I think one of the most difficult things as a photographer is to stay inspired. How do we stay inspired to shoot everyday– when the boredom and monotony of everyday life sets in?
Realize that it is impossible to always be inspired. Even when I’m traveling in a very interesting and foreign place (I’m currently in Saigon, Vietnam) it is hard to be constantly inspired. For the most part, I have a pretty boring and routine schedule: I wake up in the morning, have breakfast, have a coffee, walk to my cafe, blog (while having another coffee) walk to my vietnamese class, learn Vietnamese, have another coffee (3pm I want to suppress my nap), meet Cindy, walk and have dinner, walk to a cafe, hang out and talk, walk home, chat and sleep.
Even for me, I always stress the importance of shooting everyday and having your camera with you always. But know that I face the same difficulties as you do. I’m not inspired everyday, yet I try to force myself to shoot everyday. There are times when I’ll go up to a full week without shooting any photos because I don’t feel “inspired”. However in always experimenting with new approaches and “hacks” to keep me productive and inspired.
One thing I read recently is the “one push-up challenge”. There was a blogger who wanted to get into shape, so he made the goal: I will do at least one push-up a day. Doing one push-up a day didn’t seem like such a big challenge. So when he woke up, he did his one push-up of the day. However the funny thing was– when he just did one push-up, he became inspired to do more. He would end up doing 14–15. But it was that one single push-up that inspired him to do more. Then it wasn’t so hard. He started to do this with pull-ups too. He aimed to just do 1 pull-up a day. And after a month or two with this routine– he’s quite fit.
I heard that story and was quite inspired. So I thought to myself, maybe this can be a good strategy for photographers?
I think we can all strive to take one photograph a day. I don’t even think that one photograph needs to be a “street photograph”. It can be a photograph of your significant other, your kids, or anything random you see. It doesn’t have to be with your fancy camera. You can even use your iPhone.
I’ve started the 1 photo a day challenge myself while here in Saigon. Even though I take the same route everyday– I find myself inspired when I just take one photograph. After taking just one photograph, I get inspired to take more. By the end of the day, I will easily take around 40–50 photographs.
Part of just shooting one photograph a day is to always have your camera with you. I currently am using the Fuji XT–1 with a 27mm lens, and a wrist strap and keep it in my backpack wherever I go. And whenever I am going somewhere to walk, I keep it on my wrist. I find using a wrist strap inspires me to take more photos (than if the camera was just on my neck). Also having a wrist strap makes your camera less bulky, and makes it easier to simply pull quickly out of your bag.
I also find it is good to not edit while shooting. This means, don’t discriminate the scenes before your very eyes. If you see a potential photograph that you might think is even mildly interesting, just take a photo of it. You can always edit it out later when you’re at home on your computer.
So think about the importance of training or “working out” your eyes (like you would do as daily bodily exercise). I heard from a friend the phrase, “visual push-ups”– looking at great images to exercise your eyes, while also going out and shooting to train your eyes.
To take this assignment even further– I propose another idea, “the one great photo a day challenge”. The idea of this challenge is to also look at least one great photograph a day to keep you inspired.
When I used to work in IT as a student, I spent far too much time cruising gear review sites, forums, and rumor sites. Rather I wish I told myself : inspire yourself by looking at great images. I would have magnumphotos.com bookmarked as my homepage, and spend time studying the work of the masters.
To stay active on shooting street photography, make sure to participate in “Streettogs academy”, which is a free and open Facebook group where we assign bi-weekly street photography shooting assignments. I co-founded the group alongside AG DeMesa to help keep the street photography community inspired and active.
So remember, one photo a day! One inspirational image a day. And one smile a day :)