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12 ways to find and maintain your motivation
How do you find and maintain your motivation to keep taking pictures regularly? That's the question I asked three photographers on Tuesday's webinar.
Each focuses on a different genre -- food photography, portraits, and nature/wildlife -- yet each photographer also seems motivated to produce a lot of photographs. Here are the top 12 tips I got from them:
"There is too much food, not enough time."
- Alex Wong
Combine your interests - Alex found that he was going out to eat with friends at least once a week, so he decided to pair his passions for great food and photography. Many foodie blogs showed images that were taken from an iPhone or with a flash. Alex set out to create a blog where he would showcase food at its best and add a touch of culture and storytelling.
Limit your choices - Many times he has only three minutes to shoot once the food arrives. "There is no time to second guess or be too deliberate. When you have too many choices, it paralyzes you sometimes." The creativity that results from having fewer choices provides the excitement that keeps him motivated.
Take your camera everywhere - "Just having the camera with you at all times lets you be ready when a non food shot presents itself." Here's the most obvious of all tips. You increase your odds of being able to take a photo if you have your camera.
Focus on your niche but keep looking - on a recent trip to Malaysia, Alex found that his food blog also created the opportunity to shoot other subjects. In between meals he sought to capture travel images that could help him illustrate his posts better. "The fact that I'm writing a food blog, that I'm constantly taking pictures of food, helps," he said. Even though you've found a niche, being creative can help you take a wider range of subjects while still being true to your focus.
"Every time I'd go take a picture, I'd like them better if they had a person in them."
- Ali Drew
Challenge yourself -- Ali found motivation in stretching her abilities. "I started to find that photographing people well was technically a challenge, which made me want to photograph people more. Instead of shying away, I wanted to shoot more and more."
Finding your niche & style - Finding a niche, let alone a personal style, can take time and work. "A lot of my motivation was in learning. ...it's in 'how I am I going to get this technique down, and how am I going to make it mine.'" Her challenge meant getting to know the personalities of her subjects and then creating photos that reveals them. "When you look at my work, you might think there is not much continuity here. That's because everyone is different. Making it mine means making it theirs."
Keep your blog active - Motivation just doesn't come from having a blog but from the commitment to keeping it active. Ali says the way to attract paying clients is to have a blog or site that looks vibrant. Even when she isn't working, she is going out with friends and creating more images for her blog and galleries.
Commitment to improving -- "I don't want to ever lose my edge... I will go out shooting just to focus on a specific technique." Ali says she plans days to go out and work on specific techniques. As she masters one principle, she moves on to the next. Continuous learning motivates her to shoot and is helping her refine her style.
"I've been blogging for a year and a half, and I've created over 600 posts."
- Emily Mitchell
Do the work -- After initially starting a travel blog, Emily decided to take on a new challenge - nature. She attended a bird photography workshop in Baltimore and found her inspiration watching the bird paparazzi at work. "I decided that I am going to learn how to do bird photography because it is tough... I had to watch birds and learn their habits. I learned about animal behavior." She found motivation not just in accepting the challenge but in doing the work.
Set big goals -- "I decided that I would make this my big year. I was going to see as many birds as possible. I was going to understand my camera -- the technical capabilities of what the camera can do and what the lens can do. Daily goals are helpful, but sometimes a big goal can help keep you going. Think about the big picture.
Shoot daily -- "I took on Project 365, so I go out and shoot every day." What Emily learned was that her commitment to keep that project on track also made her a better photographer. "I can see so much more improvement from just the beginning of this year." Forcing yourself to shoot every day might seem overwhelming, but if you want to get better quickly, there are few substitutes.
Get regular feedback -- Emily noticed that when she posted about birds and wildlife, she got much more engagement on her blog. With that in mind, she shifted her focus to create more of the kinds of images that her readers enjoyed. "Getting that feedback motivated me to shoot more."
What about you?
Where can you find your own motivation? Here is an action plan.
1. Find a niche.What are your interests? What are you already doing? Try creating your focus around your interests and passions.
2. Challenge yourself. How will you get better? Create a big goal and daily milestones.
3. Create your own blog or website. Where you will show your work? It's not an accident that each of them has a blog. That sense of ownership can be a great motivator.
4. Show your work. Find a community where you will share or an accountability partner who can encourage you to stay the course. There is strength in numbers.
What do you think about their tips? Do you have any that we missed? Share them in the comments.