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Get Excited About Photography Again

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
3 min read

This is the first in a series of articles where I respond to the most frequently asked questions or comments I received when I asked “How can I help you?” a few weeks ago in the newsletter. Feel free to respond right now with your own comments.

The most frequent comment I hear among my photography readers is that they feel like they’re in a rut. They’re out of ideas or just not excited about their work anymore.

I can’t give you a catch-all cure, but I can tell you what’s worked for me and I believe it can be applied to any creative work.

Take away something.

You’re too comfortable. That’s the whole point behind A Lesser Photographer. The more I took away from my equipment, the more my brain had to take over. And my brain liked it. It got creative.

It’s very easy to become bored if your walking down the same well-paved path for 30 years. Throw a few boulders in the path and change the scenery. Make the journey more interesting.

Try analog. Film isn’t enough constraint? Try an instant camera. That isn’t enough? Try a pinhole camera. The point is, there’s a world of interesting constraints out there that you haven’t tried. Where does your brain take over from the equipment? It's worth testing.

Productize your photography.

I heard from several photographers who weren’t happy about their websites. In particular, they weren’t happy about their galleries and/or portfolios.

First, you should ask yourself if you need a portfolio. Chances are, you don’t.

Second, realize you’re not offering anything new or unique for viewers. You may have some great work displayed, but so do thousands of others. What can you do to set your work apart? Why should I follow you in the future?

A simple path that solves a lot of these problems is to make your work into actual products.

What kind of products can you make uniquely personal?

I recommend books, because a book has a personality all its own. The possibilities of customization for a book are limitless. On demand books are not as expensive to produce as most other photography products, while offering the maker a healthy margin.

Visitors would much rather follow a photographer hyping his next book (on a new topic) than his same portfolio page over and over.

By only displaying images, you’re putting yourself in competition (for attention or money) with tens of millions of other image makers. By making a product, you’re cutting down that competition to tens of thousands. It’s a much greater chance you’ll capture the attention of the viewer.

So, start thinking what would make a great book (or product of any kind). That’s your inspiration for your next project.

Projectize your photography.

Projects have a beginning and an end. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Photography can seem like one endless endeavor sometimes. We cling to non-stop post processing, when we should be out creating new work.

It's also tempting to participate in drive-by photography: to aimlessly shoot in places we're familiar with. Creating projects means you're seeking a story, not a magical, unexpected shot. You have a goal.

Making projects out of photography (combined with creating products) means we can end work on some images. What a relief. Now, your mind has more space for new project ideas.

Inspiration is scheduled.

Inspiration doesn’t just come to you. There is no muse. It’s something you work at. It needs time and attention. Good ideas spring from lots of ideas.

Have you scheduled enough time to think about your ideas, projects and products? Have you scheduled the time to do the work? Do you have the approval of family to devote yourself fully to your work during that given time?

It’s no wonder there’s an inspiration crisis. It’s a demanding force that controls how we approach our work, yet we never show it the respect it deserves.

Set aside the time. Do the work. Work is inspiration.