Have you ever felt unsatisfied or disconnected from your photos? It’s important to know we all go through this and these are a few things you can do to help.
I’m hesitant to refer to this as photography burnout. Burnout for many is when they feel no passion for their current work or lack enjoyment from the process. That isn’t necessarily the case here but some of the solutions or methods you can practice will be paralleled. I’ve recently found myself still enjoying the process, pushing myself to wake up at 2:30am to take shots of the night sky, and continually getting out into the field regardless of conditions.
Yet no matter what happens, I come back to see images I’m not excited about. Nothing I’m taking is resonating with my emotions and I feel very disconnected from my work yet I’m still passionate to get out there and finally feel that high of an epic sunset where everything just seems to align or find unique conditions I’ve yet to experience. Those days can be fleeting and there are a few things you can do to hopefully find love for your own images again in the meantime.
Taking a break from anything you aren’t feeling connected with can be productive. For years photography for me was a hobby where I’d pick it up when I was feeling passionate and put it down when I wasn’t. Those breaks can completely realign your expectations of yourself and your work. I found myself waking up for sunrise or staying out for sunset expecting more, wanting more, needing that hit of dopamine. I created expectations and let myself get down when they didn’t happen.
The dance of pushing yourself to new limits without pushing yourself over a ledge of failure when you don’t find them is tough to balance. What kept me in check was simply taking a break. Whether it was disconnecting from social media, taking a break from shooting, or stepping away from an edit. That pause in my work flushed those expectations away and helped realign myself to enjoy just getting out to create new images. At first, these breaks came naturally to me as I found myself really only making images when I took vacation time to travel so I didn't have to force breaks nearly as often. It wasn't until I started shooting on a regular basis that I expected more from myself and felt less from all the images I was capturing. I needed to force myself to breathe a little and each time I would come back feeling more passionate.
This is hands down the best advice I can give when you aren’t feeling invigorated by your work but what if you can’t take a break? What if you’ve chosen a path in photography that means there are no breaks. What can you do then to help find connectedness?
I cannot take breaks anymore. This has been a turning point in my work. Something is changing without me being completely aware that it’s happening. The lack of passion in my recent work has made me realize that maybe what once was exciting isn’t anymore. After finally getting the conditions I’ve been waiting for I didn’t go back to my images feeling satisfied; what is wrong with me?
I’m finding myself excited for scenes that don’t look anything like scenes I tried to capture a few years ago. I’m more focused on textures and lines than I am on colors and sunsets. This really made me realize that I was going about things all wrong. My lack of feeling wasn’t because my images were bad or the conditions weren’t what I wanted them to be. It’s because what I wanted in my own work is actively changing. The challenge is I don’t necessarily know what I’m supposed to be looking for to satisfy it, but that in itself is exciting.
I found myself in this position in an unconventional way but something you can personally do is try photographing something you don’t typically photograph. If you’re a photographer that can’t take breaks, try spending time outside your comfort zone. I know many portrait photographers who shoot landscape as a passion or wedding photographers who find themselves exploring the night sky to keep their passions alive. You might find new meaning in your daily work by learning new skills in other fields.
I’ve made landscape photography my career yet it still remains my passion. The pressure to always create can be suffocating and I was starting to feel overwhelmed by this lack of love for my own images. If you’ve felt this way maybe step back and try to recognize it could be that you need to shift your work and explore a bit more into new territory.
Saturation of your own work can cause you to be unable to see it clearly. My daily workflow of photography involves letting images percolate for weeks sometimes, continually revising them with fresh eyes, and seeing what my new reaction might be. Sometimes this doesn't work and reaching out to peers or friends about their thoughts can be really beneficial. We are our own worst critics most of the time and putting a bit of effort into reaching out to others for feedback or just general thoughts behind some of your images can help you find gratitude in the work that you have done.
Many times you'll find that you're overly critical of your own work to the point where it can be detrimental to growth. Getting critique can confirm potential worries about your images but the majority of the time you'll get feedback that makes you see your images differently. That there is so much to love about something you captured but all you can see is a simple imperfection because that is what you want to see. This is similar to the dance of pushing yourself without falling off a ledge. You lose the love for your images and can't find the motivation to make new ones because all you can see is disconnected creativity.
There are a lot of great places you can communicate and get feedback on your images. Fstoppers has a lot of great communities for all genres of photography or you can find discord communities such as mine that focus on a specific genre like landscape photography. Not only can you get some great feedback, but you'll also find yourself making new friends in the space and potentially reconnecting with your own work through such motivation.
What helps you? Have you ever found yourself feeling unattached to the images you're creating? I'd love to know what methods you've found for yourself as I'm always looking for better ways to keep those coals burning. As always thanks for reading!