Lately I’ve been struggling with my photography. I’ve hit a point where I’ve lost the inspiration to simply go out and shoot, as if my progress has stagnated and I find myself unable to enjoy the process as much as I used to. I might feel good in the moment, but when I get back to the computer and start processing images, I find myself disappointed and underwhelmed by the results. The stuff I’m putting out there is well received and nobody, least of all paid clients, are complaining — so why aren’t I feeling fulfilled?
Recently while away for a wedding shoot I somehow managed to get myself up at 5:00am to catch a sunrise (the day after shooting a wedding!). I haven’t done this in months, and it was a new location for me that I hadn’t experienced before. While shooting, I found myself enjoying the process of photography much more than usual. I hadn’t set any guidelines or aimed to shoot specific frames for Instagram like I normally would. I just went out and took photos along the beach and beneath the headlands. What was interesting was that I think I spent more time not taking photos than taking them.
For the most part I just sat alone on the rocks, watching the waves and looking for interesting light or breaks in the clouds, but mostly taking it easy. The shots I got were, well they’re OK for me I guess (you’re looking at them right now throughout this article). The light was nice and I wasn’t short of interesting subjects to focus on. I didn’t bring a tripod and I mostly shot with two lenses (8–16mm and a 24–70mm) which is unusual for me. Normally I’m changing lenses like crazy and pushing myself to get ‘that shot’. Taking the pressure off felt good, albeit very briefly.
I’d love for this to have a happy ending, like this little morning trip somehow reinvigorated my love of photography or something equally aspirational. It didn’t, I’m still lost and unsure where to go. Some of it is related to my gear, after having my full frame camera stolen and unable to be recovered earlier this year, I’ve had to adapt to shooting APS-C once again. There’s nothing wrong with my camera, or the lenses, sure I don’t have the dynamic range or the depth of field I’d become accustom too, but ultimately the failure is really with me and my lack of interest and enthusiasm. Psychologically however, it’s hard to escape the feeling that I’ve gone backwards, which creates extra pressure on myself. It’s almost as if I must prove that I’m still just as good, despite having less ‘professional’ gear.
This is tough, I’m still capable of shooting and earning a living through photography — as I said, clients seem more than happy with what I’m producing, even the most demanding ones. The dilemma I’m having is that my personal inspiration and love of the craft has dwindled and faded. I’m bored with it, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface of photography as a medium — it’s not like I’ve peaked out my skills, I still have plenty to learn and experiment with.
For now, I’m taking some comfort in the fact that this isn’t a unique feeling. The internet is full of people talking about these exact struggles, across multiple creative arts. It seems that almost everyone reaches this point in their creative careers and struggles to move past it. It all seems to boil down to progression. When we start out everything is new, and every shot we get is generally better than the last. That process is massively rewarding, because you’re on this big climb where you just improve the more you shoot. Eventually however, you find yourself where I am — where you’ve ‘peaked’ to a degree, and while you’re still improving and learning, it isn’t as instantly evident as it was before.
My focus right now is keeping these niggling feelings of inadequacy from influencing my productivity and work. I can confidently say that it’s only impacted my personal work and not that of my clients. It is, after all, mostly in my head. That feeling I had on the beach a few weeks ago is where I’d like to be, and despite that one little trip not ‘curing’ my current affliction — it has proved to me that I’m still capable of enjoying my craft the same way as when I first picked up a camera oh so many years ago.
I’ve taken the first steps by writing this little article, I’ve always found writing very therapeutic and relaxing. So I’d like to start using this space to write more about not only what I’m feeling in regards to my photography, but also all the things I love about it. Hopefully by writing about it, I can rediscover my inspiration and love this craft again.
What are your thoughts? Have you found yourself in the same place and managed to move beyond it? Are you still struggling with it? It would be good to hear other people’s experiences with the same issues.
Originally Published on my blog on 03/10/2019 https://thevaliantknight.com/blog