How to photograph more for yourself
Last year I made almost zero landscape photographs. Almost zero!
Something needed changing.
I noticed this as I was winter cleaning my photography archive. Last year I was only out shooting for myself a couple of times. The rest was event photography for clients. How come I wasn’t I shooting more for myself? I need to change something.
Carry a camera everywhere!
I’ve heard that statement many times, so I did. I bought a new camera-bag that could hold both my camera and my laptop and still look good enough for my day job. This didn’t do it for me. I still wasn’t taking any photographs.
It wasn’t enough to just carry a camera. I needed to start using it again!
Time for a more deliberate change.
I made a decision, took some actions. This last half-year I’ve taken more photographs for myself than in a very long time. This is what worked for me.
Shoot what you have easy access to
I enjoy landscape photography the most. I like to get out in nature, getting away from the city. I love the process of looking after interesting compositions and subjects and be very deliberate about it. This is the photography I like the most!
There’s a small problem. I don’t live in the lake district of England. I live in Malmö in the flatlands of southern Sweden. If I want to get out and shoot landscapes, I have at an hour drive one way and often a couple. And did I mention that I live in Sweden? During the winter months the sun sets at around 5–6 pm, I usually get off work at five! I’ve long moaned about this, and the thought “if only…” has entered my mind more than once. The solution is simple, stop whining about what-ifs and shoot what you have access to. For instance, cityscape photography is an excellent substitute for landscape shooters. Treat the city as a landscape, it’s great fun, and it just looks better in the dark. But most crucial shoot whatever you have access to, which leads me to my next point.
Short disclaimer, 2020 is a strange year. Adhere to local guidelines, and stay safe. Do whatever photography you can safely.
Try different photography genres.
Don’t be afraid to try other genres. When you have the mindset of shooting what you have easy access to you probably will notice it’s not your primary genre. Many worries about becoming a jack of all trades, but in reality, the fear of becoming a jack of all trades is worse than becoming a jack of all trades. If you have your heart set on becoming a master of one genre, then, of course, you should shoot that primarily. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t photograph anything else. Photography is photography regardless of genre, and they can all benefit from each other.
This winter, I was in a real photography rut, so I tried to do some cityscapes and ended up discovering street photography as I live in an urban area that only makes sense for me (which, I’ve previously written an article about). I do want to make it clear that it doesn’t matter what genre you try. Just do something that you have easy access to. Perhaps try some product photography at home. If you have another hobby, maybe you can photograph that, or start photographing your dog. I think you get the idea if it’s something you have easy access to, then shoot that.
Force yourself just enough.
Trying something new is scary. If you decide to try a new genre, then give it an honest shot. Educate yourself in that genre, and give it your all for a period of time. When you’re over that first hump, it’s great fun.
When you’ve started enjoying it, you’ll enter a honeymoon phase, and it’s all daisies. However, when the honeymoon phase ends, it’s the same thing again, you need to force yourself just a bit again and see if it was true love. If not, move on to something else. Photography is supposed to be fun. If it’s just miserable for an extended time, you probably shouldn’t be shooting what you shot. Give it a rest, and perhaps try it again if you feel for it.
It doesn’t need to be perfect.
I long carried a lot of equipment, looked at the weather forecast, tried to predict the sunset, travelled to the best locations I could find and was very deliberate with every photograph I took. This was perhaps the biggest reason I didn’t photograph more. The truth is every picture doesn’t need to be perfect. Instead, great photographs are born from many mediocre ones.
I ditched my tripod and started carrying just a prime for a time. Started shooting handheld and stoped carrying about perfect. To be clear, it doesn’t have anything to do with the gear. It’s a mindset. I started enjoying photography for photography again. Once I felt that joy again, and I found that mindset again. The tripod found it way back to me, as did my lenses. Now and again, I go out with just one lens and one camera to keep that mindset.
This also liberated me from the golden hour disease. Now I’m out taking photographs regardless of the time of day, and regardless if it’s “good” photography weather or not.
Dedicate time for your photography
My final point is the one you’ve probably heard the most. Dedicate time for your photography. I suggest at least once a week to make a habit out of it. Be quite rigorous about keeping the time to a start. Once it stuck, you can be a bit looser about the when, but you need to be consistent to a start before you are allowed to cheat. I put this last, as I think it’s more important to have easy access to photography and letting go of the notion of perfect.
Here’s how that worked for me.
I said to myself go out and shoot for one hour every Tuesday night. Just one hour and shoot whatever is available close by. Cityscapes were my initial plan, but I ended up mostly doing street photography. But I was out shooting every week, and it was a blessing. As I rediscovered street photography, I didn’t felt any pressure of producing great images. I had found a mindset where I enjoyed photography for photography. Once I’ve found that I added on Sundays.
Sundays became my landscape photography day. I went out regardless if I only had time during the high afternoon or the weather was just dull. I only checked the weather app to know if I should pack a sweater or not. I drove to whatever nature preserve I had time for. I stopped searching for photo spots and instead looked at what was close by and easy to get to.
I’m glad to report I’m once again curious about exploring and finding new places to photograph. I’m photographing more and enjoying it more than ever before.
This is what I did to start photographing for myself again. My output has dramatically increased, and photography is fun again! I hope this might have been to some inspiration for you as well! Now go and shoot something.