No matter how strongly you feel about photography, it can still start to lose its shine. So, how can you avoid losing that fire that keeps the camera in your hand?
I debated becoming a professional photographer for several years before I made the leap. There were a number of reasons why I wasn't sure if I ought to do it, but one was particularly persistent and had fewer counterarguments. With negatives like "low average wage" and "highly competitive," you can reason your way around them and work out strategies that might sail you past those troubled waters. But the negative to becoming a full-time, professional photographer that stood resolute for me was falling out of love with photography.
I'd had a propensity towards photography and videography from a young age, but I didn't properly try my hand at it until my late teens, when I bought a cheap, secondhand DSLR. I was almost immediately obsessed, but I'm one to do that with new things. What surprised me was how long that honeymoon period lasted; in many ways, it never ended. When I create an image I love to this day, I get the same feeling I got with that first camera. I get the buzz of excitement and pride that keeps me coming back to my camera. As the years went by, photography was still just a hobby — albeit one I made small amounts of money from here and there — though my interest didn't wane. So, I wasn't interested in putting that passion at risk.
We've all heard the various maxims that warn people that turning their passion into a career would eventually poison that love for it. I could imagine that happening with photography, and I used that as the primary motivator for not going into it as a career. The problem was, there wasn't anything else I'd rather have been doing, and I wasn't shy about working hard at it. Suddenly, it felt like an excuse, and after deliberating job offers, I jumped in, face first. The start was difficult, but it did nothing to dampen my drive to grow as a photographer and enjoy the process. But, if I'm honest, it did catch up with me eventually.
I couldn't possibly pinpoint a time where my love photography changed. I never fell out of love with it, but it often felt like a normal job (as, you might argue, it ought to have.) I took on a project because I wanted to get paid. What troubled me, however, was that the projects I was taking on I would have enjoyed a year or two prior. Upon realizing that and wanting to halt this train before it got out of hand, I set about restoring the love I had for the medium. Here's what I think can help you retain your love for photography in spite of all that life or your career throws at you.
This is an area I truly didn't appreciate enough. I wanted to conduct personal projects from the get-go with photography, and I did. But somewhere along the line, when photography was becoming more of a job than a passion, I decided they didn't pay and weren't valuable enough a way to spend my time. This was a mistake. Doing photography you love is the lifeblood of your passion, and it can keep you from a rut. This year, I have a lot of personal projects on the go and shoots for people where I don't earn the sort of money I charge now. What's more, I want to add in more projects and have been talking with charities to explore options there, which can have a positive impact too.
Whether you're a full-time professional photographer or a hobbyist, personal projects are crucial for growth and a sort of creative wellbeing. Here are a few ideas:
- Do a series of themed images
- Work with a charity
- Complete a challenge
- Use photography to show something else you love
- Collaborate on a project with a person or organization
Be an Active Member of the Community
Being editor here at Fstoppers, as well as attending events, working with brands, writing on photography every day, consuming content, and having lots of friends in the industry means I am intrinsically linked with photography. It would be hard (it might even be impossible) for me to go a single day without photography taking my mind for a while in one way or another. Being active in the photography community (and you don't have to be quite as embedded as I am) is a surefire way to keep you interested, as you are bombarded with new information and images.
I wasn't aware how revitalizing the act of teaching about photography was until embarrassingly recently. I was working with somebody very new to photography who had their first interchangeable lens camera and going through some of the basics. Every question I was asked sparked an excited response and demonstrations of how settings interact with one another and so on. It occurred to me as I was lying in bed that night, picking apart the advice hunting for any mistakes or misinformation, that talking about photography was invigorating to me. My educational articles on Fstoppers have the same effect on me.
What Do You Do to Maintain Your Love of Photography?
As much advice as I can give, it isn't one size fits all; what works for me may plunge some deeper into a rut. So, what do you do? How do you keep that proverbial fire burning? Have you ever had a period where you no longer wanted to pick your camera up, and if so, how did you get yourself out of it? Share your thoughts and methods in the comment section below.