Why is it so hard for us to stay inspired in photography? This is something that has challenged me for a long time — and I think I’ve discovered some of the solutions and secrets for myself. I hope some of my experiences can also help empower you.
The Will to Photograph
First of all, what gives us the will, the drive, the motivation, or the inspiration to make a photograph?
This is my theory:
- We see something that sparks some sort of interest, excitement, or joy in our eyes. This can be seeing some sort of geometrical shape or arrangement that excites you. This can be a face that interests you. It can be a moment that is personally meaningful to you, or it can be a memory that you want to document and immortalize for yourself.
- You take the photo.
- Later, you review the photo, and decide whether to publish it or not. Or whether you decide to print it or not. Or you decide to share it on social media (Facebook or Instagram) or not.
Somewhere along the way — something goes wrong and awry.
What Causes us to Lose Our Motivation to Shoot?
Some additional theories, based on my personal experiences:
- I lose motivation to make photos because I no longer find interest, excitement, or joy in life. Perhaps this comes from some sort of desensitization of my surroundings, or perhaps I’m being distracted that I can’t see photo opportunities anymore.
- I get suckered by photography gear websites and blogs that make me feel that my camera or gear isn’t good enough — so I keep daydreaming about buying that new camera or phone, that will finally inspire me to make new photos.
- I’m too busy with work and my daily life to even think about making photos.
- I get disappointed that I’m not getting enough feedback or love or appreciation on my photos, via social media, or feedback in real life.
- We lose our childlike sense of curiosity in the world.
What Has Hurt My Motivation in Photography
There have been many stretches of time that I lost my inspiration or motivation to shoot. This is what hurt me:
- Becoming a prisoner to a genre in photography: Because I used to brand myself as a “street photographer” and I made my living teaching workshops on street photography, I didn’t let myself shoot anything else. This harmed me, because I found fewer and fewer things to photograph.
- I never thought my gear was good enough, thus, I never was satisfied with the equipment I already owned. Thus, I didn’t just go out and shoot with the camera I already had — I kept on waiting for that new revolutionary and innovative camera that would solve all my life problems.
- I would be bored of my own city and hometown, and not find anything interesting to photograph.
The 3 Solutions
Now as of 2018, I feel reborn. No more genre in photography. No more strict rules on myself. No more obsession over social media and likes, comments, and followers.
This is what has helped reinspire myself in photography, and has helped make photography fun for myself after 10 years of shooting.
1. Posting my photos to my own blog, not on social media:
One of the best things I’ve ever done for my creativity, self-esteem, focus, and innovation was to delete my Instagram. Of course, Instagram is the easiest way of sharing your photos and getting a lot of likes.
Therefore I wondered to myself, “If I didn’t have social media platforms to share my photos on — how could I share my photos?”
I then realized: perhaps I should only exclusively post my photos to my blog. And thus, I started to do photo diaries of my life — posting lots of photos in one post (30-50 photos), and not care too much about optimizing my likes on a single photo.
This has helped empower me because I don’t care about the single photo so much anymore — rather, I’m more interested in telling a story through my photos, and sharing my life experiences, and also giving me the chance to relive my life experiences.
If you don’t have a photo blog yet, I highly encourage you to make your own via WordPress.com or using bluehost.com and WordPress.org
2. Just shooting whatever interests me:
I just photograph everything now. It was like when I was a beginner. I photographed everything, with no concern about genre.
So now, I photograph colorful textures I see on the streets, I photograph trash on the ground, I photograph architecture and trees, I photograph selfies, I photograph my own shadow, I photograph my food, I photograph my coffee, and I photograph images of strangers and my loved ones.
This is awesome — now I’m insanely prolific, shooting close to 500-600 photos a day at times. It’s been so fun and liberating — because I just have more joy in the process and act of shooting.
3. Shooting with RICOH GR II with neck strap, in program mode, and using flash and macro mode:
Honesty this has helped me the most — always having the camera around my neck, and using the RICOH GRII that has an integrated popup flash, just using program mode, ISO 800-1600, center point autofocus, having the freedom to use macro mode and focus super close, and also using the LCD screen to have more creative compositions (shooting super high angle, or super low angles).
My New Years photography resolution for myself is simple — don’t leave the house without the camera around my neck. This works so well, because when you have the camera easily accessible on you, and around your neck — you will just see more photo opportunities, and shoot more.
To Be a Better Photographer, Focus on Being a Happier Person
I’ve discovered for myself — the more I shoot, the happier I am.
I don’t care to really make good or bad photos anymore — rather, I just seek to have fun making photos, enjoy walking, talking to strangers, and looking at my own photos and sharing the photos that bring me joy.
Essentially, I’m like my 18 year old self again — shooting like a beginner. Ultimate zen, child mind, and I’m thriving and it feels phenomenal.
I hope this year is also a year of rebirth for you and your photography.
Treat yourself and your photography less seriously, perhaps post less on social media — and enjoy your photos more for yourself. Become more centered into yourself, in a mindful zen way.
Remember, photography isn’t about making good photos, it is about living a good life. Photography should be a tool to empower you, to find more joy and excitement in life. To go on more adventures, and to smile more.
If photography is adding stress to your life, you’re probably doing something wrong. Photography should bring more joy into our lives, and help us smile more, and find more beauty in the mundane.
And of course like good children, we must always remember to have fun in photography :)
Reinspire your photography