How to Overcome Boredom with Photography

eric kim suede brooks - bil brown - photography fashion
Photo by Bil Brown

I’m easily bored.

I love being stimulated. I love learning. I love self-development, self-knowledge, and self-growth.

I hate it when I’m sitting and have nothing to do.

In today’s world, we are all slaves to boredom. Boredom is what leads us to checking our email every 5 minutes. Boredom is what causes us to check our social media streams (even when we’re just waiting 30 seconds for the restroom). Boredom is what causes us to take drugs, drink, and seek sexual pleasure.

Personally, I fear boredom. The worst fear I have is to be stuck on a plane for 16 hours (happened to me once on the way to Australia) where I have nothing to do. There is an existential void.

Honestly, I would rather be in physical pain, than feel boredom.

Is boredom good for us?

Dalat, 2016

Of course, there are upsides to boredom. When we are bored, that is what allows us to be creative. When we are bored, we want to stimulate ourselves — so we find creative ways to do so.

If a kid is bored and doesn’t own an iPad— they might create their own toys out of sticks and stones, and cardboard.

If an adult is bored and doesn’t have a smartphone on them (for some weird reason) they might actually go on a walk, look around, and chat to some strangers.

Photography to treat boredom

I know a lot of people who were prescribed to go on long walks by their doctors (after surgery, physical therapy, etc). But they found walking to be boring. So they decided to take a camera on their walks, to make it less boring. And funny enough, that is how they discovered “street photography.”

I think photography is a great tool for us to fight boredom in our lives— and become more creative, to self-express ourselves, and to do something “productive” with our leisure time.

I feel boredom is the opposite of feeling focused and “in the zone.” Psychologists call an engaged, creative state— a state of “flow” — where hours run by in minutes, where we lose a sense of self, and when we feel fully-alive.

For me, when I’m shooting on the streets, I feel a sense of flow. I no longer feel boredom. I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience. I feel totally connected with my camera. I focus on composing, framing, and photographing the beauty around me. I feel more connected with my environment, society, and other people.

How to be less bored in photography

If you want to fight boredom with your photography, here are some practical tips:

1. Don’t photograph what bores you:

eric kim street photography - color - chroma-2 - marseille 2013
Marseille, 2013

This is simple advice— don’t photograph what bores you. Yet how often do we follow these silly “365 day photo challenges” — where you need to take a photograph every day, no matter what?

I have friends who have done these challenges, and their photography ends up feeling like a chore. They photograph random stuff that they feel no natural drive to photograph.

The solution: only photograph what interests you. Only photograph what excites you.

This means, finding your style in photography is knowing what not to photograph. Simply don’t photograph what bores you.

For example, I used to like shooting landscapes, but it soon bored me. I found that photographing people was far more challenging, fun, and interesting. This is how I transitioned from landscape/architecture photography to street photography.

Don’t photograph what bores you.

2. Find beauty in everything:

eric kim street photography - Only in America-9
Pittsburgh, 2013

If you’re hunting to take photos of double-rainbows, people in pink afros, and the extraordinary— you will be disappointed. You will become addicted to traveling to exotic places, just to stimulate your jaded retinas.

Rather, I feel true happiness and joy in photography is to find beauty in everything. To find beauty in a cup of coffee. To find beauty in a flower growing out of the concrete. To find beauty in an old couple holding hands on the street.

Find beauty in ordinary things. This is the only way to prevent being bored of living in the same city and place, and finding joy in everything.

3. Challenge yourself:

eric kim street photography downtown la
Photo by Rinzi Ruiz

To be human is to grow. We’re constantly decaying, and by growing, we are battling our atrophying bodies.

You need to challenge yourself to grow as a photographer. If you keep doing the same old thing over and over again — you might like be Henri Cartier-Bresson, who quit photography. Josef Koudelka, on the other hand, kept innovating with his photography (going from shooting wide-angle 25mm, to 35mm/50mm, to shooting panoramic landscapes).

If you find photographing single-subjects to be boring and unchallenging, try to shoot multi-subjects and layers.

If you find black and white boring, try color.

If you find landscape photography boring, try out street photography.

If you’re bored shooting street photography, try shooting portrait or fashion photography.

Photograph what is outside of your comfort zone, and work hard to take your work to the next level.


Dubai, 2015

We want to embrace boredom in a positive way — knowing that it is a sign from our biological bodies that we need more novelty, excitement, fun, and growth. By knowing what boring things in life to avoid is a good way to live.

I was bored by math and science— and pursued sociology and the humanities instead. I was bored by a 9-5 job, and decided to become an entrepreneur and work for myself. Whenever I am bored in a social situation, I no longer feel guilty for just walking away and excusing myself.

Avoid boredom; seek growth. Challenge yourself, and become the best version of yourself.

Photography is not just about making photos, it is about personal growth. It is about finding beauty in everything in the world, and it is a way to cure yourself of feeling bored or jaded in life.

So let us spend less time consuming, and more time producing. Make photos that brings joy to your soul, and share that joy with others.


Learn more: Motivation >

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