How Taking a Break From Social Media Made Me a Better Photographer

How Taking a Break From Social Media Made Me a Better Photographer

By the time you finish reading this paragraph, 500 hours of content will have been uploaded to YouTube, 65,000 posts to Instagram, and 3.3 million updates to Facebook. It is easy — and sometimes not a conscious choice — to become enveloped by this constant flow, but as artists, it is important we take intentional time to remove ourselves from the noise and continue to learn, grow, and succeed from the incredible tools the world has to offer. We just need to go out and utilize them. 

As we endlessly scroll through our instagram feeds or get sucked into the black hole of YouTube videos, information is being thrown at us, and we don't have time to process anything. We get stuck in an endless cycle. Watch. Get inspired. Repeat. We get stuck in a routine, and it becomes hard to break out of it. Often, that routine defines the pathways of our lives, and after a while, it becomes boring and we burn out. So, when you step away from that consistent routine, you have time to think and reflect on the things that matter most: why are you shooting? How are you doing in your business? Where do you want to be in five years? Taking a hiatus from your day-to-day confines will help you in finding your own voice, appreciating the world you live in, and will give your work more meaning and purpose.

In the age of social media, every moment that is posted on our feeds must be according to the box we put ourselves in. It must be a portrait. It must be a landscape. Setting these boundaries for ourselves keeps us from growing and stepping out of our comfort zones. It's very easy to get bogged down in one style or one type of picture that you upload, but after time, you burn out.

My Instagram is limited to just portraits.

For the last seven months, I shot three times a week for seven months straight. I was shooting the same thing, because that's what was working for me, but at the end of the day, I was so burned out. I needed a change of scenery and to do something that I wasn't so used to.

One of the best ways to break out of a comfort zone is to travel to a place that you have never been to before. Go with an open mind and explore the unknown. Go with just the camera of your cellphone and shoot without the worry of ruining your feed or worrying about how many likes it will get. Just experience the beauty this world has to offer and see it through a different lens.

In 2015, I went on a National Geographic Student Expedition. As I was walking around the streets of Barcelona and as I turned the corner of a random street, II met this young boy named Pedro.

I have been fortunate enough to say that for the last ten years, I've traveled with my family to a different country each summer. Each year, my family and I rent an apartment in the middle of a city or country and live there for two months. In those two months, we travel around as a family and experience the culture and vibrancy that place offers.

The view from my apartment in downtown Seoul, South Korea.

When I travel each summer, away from the comfort of my own home, I feel a sense of freedom, where I am free of responsibility to upload constantly. I have time to appreciate the people I love most. I have the opportunity to photograph things that are outside my comfort zone, like landscapes and travel photography.

A young boy in Israel is on his way home from a long day at school and preparing for the Sabbath.

The sunrise was peeking through the trees of Tzfat, Israel as I hiked through the mountains.

Seeing the world in this way has changed me as a photographer and has vastly improved my work. I was able to see the world through a different lens and then was able to incorporate those concepts and ideas into my portrait work.

If you don't have the opportunity to travel for whatever reason, there are still various ways for you to refuel your creative mind. Go on a walk around your neighborhood and see it through a different lens. Shoot landscapes if you're a portrait photographer or portraits of the community if you're a landscape photographer.

Alternatively, If you want to put down the camera and give back to your community, go to your local homeless shelter or food bank and give out food to the homeless. Spend your time when you're not shooting making a positive change in the world around you, and I guarantee you it will make a difference in your work and the way you interact with your subjects.

For the last four summers, I have gone to upstate New York to work as the head of video at a special needs summer camp called Camp HASC.

Celebrating and capturing moments of Mexcian night at Camp HASC, a special needs summer camp in Parksville, New York.

When I'm there, I try to embrace every second, and I make sure i'm present and not checking my social media. My time is focused on learning as much as I can from the special campers. They have so much to teach us about life. I leave camp each year inspired to make a difference in my community and the world around me. I learned to appreciate how precious our time is on Earth and how we should use every minute of it for the best.

Taking it all in at a Candy Land-themed night activity with one of my favorite campers, Adam.

Taking a break from our strict routines is one of the most powerful tools we have in our toolbox. When we step away from our work, it helps us to understand the world we live in and where we stand in it. So, the next time you have the opportunity to do something that is out of your comfort zone, do it. You won't regret it. Let's change this world together.

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4 Comments

I loved this article. Thank you! What a great idea to rent an apartment in a different part of the world every summer. And a wonderful way to teach children about other cultures. I want to do this with my family! :)

Michael Jin's picture

Those stats in the beginning are really cool, but what if I'm a really fast reader? Or really slow?

Andrzej Muzaj's picture

Then it won't apply to you. Just as someone else's experience may totally not apply or work for you. ;)

Mark Niebauer's picture

All the Tech Giants of social media have become total fascists now. I more than took a break from them, I refuse to use them.