High angle perspective photo. Man with glasses silhouette, with red background. Tokyo, 2018

How to Have Motivation to Shoot Everyday

High angle perspective photo. Man with glasses silhouette, with red background. Tokyo, 2018
High angle perspective photo. Man with glasses silhouette, with red background. Tokyo, 2018

Dear friend,

One of the biggest challenges all of us face (myself included) is finding the inspiration and motivation to shoot everyday.

Why shoot everyday?

The first question is this:

Why shoot everyday, is it important to shoot everyday? And if it is important to shoot everyday, why is it important to shoot everyday?

Some of my answers:

  1. I think it is important to shoot everyday because making photos is one of the easiest and best ways of creating visual art. And I think that if we go a full-day without making some sort of art, we often end up feeling depressed or creatively-frustrated/constipated as a result.
  2. If we make it a decision to shoot photos everyday, we live every day, with more intentionality, more appreciation of the small and mundane things of our everyday life. The more intentionally we live our lives, and the more we actually pay attention to the small details of our everyday life, the more we appreciate our lives, the more we appreciate being alive– and the more we end up creatively thriving as a result!
  3. I think making art is the best use of our personal human resources, time, energy, effort, and power. Of course we need to ‘function’ as a society, but once we have covered all of our basic needs– to me it seems the only practical thing for us to do is self-express ourselves through art. For us to create art, share that art with others, and continue making art.
  4. “The rolling stone gathers no moss.” – Publilus Syrus: This means, in life, we must avoid rust, stagnation, and “moss” at all costs. If we keep the stone/ball rolling, we will never become stagnant. This means, if you keep shooting everyday, you will never become creatively stagnant. I also am starting to believe that the purpose of photography/life/art isn’t to create ultimate masterpieces that will last forever– but rather, for us to constantly seek to innovate in our art for the sake of it, and continue to innovate in our photography. We must seek to constantly make new photos, to go on new adventures, and never be satisfied (yet enjoy the journey!)

Practical ideas/tips:

First of all, realize no matter where you live, how interesting your city, you’re going to get bored/used to it sooner or later (hedonic adaptation). For example, even if you live in NYC, Tokyo, Kyoto, Los Angeles (I’ve lived in all these cities)– you sooner or later “get used to it”– your eyes adapt, and you no longer find “inspiration”/motivation in the area and place. You become visually jaded.

The upside is this: no matter how boring your city/town is, you will sooner or later adapt to it as well. That means, you can still make interesting photos in a boring city/town!

Creative constraint

The first practical idea is this: give yourself a ‘creative constraint’. For example, for a month you’re only allowed to shoot within a 1-block radius of your home or workplace. The reason why this assignment is good: rather than using our boring city/workplace neighborhood as an excuse– we use it to our advantage! We say to ourselves:

“OK, my neighborhood and workplace area is boring. That is fine. Now– how can I make the most interesting photos in this boring neighborhood?”

You turn the boringness into a fun opportunity/creative exercise!

Obviously if you’re traveling in India or some other exotic place, you’re going to find “inspiration” to shoot. It is very easy to find inspiration/motivation when you’re traveling to shoot– because everything is foreign. And to be honest, to take interesting photos of exotic things is quite easy. Much more difficult to make interesting photos in boring places.

Another creative constraint idea: stick with just one camera, one lens for a month.

In today’s world we are spoiled as photographers– we are suffering not because the lack of technology and cameras, but the fact that we have TOO MANY cameras, that we have too many options, and that it is hard for us to focus with the gear/equipment we already have– to make the photos we desire to!

This is especially frustrating if we have older cameras, or not the best/greatest/most expensive/fancy cameras. My suggestion is this: pride yourself in your “shitty” camera and setup, and use it as a creative constraint– how can I make the best possible photos with this older camera?

If you’re a photographer with multiple cameras and lenses, just stick to 1 camera and 1 lens for a month. Lock up everything else in a drawer for a month.

The reason why I think this assignment will help is this:

When you constrain yourself to 1 camera and 1 lens, you get less ‘decision fatigue’ with deciding which camera/lens to use to shoot.

Often in modern life, we try to over-optimize our camera setups (and our lives) for the maximum/”optimal” solution. But there is never an “optimal” or “best” solution. My suggestion is to just seek to have our equipment 80% “good enough”, and JUST SHOOT IT!

Shoot with your phone

To be honest, the best camera is probably your phone. Why? It is always with you, and the phone is probably the ultimate solution in shooting more, quickly editing/post-processing your photos (like with VSCO), and to easily share/publish your photos!

So another creative constraint you can give yourself is this: only shoot with your phone for a month.

Also to learn more benefits of shooting on your phone, check out this new free/epic visualization by ANNETTE KIM: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Smartphone Photography Visualization PDF

Shoot when you’re about to leave your house/apartment/hotel/living quarters

Whenever you leave your home, have your camera either on your neck (Henri Neck Strap / ERIC KIM NECK STRAP for RICOH GR II) or on your wrist (Henri Wrist Strap / ERIC KIM WRIST STRAP for RICOH GR II).

This is my rationale: when you’re leaving home in the morning, this is when interesting stuff happens. You are chatting with your partner, your kids, or seeing light for the first time.

If you want to shoot more, always have your camera around your neck or on your wrist. The way to think about it: Always wear your camera like a necklace or a bracelet.

Shoot the rainbow

Now that I’m shooting more color (JPEG, medium-size, on Lumix G9 Pro, Leica 12mm f/1.4 lens) + ERIC KIM CHROMA PRESETS, which gives an intense contrasty, colorful look.

For fun, when I’m out and about, I just look for colorful things, and colorful color-combinations. For example, orange and black (Halloween colors):

Orange / black Japanese Script
Orange / black Japanese Script

Or a nice shade of green:

Green gated cover.

Or while walking, a nice shade of blue on a building:

Blue architecture building.
Blue architecture building.

Some more colorful inspiration from photos in Tokyo:

The point is this: color in itself is a fun thing to photograph. Regardless of how boring your environment is, you can probably find something colorful to photograph!

More articles on color photography:

For more ideas, pick up a copy of STREET NOTES MOBILE.

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