It is that time of the year again, the days have been shorter, the weather has been unpredictable, and staying inspired to shoot has had me wandering around looking for that excitement about photography. Here are three things that have helped me recently to get back that inspiration to shoot.
1. Look for a photography project
Five years ago I told myself that I was going to complete a Project 365 and shoot every day for a year. I think that lasted until sometime in late January when I started wondering what made me decide to take that project on. I switched it to a Project 52 which worked so much better for me at the time. Then Courtney started talking about starting a new Project 365 on November 1st. It had been years since the last time I tried and I found myself thinking, sure why not?
The ideas for a photography project are really endless so don’t feel like you have to join in on a Project 365 or Project 52. If you can come up with the theme or idea, then you can probably turn it into an inspiring project.
Have you tried to shoot portraits of strangers?
How about shooting a view out your front door every Monday for a year?
Maybe you want to start a project that has you included in the photo with your kids?
Just shooting in black & white?
It can be nice to have a focus for what you are shooting & that focus (project) will help keep you shooting on days when you might rather leave the camera in the bag.
2. Print your photos
Just last weekend I had the chance to see an exhibit of Vivian Maier’s photography at a local gallery. I heard about it on the last day it was going to be in town and just knew I had to see it. I have been thinking about voice & style in photography lately. I have even made a few random sets on Flickr trying to look for patterns in my work among other things. While I was looking at Vivian Maier’s images on the gallery wall, I could easily see the elements that help make up her style, for example, she is a master at framing her subjects and using light. Hanging on the wall, grouped together in a way that strengthened the collection, the images were hung in sets like with all the self-portraits on one wall. It was just the inspiration I needed to help me keep shooting even while I wait for those longer spring days.
Going to the photo exhibit motivated me to order some prints of my own photos. It was perfect timing when I received a 25% off prints coupon in my email box from MPix, and I decided that I would order every print that I currently had edited from 2013. I know, it sounds really super impulsive. And, it was. But, it was also totally and completely worth it. The box arrived on my door step today and much to my delight, my son was just as excited to see the prints as I was.
I had already decided to let go of expectations of perfection. I decided I wasn’t going to focus on flaws, but instead I was going to focus on the moments & memories that were tangible in my hands. We sat during dinner & flipped through the stacks of images talking about those moments. My son was smiling and laughing while I was remembering. There is something different about seeing the images in print instead of only on the computer screen. It is a task that I now plan to do way more often. I have almost finished creating a photo book for 2012 too.
Along with the joy of reliving the moments in those photographs, I also realized something else tonight. I realized that some of the images that I loved so much on the screen weren’t my favorites in print. Plus, some of the images I had all but completely dismissed on the screen jumped out at me in print. This is an aspect of printing that I didn’t expect so now I will be thinking about how I can use that information to improve my photography & my style. I love the added bonus of learning from seeing the photos printed (can you tell it has been too long since I printed?). Maybe I need to include more of those moments, lighting, colors or whatever element it is that made those printed images stand out to me in my Project 365 daily shooting.
3. Try something new
There have been multiple days since November 1st that I have wondered what on earth I would find to shoot that day. The fun side to wondering what I am going to shoot is that it has allowed me some freedom to try new things. I have tried several new things these last few months without worrying about whether the outcome is successful.
Last summer I read about free lensing and gave it a try. I didn’t have much success with it but left it on my photography list of techniques to try again someday. That someday came this past week when I found myself getting home from work at dusk. I grabbed a vase of flowers, set them down outside, and pulled the lens off to try free lensing again. I didn’t shoot long that day, maybe 20 minutes but it was fun to try something new.
This can apply to editing as well as shooting. The winter months are a great time to watch some editing videos, learn a few new techniques and go back to older images to re-edit them (or maybe if you are like me just try to get through a little more of your back log of photos that need to be edited!). Think of what you typically shoot, whether that is subject, time of day, or something else then pick something new.
Find a new photography project, print some of your photos then try shooting something new…there is such a long list of things to choose from! Enjoy the process of trying new things and getting outside your comfort zone to see what kind of surprises are out there!