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When Your Motivation Levels Drop to Zero, Will These Solutions Save You?

When Your Motivation Levels Drop to Zero, Will These Solutions Save You?

Most of the world is on an enforced break right now, which we can't do much about. But when the fog clears, what can you do if you find your motivation for photography has fallen off a cliff?

Outside of the unforeseen circumstances we currently find ourselves in, generally speaking, has there ever been a better time to love photography? The choice of camera bodies on the market is almost limitless. The array of lenses to play with is unimaginably vast. And the abundance of software and accompanying tutorials available to hone our own creative looks could keep us occupied for three lifetimes and then some. However, despite all that, there are times we all go through when we are tired of photography and perhaps even resent the idea of picking up our gear and trudging outside to take some images. So when we’re feeling like that, what can we do? Here are three things I’ve found helpful over the years.

Put Everything Down and Stop

Seriously, it’s not rocket science is it? If you’re not enjoying your photography and it starts to feel like a chore every time you think about it, then simply stop. Unless it’s your chief source of income and you need to do it every day to put food on the table and a roof over your family’s head, then there’s absolutely nothing to stop you from downing your tools for a while and taking a big, long breather.

There’s little worse than doing something against your will, is there? So why do it if you have a choice? I’m sure you have plenty of other things in life you can enjoy, and perhaps you can do them with a more fervent passion for a while. No-one’s saying that you have to give up photography forever and throw it in the dustbin. But there’s nothing wrong with taking a hiatus from it all and walking away just to recharge your batteries and let the enthusiasm find its way back in.

Not even waves like these, just a short drive south of home, can get me motivated sometimes. I always go back, so I don't feel so bad about staying out of the water for short periods of time.

I do it with surfing every now and then. I’ve been surfing for over 35 years and I still love it more than anything in life. But there are certain times when I just don’t want to do it, no matter how good the waves are. I don’t want to ride my shortboard, I don’t want to ride my longboard, and I don’t want to ride any board in between. The conditions might be perfect and my friends might be sending me a million texts to go surfing with them, but there are times when I just do not want to do it. So I don’t. Experience has shown me that I will always go back to surfing, so now I feel no remorse or guilt whatsoever about taking a break, no matter how long it might be.

And it’s exactly the same with photography. I don’t take photos every day, not even close to it. There might be times when I don’t touch anything related to photography for up to a month. But I always go back, so I don’t feel any problem at all with stopping for a while if I’m not feeling the mojo.

Think About Why You’re Sick of It All

One thing that might help you is to assess why you’re actually feeling sick and tired of your photography. When it first happened to me, I thought long and hard about it and I soon realized it was because I was taking so many photos of the same kind of thing. It was all sunsets and sunrises and seascapes. No matter how good they were, or how pleasing to the eye my friends thought they were, I started to get really bored with them. I mean, to me, there’s really only so many photos of the sun going up and the sun going down that I can take. I still love going down to the beach every day and drinking a beer while I watch the sun set, but I don’t necessarily want to take my photography gear with me every time.

And understanding that helped me take a different approach to my photography. I will always love the beach, and seascapes, and taking photos related to those things but now I try to incorporate different elements into my images. I might add silhouettes, or I might play with shutter speed a little more creatively, or I might deliberately look for interesting reflections, or I might even go a little bit crazy in post-production. But understanding the source of my boredom was very important in enabling me to find my way out of the funk.

If you can work out the source of your boredom, you can then find ways to create a solution. Now I still take lots of seascapes and surf shots, but I'm a lot more creative in the way I approach things, and have flung off my more traditional, conservative cape. It's great fun.

Take a Long, Hard Look at Your Gear

Because I live in the relatively inaccessible deep, rural south-west of Japan, I’m not too afraid to say this, but over the years I have amassed enough gear to almost fund my two daughters’ educations, if I were to sell it all. Put together, it’s all worth a pretty penny and looking at it is enough to give me a real solid whack in the head and bring me back to my senses. If you can look at all the gear that you’ve put together over time and feel no guilt whatsoever about walking away from the thousands of dollars staring you in the eyes, then you’re certainly a stronger man than me. Just seeing all those bodies and lenses and gadgets in front of me and understanding the damage that they’ve done to my bank account over the years is often enough to get my finger back on that shutter button quick smart.

A quick iPhone snap of one of my shelves at home. I have about 7 other shelves like this. Looking at all that gear jolts me back into reality.

More seriously, looking at all your gear helps you to remember that you do actually love photography. There’s something beautiful about picking up your lenses and holding them, and looking at them, and carefully contemplating the differences between them all. The weight, the build, the varying tones and contrasts they might all produce — running your fingers across your gear is magical and it really helps to remind you of the passion that you had when you first started your photographic journey. Very often this is enough to get me back in the mood for taking photos.

Summing Up

These are three things that I do when I’m feeling sick and tired of photography. This list is by no means exhaustive so I’d love to hear what you do when you go through those moments of falling out of love with photography.

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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