How Do You Avoid Falling out of Love With Photography?

How Do You Avoid Falling out of Love With Photography?

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.

Me as a toddler, presumably keen to capture the many horrendous patterns in the immediate area.

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.

Personal Projects

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

One of my first personal projects was a series of natural light headshots to practice continuity of style between shoots, even without control of the lighting.

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.

Teach

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.

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9 Comments

Ken Flanagan's picture

Struggled with that for a while When I first met photography things were new and exciting, there were always new things to do together, those little quirks attracted me from the start. New lenses, bodies, filters, lighting, and editing! We even tried HDR together and it wasn’t for us. But eventually those quarks became an annoyance and we lost our connection. It was like having a roommate and all that desire was gone. The camera just sat around the house in that same old bag it always had since high school. We tried to get everything back on track. We met up with other photographers, I took classes on the proper settings, but it still felt hopeless and empty.
What changed for me was not expecting photography to change and just accepting it for what it was. It was me that needed changing. I stopped putting all the expectation on photography, and took ownership of our future together. Photography is giving 100% and not expecting anything out of it. Making the effort to keep learning, be teachable and explore new places.
I learned to love and accept again. Keep taking pictures, and yes marriage is the same way.

Robert K Baggs's picture

That was a lovely read.

Ken Flanagan's picture

As was your article!

I struggle with it off and on. I basically use the personal projects strategy. The photography that I enjoy the most, and the photography that brings the dollars are different fields. Fashion portraits is what I do daily; but when I need that boost to my passion, I head out to shoot in nature or walk in the city to do some street photography. I'm thinking about putting out a book later this year of my personal work!

Robert K Baggs's picture

What pays and what ignites my passion are different fields for me too, most of the time. I think a book's a great idea. Holding that first copy will be hugely rewarding.

Michael Holst's picture

It's one thing I had struggled with when I was considering making photography a full time thing. Showing a portfolio of things that I'm not as excited about is a depressing thought. ADs don't really care about the weird stuff I'm passionate about because their clients don't need photos of random street scenes. I fell in love with photography even more when I made it completely about personal projects and ultimately thats lead to some fun part time work. It didn't end up working out the way I initially intended but I'm happier now.

With my full time job, I can afford my film lab costs. I can't really complain.

Stoopy McPheenis's picture

I get bored with most things after two years or so. I've had more careers than I can count.

Tom Reichner's picture

"So, what do you do?"

I only shoot the things that I am over-the-top passionate about. Ever since I was a small child, I have been infatuated with wild animals. This fascination for wildlife has only deepened over the years, and I spend most of my life out in nature in pursuit of the animals that I love so much.

So, as far as photography goes, I only photograph the things that I really, really love - nature and wildlife. I could spend 100 lifetimes pursuing mammals, herps, and birds out in the wild, and never tire of it. So if that is the only photography that I do, then I will never tire of photography.

"How do you keep that proverbial fire burning?"

Extensive photo road trips keep the passion at a peak for me. Each year, I spend anywhere from 8 to 16 weeks on the road, roaming the continent, searching for wildlife, and then learning about it when I find it. A lot of the time when I am at home, I am doing research for the upcoming wildlife road trip. And I spend a lot of time communicating with wildlife biologists and other wildlife photographers about the animals that life in their areas.

Wildlife photography isn't just about being there with the camera taking pictures of animals. There is an immense amount of research that takes place prior to pushing that shutter button. One should learn as much as they can about the animals that they plan to photograph, so that the photos themselves are more meaningful. The more knowledge I have of my subjects, the better my photos will be. And who wouldn't love spending a few days in deep study, learning all there is to know about Collared Lizards, or Whitetail Deer, or Black Skimmers, or ......

"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?"

The only times I don't want to pick my camera up is when the light is terrible and there are no animals around. The desire is still burning as strong as ever, but there are times when there just aren't any quality image-making opportunities. But that is okay - such downtimes are necessary, as they provide time to do research for the upcoming projects, to sort and edit past images, and to submit images to those who pay for them.

Greg Milunich's picture

Personally for me it has always been a hobby or side hustle. I am a teacher by trade and training and I do love my job and that affords me the ability to do photography on the side. Until a year ago I had an hour long commute to the school I taught at and often traveled through nice scenery at perfect light either before or after work. I would shoot constantly, leaving early in the morning or taking my time coming home. Now my commute is much shorter, 6 minutes on foot, so that opportunity is lost. What re-ignited my passion this year was a mix of teaching my 8 year old photography because he wanted to learn and setting aside time to go out and photograph what I want to photograph. In December I hiked into some waterfalls in the snow around sunrise, I don't think i slept much before I was so excited to be out shooting. I think the key now is I set aside specific times and places to go out and photograph.. It has made me more deliberate in the images I make, which I feel I get more out of than snapping a few on my way to work. Ultimately I think setting aside time for photography you're passionate about is the key to keeping the fire alive.