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7 Fun Strategies to Maximize Your Enjoyment of Photography


Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

If you are reading this, I assume that you enjoy photography enough already. You’re here, after all. However, you can always enjoy it more – so I wanted to create this list of somewhat uncommon practices, that have kept me going over the years, and kept me passionate about photography.

1. Start a three day a week, neighborhood project

365 day photo projects are a fantastic way to gain some consistency in your life with photography, which is a key to enjoying it to the fullest. However, I want to take the pressure off a little bit with the everyday. You don’t have to come up with a good photograph every single day, although if you are able to do so, more power to you. Set aside a handful of sessions during the week, as if you were going to the gym. Think about is as if it were the gym. At first it might take some getting used to, but eventually it will become second nature.

While you strive for some consistency in how often you photograph, seek out similarity in what, and where you photograph as well. Go back to the same areas over and over again, and you will find that you will start to notice new things. This commitment and consistency will help you achieve a level of imagery that is tough to reach otherwise. Photograph within your daily life, at the places that you are the most intimate with. Use photography as a way to escape and relax, without actually having to go anywhere.

2. Get lost and strike up a conversation

St . Marks Place

While photographing the areas that you are familiar with is very important, go even further. You do not need to have a set destination in mind, just pick a direction and go. Explore different routes each time. I consider photography to be an extension of walking. If there were no cameras, I’d probably still walk, and get lost sometimes. Having the camera to document what you see is just a bonus.

Don’t slink around, and make sure to say hello to people along the way. Tell them what you’re doing, and offer to take a photo of them. It’s fun, and most people will like the idea that you’re out getting lost and photographing. The camera is a great excuse to meet, connect with, and to photograph new people.

3. Don’t worry about people wondering what you’re doing

New York City

Have you ever stopped to photograph a reflection in a puddle, and then looked up to have someone staring at you quizzically, wondering what you could possibly be doing by photographing a puddle.

Forget that person. Some of the best, most beautiful, most interesting, and unique photographs are of things that can seem very mundane when you capture them. Embrace this, because it’s really fun, and keep yourself from worrying about what other people think when you are out there. Otherwise it can make you feel bad about taking images that are actually different from the norm and interesting.

Similarly, you should not worry about what people will think when they see your prints. You cannot be a good photographer without some people disliking some of your work. Do what interests you, without worry about other people’s perceptions, and you will be a better and happier photographer.

The image to the right is one that I personally enjoy. It is probably not the type of image that will stand out as much as the rest in Instagram, but there are a lot of interesting details, textures, and tones here. It’s unique. This is one that I have learned to expect not everyone to love – but some will, and I do.

4. Go to gallery shows, and get lost in the photography section of bookstores

Viewing the work of other artists will keep you inspired, and will renew your passion for photography. It will also give you a better idea of what you are capable of creating, particularly during times of frustration.

In addition to this, start a photography book collection. There are a lot of expensive photography books available, but there are just as many important ones that are affordable. Save a little money each month to build your collection, and it will help inspire you.

5. Light, light, light

Lower East Side Snowstorm

I am not referring to the light you look at, but the amount of equipment that you go out with. One, light lens is all you need. Get rid of the fear of missing out, or that you brought the wrong lens. Pick one, leave the huge bag at home, and have some fun. Use a camera phone sometimes. You will be able to go a lot farther with less gear, have a lot more spring in your step, which will lead to much better images and enjoyment.

6. Simplify your editing

Ugh… editing!

Editing can be exciting, but only when you do it the right way. I know a lot of people who have so much fun shooting, then they upload thousands of photos over months, and they get bogged down in the thought of editing. It causes them to procrastinate, and ruins the fun they had when shooting.

This is why I am a strong believer in having an efficient and organized Lightroom catalogue, but it is SO easy to do. Come back, upload a day of photos to Lightroom, and just give five-stars to your top five photos from the day. I go a little further than this, and give three, four, and five stars, but you don’t have to do that.

Even if you are the best photographer in the world, traveling in the most exotic place, you probably will not get more than five portfolio worthy pieces in a single day. So forget the middling stuff – you can come back later to search for diamonds in the rough. Just spend your time figuring out your favorite five.

Suddenly, your archive will be slimmed down so much, and this will make it much more fun to edit. Instead of looking at a mountain of thousands of images from a year, with just a small amount of work up front, you will have the top 100 images from a year, ready to go. Then grab a glass of wine (or your favorite beverage), and start making them look pretty.

7. Print!
Flower, East Village.

What’s the fun in photography if you don’t print? Take a day, get on the floor, and print out as many images as possible. If you don’t print yourself, use a service and go crazy. Force yourself to have some dedicated time to do this, or it can become so easy to procrastinate and forget about it. Printing is tough to do well in 30 minute increments, so that’s why I suggest taking half a day and having fun with it.

Then give the photos to friends! Don’t hoard them. You made them for people to enjoy, right? So give out 5x7s and 8x10s to people close to you. This is one of the hidden beauties of photography, creating something you love, and giving it to someone who will appreciate it.

Please make sure to comment below if you have some additional tips that you use, as I’m sure we would all like to hear about them.

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James Maher is a professional photographer based in New York, whose primary passion is documenting the unique personalities and stories of the city. He is the author of the e-book, "The Essentials of Street Photography" and runs photo tours of New York. To view his work or connect, visit his website.

  • nanci hellmuth

    Thanks for these great tips, each one I can relate to with my own photography. I am often self conscious when photographing in certain areas as I like taking pictures of what I think are interesting and people might be watching saying “what is she doing?” (like I should care) I only edit my favorite pics,a lot of the rest can go. I also intend to start printing them and having a wall of pics that I can rotate as I add and replace new ones. Many areas often local photo shows and contests to take advantage of. It was nice to read an article about the exact things on my mind!

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  • DavidR8

    I second the suggestion to print. Having only recently printed some of my photos I was pleasantly surprised at the sense of satisfaction at what I’ve been able to capture.

  • After a while, I don’t ‘see’ or can’t judge my images. A bad day of photographing, being uninspired, or sorting and deleting, over-visual-load will do this to me.
    I decided I would try to see my photos in a photo-book. I went through some I liked and put them in a separate folder. Then, sorted some more, and picked some and had a photo-book made.
    When I looked at the book, it helped me see them objectively as if they were not my photos, made me feel good. So I will do that once in a while.

  • Thomas Erskine

    If people aren’t looking at you as if you’re weird, you’re not trying hard enough. 🙂

  • Michael

    I am with you James. Since I developed my passionate hobby of digital photography, I have been catching myself seeing scenes and different objects with different very interesting lightening I would wish having my camera with me to take a photo of them. I started to look at the world with the different perceiving approaches. I do come out with my camera to some locations and take some photos but usually these photos are appreciated only by me. All my friends and even my wife can’t justify all these activities as they think that a camera is needed only for taking pictures of people on some parties once in a while and while being on a vacation. When I showed some of my work of this type unusual photography, some of my friends just said I just had too much time on my hands as I have been retired for few years already. They just don’t get it and suggest me to go to banquet halls to work as a photographer so at least I would make some money. No, that would negate my passionate hobby completely and I am not a professional photographer. However, I’ve seen these photos taken by “professional” restaurant photographers and mine are much better quality and much more interesting.

  • Daniel Powell

    I am definitely still in that self-conscious mode where if I point at something interesting to me, but weird to someone else, I’m constantly thinking of the odd looks. Then again, I’m not really one to walk up to a complete stranger and say, ‘Hi. You look interesting. Can I photograph you?’

    Still, this entire article is resonating with me, but in particular 3, 5, and 6.

    Especially #6. I just returned from a week in Arizona, visiting 4 different sites around Sedona. My photos turned out pretty danged awesome. I managed to narrow my upload-to-Panoramio portfolio to about …50. Each of which I wanted to do even minimal lighting corrections with. I started to realize my indecisiveness when I titled one “Red Rock State Park 13.” To force myself to narrow it down to the top 5 will definitely be a challenge, but given that bogged down feeling I had on Sunday, I think it will be well worth the heartache of sacrificing the majority (most of which are as unique as my top 5) to the archival hard drive gods.

  • I third the suggestion to print and especially to give as gifts! I have been using Canvas World a lot recently, to print wall hanging canvas prints, and they are really beautiful and inexpensive when you take advantage of the sales. I regularly get 16×20″ canvases for under $30 and they really do a great job. I always find I react differently to seeing the exact same image reproduced this way .. And in an age where we all are so “digitized” (especially the younger generation and their phone snaps), there is no better gift .. Not only the actual photo canvas, but planting the seed for a “hard copy” in a digital world. Great article and thanks!

  • Sorry…Canvas on Demand was the site I use, 16″x 20″ for $28.29 on sale…I am not a shill…just a fan!

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