Feeling uninspired? Why taking a break is a good thing.
I had a serious love/hate relationship with photography this year. I certainly had my biggest ups and biggest downs in terms of progression.
I'm a firm believer in stepping outside your comfort zone in order to improve. At the start of the year, I set some pretty steep goals for my photography after blowing my previous year's goals out of the water. I wanted this year to be the first year I officially turned this hobby of mine into a business (last year was a laying a lot of the groundwork). I was off to a great start. I had shot three weddings including an awesome Yosemite wedding by the start of May. I also got to shoot for some awesome brands like Gymshark. With well over half a year left at this point to reach my goal, I felt I was on the right path. This momentum stopped dead in its tracks after my last wedding edits were released.
I didn't know what was going on but I knew I was burnt out. Perhaps it was the long nights editing photos after my full-time job. It could very well have just been the fast-approaching summer and the need to chill out to some good music on the beach with my close friends. Nonetheless, I decided to take a break with no set date to pick my passion back up. At the time, I was convinced it would be for good...
Obviously that isn't the case or I wouldn't be here writing about photography. However, once I decided to pick my camera back up, I learned a lot of valuable lessons that I don't think I would have had insight into had I not put my camera down. This "outside looking in" perspective helped me look back to my roots in photography. I vowed to never take a photo for someone else back when I was only using a GoPro to take images of empty waves. I strictly wanted to keep photography a hobby in order to preserve my creative edge.
So, now that I'm shooting again, here's what I learned:
First and foremost, I learned to only take gigs that are already in line with my own vision (aka don't be afraid to say "NO"). Within a week of starting back up, I was offered two good paying photo opportunities. I said no to both in order to preserve the small spark of passion that was slowly igniting. After about a month of getting back into the swing of things, I was connected with Toad and Co, an outdoor clothing brand in town (Santa Barbara). Seeing that I already owned some of their apparel and was including it in my shots before they reached out, I didn't have to change a single thing with my shooting. I absolutely loved shooting for them this Fall and hope to continue working with them. If you're shooting for brands or other businesses and feeling burnt out, you're probably taking on the wrong jobs. Don't lose your creative spark.
Another important thing I learned was that it is OK to put the camera down. Pre-hiatus, I brought my camera along with me everywhere I went. I didn't want to miss a single moment. During my hiatus, I realized that it was far more enjoyable being fully present in these special moments. Don't get me wrong, it was quite difficult not being able to share some of my experiences but not all experiences are meant to be shared. Now, when I go out, I spend more time enjoying where I am rather than capturing it. Ironically, spending less time looking through my viewfinder has opened up a lot more opportunity for improving the framing of my shots. I now find myself taking a small handful of images each time I go out. However, I am far more satisfied with the images I'm left with.
Lastly, I learned that social media is a load of BS if you want to fully enjoy photography. We don't realize it, but seeing hundreds of images a day influences how we shoot. This can be a double edged sword because, though it can be a source of inspiration, it can also block our creativity. The one thing I will say here is to shoot what and how YOU like. Don't go out and copy a shot you saw for the sake of getting noticed. Most importantly, keep at it with your own unique editing style. If you choose to buy presets from your favorite photographers, be sure to use it as a learning tool rather than a way to emulate their own defined style. You will never stand out this way.