We've all heard the saying "the grass is greener on the other side", which also applies to photography. Think you need exotic and faraway locations to make you a better photographer? Think again!
I won't deny that I have also experienced the "grass is greener elsewhere" syndrome before, and I can generally attribute that feeling to being over exposed to other photographers' social media accounts. Are you seeing exotic landscape shots or travel photography throughout the world, street shots full of moments that give you an urge to book that flight? Sure, that's one way to tackle that inspiration slump but it only truly works if it's done for the right reason. If you think that somethings that's already exquisite in its nature will make you a better photographer, you are well and truly wrong. Don't let shiny new locations cloud your mind in thinking that you can't challenge yourself in the place you are right now.
This realization came to me completely randomly at 6:30 AM on a rainy and misty morning. My boyfriend and I had just started an experiment to change our sleeping pattern and wake up our inner night owls by getting up at 6:00 AM and going to sleep earlier than we have ever been used to. One thing we found that often works is setting a certain task in the morning that gets us out of the bed, and on that cold morning that happened to be a walk to a nearby town around 40 minutes walk away. I instinctively reached for my camera before we left, and I am so glad I did.
When you see the place you live during such an early hour, it completely changes the atmosphere. It is not lively anymore, instead what I felt was almost an abandonment. If you don't want to see it through such dark and eerie glasses, you can think of it as the moment before the town wakes. A brief moment before the streets are flooded with school children (except if it's a Saturday, of course), before cars fill the streets, before the businesses open up their shutters to welcome customers. Challenging yourself to go outside in the street and photograph it during a time you are not accustomed to seeing it will open your eyes and give you a new perspective on this place that you call home.
Through one of these morning walks, which I only do comparatively short ones at a time, a title came into my mind, so I call these morning street photography series "Lost and Found". "Lost" because I am consciously deciding to lose myself in the town, I don't have any specific rules or destinations. Instead, I simply lose myself in little streets I hadn't been down before ."Found" because I discover little corners I otherwise wouldn't have seen. I also find something new that catches my eye every time I go out, whereas in the daytime to me it doesn't necessarily have the same appeal anymore.
By giving yourself a clear reason to get out and photograph your village, town, or city, you are making that first step so much easier. I see many people go out in the streets unsure of what they want to photograph, they're always looking for something to "jump out" in front of them, that they may deem interesting enough to photograph. Generally, it tends to be very similar subjects and themes of what others shoot, because those are the subjects that are "easy" to find and to photograph. When you have a more personal approach to photographing your surroundings, you are putting a very clear stamp on it. With this kind of work you are saying to the world — "this is how I see the world and this is the style I shoot", which is very hard if not impossible to replicate by others.
So, next time you want to challenge yourself, make it a fair challenge to yourself. It's not about what kind of gear you have, it's not about how many likes this image will get on your Instagram, and it's not about gaining praise from other photographers, because you are shooting solely for yourself. Trust me, when you do it for yourself, it feels different and you will not yearn for that approval from others. Don't fool yourself thinking that only new and exotic locations are the magic ingredient for helping you become a better photographer, instead make yourself truly work for it and you will enjoy your results to the fullest.
What are your thoughts on this?