Behind
As a photographer, from experience I can say it’s a pain to carry a DSLR around with me all the time and sometimes I just can’t be bothered with the hassle.
Obviously now I’m going to say you should take it with you everywhere, but some other options to make life easier is investing in a smaller camera such as the popular ‘Compact System Cameras’ which are mirrorless hybrids of a DSLR and a compact camera and they also use interchangeable lenses. The benefits of these are they’re smaller than a DSLR and so easier to carry around, and they take really good photos comparable to a DSLR.
Another option if you just don’t want to carry anything big and bulky around is to use your smartphone. I use my smartphone instead of my DSLR sometimes, one of the reasons being I like a photo to easily upload to Instagram and secondly it’s easier than carrying a DSLR around. The downside is you won’t get as good results as a high end DSLR and you probably won’t be able to blow them up for large prints, but the benefit of it is it’s an easy way to learn some composition skills without worrying about changing camera settings.
I’m a big proponent of editing photos and I find that all my best photos are edited to some degree. I find the editing process fun, and the results can be really surprising and exciting, but people some people tend to think that editing your photos results in a fake photo, and while this is true in some instances it really depends on how far you go with them. Photos aren’t real life at the end of the day and the results depend entirely on what the camera captures and how it processes them, which sometimes isn’t very realistic or true to how the scene actually looks. The best and most popular software in my opinion is Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, and I tend to use Lightroom because it’s much easier but still a very powerful app.
One good reason to edit your photos is because the camera doesn’t always do a good job at creating a realistic looking photo, for example the sharpness, contrast or exposure might be slightly off, and tweaking your photo slightly can have a huge effect and create a more realistic looking photo.
If you’re inclined, which I am, you can get a little more creative with your editing and play with the levels, color mixer, or clarity and vibrance for example if you have Lightroom.
Buy Some New Gear
I wouldn’t recommend just going out spending a huge amount on a load of high end gear, especially if you’re new to photography or not that commited. But here’s some pieces of gear you could look into:
#1 Buy a fixed focal length lens because this is a good way to learn new ways of shooting and requires a bit more work to get a good shot. When using a zoom lens almost every photographer will zoom in or out to some degree, but if this is fixed you have to think of new ideas and locations to shoot from.
#2 Buy some filters to get a bit more creative, for example a polarizer increases saturation and can be used to make a blue sky look a darker, stronger blue. An ND Grad is another good filter that’s commonly used in Landscape photography and it basically just darkens one part of the photo, for example you could darken the clouds for a moody, atmospheric shot.
If you don’t have the money or don’t want to spend much on new gear then another few options are renting the gear, or if you have a photographer friend borrow some off them, or buy some second hand gear.
Some Final Words
Being a photographer can seem like more of a chore than something to enjoy at times, but remember photography is an art if you treat it as one which can be used to both convey emotions and stun the viewer.