Being an artist isn't easy, especially when the world is against our way of life and creation. The artist life is discouraging for sure, and every once in a while I still have days where I just want to lay in bed. I have learned that you can't let yourself have many of these days if you want to be great, there's always someone else who's pushing through it. Whether you're a professional or just a hobbyist, being uninspired sucks. Luckily there are so many things you can do to beat the gloom and keep on creating.
In the first couple years that I started taking my photography seriously, I had unlimited energy to work. I was shooting every day, editing all night, and pushing my social media every minute in between. After a few years of working my way into the industry, I began to realize how hard it was, how much dedication it truly took to succeed in photography. I felt discouraged here and there, but I learned how to remedy these feelings by staying inspired to work and create every single day. Here are some things I do to keep me from giving up or slowing down.
Just Shoot Something
One of my favorite things about photography is that every photo is different, each time you pick up the camera it's a completely new experience than the last. When I'm feeling unmotivated, the first feeling I have is the desire to shoot something, so I make it happen. This is where creative friends are very helpful to me. If I don't want to plan something serious I'll get together with a friend or family member and take photos of them. Sometimes I will even walk around close to home and take some landscape or street photos. When I don't know what to do creatively I also like to photograph random people on the street, this reminds me not to obsess over perfection in the planning of my work. If you absolutely can't bear the thought of being around other humans, take a self-portrait.
Learn New Techniques
When you feel like you've hit a creative wall, break through it by learning something new. Whether it's shooting something different than usual or trying a different editing technique it will make you want to create new work to use these new skills in. Try using a new color pallet, background, light set up or even a different camera. You can even learn something outside of the photography world. When I'm feeling uninspired I pick up a canvas and paint every once in a while. Creating something that isn't related to photography at all helps me clear my head, and reminds me why I'm a photographer and not a painter. I also like to create wardrobe or other photography props when I need a break from the camera. Creating items for photos is a great way to find inspiration because you can actually use what you make in an image.We can all use a break from technology, even as photographers it's such a relief to change it up and create something in another artistic medium.
Browsing Other Artists' Work
When I'm in need of inspiration I will scroll through Pinterest, Fstoppers, or Tumblr. I save images to an inspiration folder in my phone that I like and want to pull ideas from in future shoots. Doing this always gets me excited about creating and planning. Browsing other photographers work also makes me realize how much work I have to do to reach my own full potential and fills me with the desire to make something new. A few months ago I opened Pinterest to find some inspiration and saw a portrait with beautiful wallpaper in the background, I went to a thrift store and picked up a bunch of $1 rolls of wallpaper. This one idea from the web alone turned into 5 or so shots where I designed sets with wallpaper and other props.
I don't recommend doing this for too long or too often because it does have the potential to discourage you or influence your work too heavily on others. Look at other peoples work in moderation so that you can still find your own unique style of shooting. To make sure you don't get overwhelmed with all of your inspiration images, pinpoint one or two elements of the images that you want to see in your own work. This way you can narrow down what you're inspired by and make it your own, rather than attempting to recreate a whole image, that never ends well.
Get Up and Get Out of Your House
One of the most important steps to feeling better and regaining your creative flow is getting up, getting off your phone and going outside. You can go for an adventure, or you don't have to go far at all, you don't have to spend any money, you don't even have to get in the car if you don't want to. I can rarely get inspired by my house unless I'm doing crafts, getting out is essential. To refresh it always helps to take my poodle for a walk or even just sit outside for a while and observe everything around me. I highly dislike the mall and other stores, but walking by the beauty and fashion ads in stores gives me hope somehow.
Remembering All the People Who Want to See You Fail
Seriously, it helps. Don't think about them too long though, because they likely don't deserve much of your attention. As artists, we aren't seen as very "normal," this usually means judgment and disbelief in our craft, especially as a career. These judgments used to bug me, I wanted everyone to see that I was doing the right things with my life. My reassurance didn't work and to this day there are still people close to me who don't believe in my art. But I turned their words into positive motivation to work harder, it sometimes motivates me even more than any amount of appraisal because it feels so good to prove the world wrong. When discouragement does get to you, luckily there are thousands of other artists feeling the exact same discouragement whom we can turn to for motivation.