How To Overcome a Photography Slump
Updated: Apr 12, 2022
So, you’ve hit a slump in your photography.
You promised yourself when you bought your new camera that it wouldn’t sit idly on a shelf, gathering dust.
And where is it now?
Sitting idly on a shelf, gathering dust.
It happens to us all from time to time.
We have great intentions but life just gets in the way.
Unless you are a professional photographer who relies on photography to make a living, or a very disciplined person, you probably know what I mean.
So if you happen to be in a slump right now maybe it’s time to do something about it before it really takes hold and that expensive camera that you really do love ends up on eBay because you know you’re just not going to use it.
When I started photography in a serious way several years ago I was sure this would be my lifelong hobby and I started going out regularly with my newly acquired SLR camera.
I learned the basics and enjoyed making images around my local Lakeland area.
Unfortunately, personal circumstances and life in general intervened and the gaps between my photography trips became longer until my camera ended up forgotten on a shelf.
By the time I was ready to return to photography the phone camera had become popular, and I just couldn’t get motivated to use my SLR again.
Fast forward to three years ago and a decision to re-ignite what I knew had been a real passion, and my latest photography journey began.
This time I am determined not to become de-motivated or to allow my carefully built-up camera gear to become just another waste of money.
More importantly, I don’t want to allow myself to lose a pastime that I truly love.
Having said that, it can be difficult to continually keep momentum going and I do experience an occasional slump in motivation.
Sometimes I feel as though there is nothing new to capture, sometimes I am disillusioned by the results of my photography trips and sometimes I just don’t try to get out and do something new.
I can blame the weather at times as it can be hard to feel motivated in cold, wet conditions, and on other occasions I allow life’s pressures to get in the way.
Yet I firmly believe that photography is good for my mental health, as well as being thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to switch off from the worries of life for a while, so I am determined to try and keep myself motivated.
When I do experience a slump, I believe that the secret is to act quickly to get back on track and I have picked up a few tips which help me to do this.
Here are some of them, you might be able to add more.
1. LOOK BACK AT YOUR OLDER PHOTOS
I can think of at least three reasons why this is a good idea and can help you become unstuck.
First, having a look at your earlier work gives you a chance to realise how far you have come with your photography as you compare today’s photos with earlier images in terms of subject matter, composition, use of light and so on.
Second, you can notice the mistakes you used to make, that you don’t make anymore, and this can be a great confidence booster. And if you do still make these mistakes occasionally, seeing them in your older work will help to highlight them and encourage you to want to keep improving.
The third reason why looking at earlier work can help to re-motivate you is that you will often see a photograph that you really like and had forgotten about. This might be the opportunity to save it into a current folder, maybe share it again or bring it into Lightroom for some renewed editing.
I often discover that giving old images a makeover is all it takes to motivate me to get out and start taking photographs again.
This was one of my earliest images. I was still using Auto setting. I was drawn to the reflection but I didn't know much about composition. The image is too cluttered and doesn't have a definite subject. I have learned a lot from looking at earlier images like this one.
2. SPICE UP YOUR EDITING TECHNIQUES
At times we can become repetitive in our approach to editing, resulting in a feeling that we are not creating anything new. We can get into a habit of moving the sliders in a certain way for all our images, but what if you change that?
What if you add warmer tones or cooler tones?
What about bringing down the exposure slider and bringing up the whites to add some luminosity?
What about experimenting with the HSL panel?
What about using the colour grading wheels to create something different?
Even minor tweaks will produce different results and will give us a new way to view our familiar images.
Nothing ensures that we will become unmotivated in our photography so much as becoming stale in our approach, both to our choice of subjects and our editing.
Changing things around a bit can help kick-start our motivation once more.
Experimenting with presets can add a new interest to our photos.
I experimented with adding a frame and watermark to my image.
3. ASK YOURSELF, WILL NEW GEAR HELP?
While I don’t often advocate buying new lenses or any other type of camera gear to overcome a temporary slump in motivation, there might be times when this could be necessary.
I heard a photographer recently remark, “Gear is not everything, but it is something,” and I tend to agree with his comment.
When I had used my kit lens for over a year, I realised that if I wanted to progress I would have to buy some more lenses with different focal lengths otherwise I would limit myself as to what I could achieve.
Now, if I find that I am using one lens too often, a change can bring renewed impetus to my photography.
When I bought some new lenses, I left my kit lens out of my camera bag for several months. Recently I returned to using it and discovered its value all over again.
I reveal my thoughts on returning to my kit lens here.
4. ONLY FOLLOW PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO INSPIRE YOU
When we lack motivation in our own photography, following other photographers whom we admire can help us regain our mojo.
But this can be a double-edged sword if we compare ourselves to others or follow photographers who set standards too high for beginners.
The result can be disillusionment and de-motivation.
There are numerous ‘experts’ online purporting to give us tips, hints and techniques for improving our photography.
Some of these approaches will resonate with us, some won’t.
It’s important to discover photography teachers whose approach we like - those who really inspire us to be the best photographer we can be - and to stick with them.
I like to follow those whose passion for photography is clear to see, who are not afraid to admit that they get things wrong from time to time and who admit to feeling de-motivated and frustrated with their photography on occasion.
Yet their images never fail to inspire, and when I watch them, I feel inspired too.
5. SHARE YOUR IMAGES
One sure way to lose interest in photography is if no one sees your images.
When I got my very first camera, many years ago now, I remember the excitement I felt when I went to collect my prints. I immediately wanted to show them to family and friends. There was often disappointment when some of them didn’t turn out well, but there were always a few pleasant surprises too.
Now when I take photographs they can often stay on my phone, seen only by myself.
Yet we are more likely to want to improve if we feel that others are viewing our images, so sharing our work can increase our motivation to keep moving on in our photography journey.
We can share images privately with family and friends using a shared cloud folder, we can choose to share privately or more publicly on social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram, we can use an image hosting site like Flickr, or we can even create our own website to host our images.
The main thing is to replicate what we did when we physically held our pack of images in our hand – show them to others.
When we make a commitment to do this consistently, we will be less likely to allow ourselves to stay in a rut and more likely to quickly get back to doing what we love – taking photos and sharing them with others.
6. TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
One of the best ways I have found to bring some excitement back to my photography is to try something different.
If you normally shoot landscapes, try some street photography.
If you shoot wide vistas, have a go at close-up or more intimate photography.
If you like images that have lots of detail in them, you might not think of doing minimalist photography. Why not try it and see if it appeals to you.
I love to try minimalist photography from time to time. I find it challenging but very rewarding.
An ongoing project that you can return to when you need some diversion from your everyday photography can be a good idea to keep you motivated.
Some time ago I took an interest in photographing interesting signs.
Wherever I went I looked around to see if there was an old or unique sign that I could photograph.
This quickly became a fascinating aspect of my photography as I was intrigued by all the different places in which to find signs or humorous sayings.
Now, when I need some motivation, I think of a new location to go to where I might be likely to see some signs and I head off with my camera.
Focusing on a project like this gives me a reason to choose a location and find an interest when I get there.
BONUS TIP – JUST DO IT!
Normally I love to get up early in the morning and go out for a photography walk around my local area.
I do this two or three times a week but recently I have been having difficulty in finding the enthusiasm and motivation to get out early. Each morning I tell myself, ‘I’ll go tomorrow’, then I am annoyed and frustrated with myself for not making the effort.
So, as I was writing this post, I decided to set my alarm for the next morning and just do it!
The feeling on returning from a morning walk is always the same.
I feel refreshed and invigorated and ready to face the day.
I feel that I have done a morning meditation by being present in nature, and even if I don’t return with any decent images, I still call it a wonderful morning as I have made an effort to get away from the realities of life for a while.
It truly is a restorative practice.
Becoming frustrated and lacking in motivation happens to everyone from time to time.
This can be a good thing as it could be a precursor to change, but if we allow the slump to continue for too long it may lead to a permanent neglect of our photography.
Acting quickly when we find ourselves in this position can make the difference to how long our slump will last.
I have suggested 6 (or7!) ways that could help you to quickly get your motivation back.
You might think of other ways that have worked for you.
If so, please share them in the comments.
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