I truly believe that you will produce your best images when you sincerely have a love for photography. I feel like this principle applies in all areas of life as well. We’ve probably heard the phrase, “when you love what you do for work, it does not really work.” How can we keep the joy we had at first when it comes to working as a professional photographer? For many, photography starts off as a hobby, something they really enjoy doing in their spare time. With time though, once money gets involved, it can turn into something we don’t look forward to. Let’s consider some things we can do to make sure we never get to this point.
Take Jobs That Have Meaning
When we first picked up a camera, we were taking pictures of people and things that mattered to us; things that brought us joy. The camera was a way to express ourselves and save memories that were important to us. With time we don’t want to lose these factors. We don’t want to use a camera only for monetary gain.
In order to do this, we should set time aside in order to shoot for fun. We can do this by documenting personal trips of family and friends or even by volunteering your services for free to a cause you support.
When I was just getting into photography professionally, I quickly realized my joy was decreasing as I started working more for money. In order to counteract this, I ended up doing more photo projects with my close friends that were creatively oriented. I even volunteered my time to shoot this senior citizen prom at my local senior citizen home. It was extremely rewarding and incredibly hilarious interacting with them.
Take Time to Learn
If we feel like we are shooting a lot but never learning or growing with our craft, photography can become stale. For most of us, when we first got into photography we couldn’t get enough of Youtube tutorials and photography blogs that helped us gain more insight into improving our skill and style. If you feel like photography is no longer enjoyable, you might have to set time aside in order to learn and get inspired.
One thing that helps me is reading up to date articles on new technology or on new techniques. I also just spend time looking at photographers work that I enjoy. I then consciously think about something I want to work on and try to apply it in my next photo shoot.
Spending time with other photographers or creatives can be extremely beneficial. When we hang out with people who share our same passions were are able to build off each other’s creativity and receive encouragement. If we are talking about the money and business aspect of our job, we can start to focus on things that aren’t as important.
Teaching others about your craft is also a rewarding thing to do in two ways. The person on the receiving end feels happy that you were willing to give of your time to help them and at the same time you get reminded of why photography is something valuable to you. There is definitely happiness in giving of your time.
Take a Break
If we have gone past the point of no return and we feel like the last thing we want to do it shoot, take a break. Instead of continuing to burn yourself out, sometimes this path is the best option. Eventually, when you feel you’re ready, look at some of the previous work that you were proud of and remind yourself of why you got into photography in the first place.
Even though some may think that completely taking time off can harm your craft, I think it actually does the opposite. Sure, you can lose out on some possible jobs and money but you’ll save your client from mediocre work. If it takes some time for you to regain your joy it will be worth it because you will see it in your work. You and your clients want you to produce your best work. If that means taking some time to regain your joy, I say do it.
Although we tried to avoid it, we all do mistakes. But mistakes don’t have to be necessarily something terrible. In fact, mistakes are a great tool to learn and move forward. I learnt a lot from my photography mistakes. Some of them are quite personal, but others are pretty common in the photography community. I wanted to share with you five of my photographers’ mistakes because you might relate to them. But this is not a post about being ashamed of ourselves. Not at all!! Let’s take our mistakes and give them a positive twist analyzing what we can learn out from them.
Mistake number 1: Thinking that everybody in the world likes photography as much as you do
It is great to have such a passion for photography that I wanted to share it with everybody. I talked about photography with all my friends, family and clients. I explained to them the last things I learnt and my last photo sessions. I was also telling them about gear, post processing… It was way too much for them. They were not telling me to stop because they were polite, but I know they suffered from extreme boredom. Poor guys!
What I learnt: think about your audience. Is the person in front of you a photography lover? If so, go for it and share your passion. But if your audience doesn’t even have a camera, try to control yourself. Of course you can share with them things because after all photography is a big part of your life. You don’t have to keep it as a secret. I just recommend you to adjust the things you explain to them. Imagine that your lawyer friend is coming to tell you everything about his last case. I mean EVERYTHING, including minor details and everything he needed to learn to face that case. I don’t know about you, but I probably wouldn’t understand a word of what he is saying. The same thing happens to them when we talk about photography in such a deep level. Share your passion, but make it interesting for your audience. Tell them a story but don’t go so much into technical details. They will understand how much you love photography without suffering for being your friends.
Mistake number 2: Getting all the new pieces of gear you find
Gear is vital for us. Without gear we can’t do our art. But do we need everything that we see? I want to highlight here the word NEED. Because one thing is WANTING new gear. But do we NEED it? I have got new gear that I have used once and now it is sitting in a corner of a closet collecting dust. For what I saw around internet, I am not the only one that does it. Are you doing it too?
What I learnt: we don’t really need all the new gear that appears on internet. I also learnt that although the lesson is easy to learn, it is not so easy to apply. Because we do need some gear. We are photographers, we need staff. We should aim for balance. We need to get enough gear to keep growing as artists without spending money in unnecessary things. Something that works for me is waiting to buy the gear for one month. When I see something I would like to buy, I hold myself (This part is the difficult one. You need to be strong at this point). I say to myself that I will buy it in one month if I decide that I really need it. Along this month, I count how many times I would have used the gear. If the number is low, I don’t buy it and I safe the money. If I see myself finding a lot of chances to use the gear, I go and get it.
Mistake number 3: spend too much time learning and few time practicing
There are so many interesting things to learn! And it is so easy to access them. Articles, video tutorials, online courses, books… we can spend the whole day learning new things. Sometimes I spent more time reading and watching videos than taking photos. And this is the problem: learning too much theory without practicing is not how you improve your photography. You can get inspiration from somebody’s else experiences, but until you don’t experience the things by yourself, you won’t really understand the craft.
What I learnt: it is important to keep a good balance between theory and practice. There is nothing wrong about reading and following tutorials. But always combine them with practicing sessions. You can learn in small time blocks (one chapter at a time, or one video) and instead of jumping to the next lesson, go and take your camera.
Mistake number 4: lose awareness of the surroundings
I am from Barcelona. There are a lot of interesting spots in the city where photographers accumulate. You have several buildings from the architect Gaudi, including the Sagrada Familia (the only cathedral that is still under construction in Europe), the old city, the Ramblas (one of the most famous streets in Barcelona). Is in that places where I see a lot of photographers forgetting about their surroundings. Some of them are trying to focus to the tall towers of the Sagrada Familia cathedral and they are walking back step by step, trying to fit everything in the frame. Some of them are so concentrated in their photography that they walk into the traffic line, without looking if there are cars coming. I myself almost run over some photographers with the car. Scary staff. In addition, there are some people taking advantage of this lack of awareness: the thieves. If they see you too concentrated in your camera they will come to still your wallet.
What I learnt: if you are taking pictures in a city or at any place where you are not alone, try not losing your awareness of the surroundings. If you see that you have a tendency to do it, look for strategies to avoid bad consequences. Put your wallet and important things in a place that can’t be access by thieves. You can also tell somebody to put an eye on you to tell you when you are getting into danger.
Mistake number 5: follow the last fashion without thinking if you need it or not
There is always a last photography trend. Some of them are really cool and keep updated about the last techniques is always good. The problem is when you are carried out by these trends. Do you really need to use these techniques? Is it adding something to your style or does it go against it? This happened to me. I became an HDR fanatic. Internet was full of these hyper realistic looking photos. HDR all over the place. It was hard to ignore it. HDR is useful when you can’t capture all the dynamic range of a scene. There are situations in which your camera can’t handle the difference between the shadows and the highlights. It is just too much (too much contrast between light and shadows). In those situations, if you capture well the shadows, the highlights get burnt. Or when you capture well the highlight, you lose detail in the shadows because they are too black. What can you do then? HDR at rescue!! You can take photos at different exposures and merge them in post processing. Your problem is solved. You have both nice shadows and highlights in the scene. I loved it. But I loved it may be a bit too much because I found myself doing HDR even when I was able to capture all the dynamic range of the scene in a single shot. Such a waste of time in front of the computer post processing unnecessarily!
What I learnt: Trends are great opportunity to learn new things. However, before jumping into the trend, learn about it. Check if you need to follow this trend or not. If it will add something to your photography or it will be a waste of time. That everybody is doing something at a certain periods doesn’t mean that it is the more convenient thing for you. Analyze first and then decide by yourself.
Are you making some of these mistakes? I will be happy to know about your experiences. Feel free to share with me any comments or any other mistake I should include in this list! Have a happy shooting!!