Interesting people make interesting photographs.
I’ve always believed that to become better at anything, the best way to do so is to become good at something else.
Remember what it felt like when you were first starting out in photography- the straight fire, the excitement, the hunger? All you wanted (you told yourself) was to be successful at this. You worked harder starting out because you had to. You needed to prove yourself. You soaked up information and reveled in your newfound ideas, vision, and talent. You continually failed at executing things, but you kept picking yourself back up and trying. The essence of the creative spirit is the unwavering strength in the face of the tremendous odds stacked against you.
With the creation of luck through hard work, dedication, and perseverance, you became a photographer.
Straight up sunshine and butterflies ahead, you thought.
After years of shooting, the excitement starts to wax and wane. Towards the end of every season, you start to get burned out. Being a photographer might start to feel more and more like a grind to you, and I’d venture to bet it’s because you’re no longer new at this. That hunger is still there, but you’re only half-hungry this time, and you start to grow stubborn because you finally think you know what you’re doing.
This is dangerous thinking. The antithesis of creativity is stubbornness.
In the grand scheme of things, you need to believe you’re still new at this.
That bewildering enthusiasm for your craft is something you’ll need to hold onto for your entire career. You’ll need to continually teach yourself how to learn or else you’ll become stale and unable to adapt. I’ve found that the process of learning anything of interest naturally makes you a more complete person (who then takes more interesting photographs, go figure).
The best way to avoid burnout, stay creative, and become a better photographer is to keep your mind in a constant state of learning and self-improvement.
Learn something new. Go on vacation. Go to the gym.
On these new endeavors, never aim for average or good enough. Leave your camera at home and try your best to become great at something other than photography.
I’m learning how to roast coffee. But the end result is not to roast great coffee; the end result is to learn how to open my mind to a new process. Great coffee might come when I’m worthy, but if it never does, that’s perfectly acceptable to me so long as I’m learning. In the same way that photography isn’t about pressing a shutter, roasting coffee is much more difficult than applying heat to some beans. There’s a complex process of adjusting, adapting, thinking, evaluating, and then readjusting, just like photography. Both mediums need more than technical prowess to achieve greatness. So far, I’m happily terrible at roasting coffee. I’m learning how to think differently and apply my brain (which admittedly gets lazy) to solve a new set of problems.
Chances are that if you’re in a rut, feeling down on your work, or need a mental boost, you don’t need to attend a workshop – you need to learn something new.
Put yourself out there and always strive to be better in everything that you do. Photography is a wildly complex and difficult art form and sometimes it’s best to put down the camera for a little while.
Dream like a beginner to think like an expert.
– Pat | Pat Furey Photography
Our “What I Have to Say” Wednesday series features established photographers and artists with messages they just can’t keep inside. Authentically and honestly, our writers share words of wisdom to challenge, encourage, and inspire.