It’s not an uncommon thing to see photographers being stuck in an endless loop of un-productivity. If you look at photography a little more seriously than as a hobby then you may have been looping in this cycle for so long as well.
Much like in life in general, many people find it hard to find which path to follow and which path to commit to and the very reason why this happens just might be the things we picked up and deemed part of what’s essential to our craft.
Remember when you first picked up a camera and decided that you wanted to learn how to take photos better than what that other guy just took on his smartphone? You sought information on what settings to use, what lens to use and what accessories are best for this certain situation. You kept reading books and magazines that always prescribed the “right” setup or the “effective” trick or the “essential guide to shooting” stuff. But what if those right, effective, and essential things are actually hindering you now from doing photography more effectively?
What If What’s Keeping You From Better Photos Is Your Incapacity to Un-Learn?
When I first learned landscape photography, the techniques around it and the workflow taught to me by my mentors, I practiced everything religiously. I practiced it religiously to the point that sometimes, most of it is unnecessary. 5 years back, you wouldn’t ever find me shooting without a tripod, or without my "premium glass" lenses. It was always "go-big-or-go-home" for me. Even if most of it was just not necessary. Lately, I learned to minimize my photography rituals. I learned to let go of the unnecessary pleasantries when i have to.
To partially forget what you’ve gotten used to and assess for better, more effective or more efficient ways to take the photograph that you’re dreaming of in your head. In my recent trip to Yosemite, we trekked down to the bottom of the falls. Naturally, there was a crowd there taking turns in taking selfies from the view deck down to the very bottom of the falls. I wanted to capture the entirety of the beauty of the falls. Normally I would have setup the tripod, stacked in two layers of filters and tried to shoot it in one frame with a wide angle lens. But that was impossible at the time. There were so many people. I would have had to tilt and distort the falls and, oh yes, I left the tripod in the car. So I re-evaluated the scene and shot 5 horizontal frames panning vertically. In post, I stitched them together and cloned out the selfie-people.
All this is really just another way of saying “be flexible” and do not limit yourself to a certain style that has been taught to you, or don’t limit your style to what has been effective for you for the past couple of years. The process of constant learning in photography should be coupled with the process of constant un-learning for the sake of being able to do more as an artist. The only thing non-negotiable for you as a photographer is your vision.