5 Pro Tips for Avoiding Burnout in Landscape Photography

Burnout can happen to any of us, from hobbyist photographers to established professional photographers and everyone in between. Whether you feel like you are on the path to burnout or are already there, I have five tips to help you through it!

Burnout can manifest itself in a variety of ways for landscape photographers. It could be when you head out on a photography outing, you struggle to find your creative energy. Even simple compositions become a challenge, or you feel like you are just going through the motions of taking pictures and not feeling the energy. Or maybe you don’t even feel like picking up the camera and heading out to take photos.

If you practice the craft of photography long enough, you will eventually encounter burnout. It happens to all of us at some point. The key is having strategies to work through it and find your creative energy again.

I have five tips that have worked for me over my years as a photographer. Whether I feel the hint of burnout coming or have reached the point of not even wanting to head out and photograph, one of these tips will do the trick!

Explore a New Location

It is easy to fall into a routine of repeatedly visiting the same places to photograph or photographing the same type of scenes. These routines lead to repetition, and repetition eventually leads to the energy of creativity fading.

Exploring a new location can disrupt the repetition and bring new energy to your photography. Maybe it is a new metro park in your area that you haven’t visited before, or maybe traveling a few hours away to see someplace new. It doesn’t have to be a grand trip, though that can’t hurt, just a location that is fresh to you.

Or it could be simply photographing a different type of scene. For example, I love to photograph waterfalls, but if all I ever photograph are waterfalls, it will eventually get repetitive, and even visiting new waterfalls won’t energize me. Making a switch to photographing small scenes not involving water could be the energy I need back in my photography. Don’t be afraid to try a different subject than usual for your photos.

Limit Your Gear

Limiting the amount of camera gear you take on an outing can force you to think differently when photographing scenes. Like many of you, I typically have an array of lenses with me when I go on an outing that allows me to cover from 14mm to 400mm. While you would think having all those options would be flexible and good, it can also allow you to fall into repetitive habits, gravitating to photographing certain scenes in the same way.

One of my favorite tricks is to head out and only take one lens. I usually lean towards a prime lens or a focal length I don’t use as commonly. This limitation forces me to think about my compositions differently. I can’t default to my habits but instead, look at scenes with fresh eyes and work with the tools I brought, which leads to re-energizing my photography by breaking those habits.

Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome

I see a lot of photographers obsessed with the outcome. If they go out to capture a stunning sunset, but the sky ends up being clear, they walk away frustrated and angry they didn’t get the picture they wanted. If you base your success on every trip resulting in portfolio-ready images, you are going to experience frustration. Frustration leads to stress and pressure, which leads to photography not being as much fun and you closer to burnout.

Instead, focus on the process of landscape photography and learn to enjoy it. Find happiness in being outdoors, sitting waiting for the sunset, or the endorphins from hiking. Learn to enjoy the whole experience of going out to photograph landscapes, not just the outcome of stunning images for the portfolio.

I find if I have this mind shift, enjoying the process more than the outcome, the fun of photography comes more readily. More experiences are fun, no matter what the result is. There is less pressure on every outing and more focus on the fun and enjoyment of just getting out there.

Seek Inspiration From Other Sources

If you don’t feel like heading out to photograph, there might be opportunities to find inspiration from other sources. Inspiration can come from a variety of sources, photography-related or from other creative mediums.

You could start by consuming some photography books. It could be slow and deliberate viewing of photos or simply flipping through a book to see which images catch your eye or give you a new idea for your own photography. Maybe you find a photographer with a style that interests you, from how they compose the image to their editing style.

When you are really burnt out, though, sometimes even the thought of looking at photography is a challenge. In those cases, head to an art museum and view some art. Similar to reading a photography book, you might study painting for its use of light and composition or simply see what inspires you without thinking deeply about the piece.

Movies can be a source of inspiration as well. Watch a documentary on a location you’d like to visit one day. Watch a movie and think about how they compose and light scenes; is it something you can apply to your own photography?

Take a Break

If you have tried the previous tips and are still in a rut and need help finding your motivation, then it is time to take a break. Put the camera down and turn your attention to non-photography things. Maybe it is catching up on home projects. Maybe it is watching movies for pure enjoyment. Maybe it is heading out to the park and going for a walk - without your camera.

The key to taking a break is also putting aside any guilt you might feel for not picking up your camera. It is okay to take a break. It might be for a day, a weekend, a week, or even a month. But, sometimes, we just need to clear our minds and recharge, and taking a break from photography can be a perfect way to do that.

Wrapping Up

These five tips are all ones I have used at some point when I felt burnout coming on in my photography. It isn’t always the same strategy that works; sometimes a new location fixes things up, or sometimes it is limiting my gear, or sometimes it is taking a break. But generally, at least one of these tips will work.

Do you have any favorite tips for avoiding burnout? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

Jeffrey Tadlock's picture

Jeffrey Tadlock is an Ohio-based landscape photographer with frequent travels regionally and within the US to explore various landscapes. Jeffrey enjoys the process and experience of capturing images as much as the final image itself.

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