Photography is like any other pursuit in life, in that it requires a great deal of time and practice. Unless you make a living as a professional photographer, you might find that you simply don’t have enough hours in the day to devote to taking pictures. With work, family, school, and plenty of other obligations in our lives, it’s easy to let photography take a back seat to everything else. So, unfortunately we often find our expensive cameras gathering dust on the shelf, and our vibrant photo libraries growing ever more stagnant as the months and years pass. How in the world is it possible for hobbyist or enthusiast photographers, much less beginners who are just entering this brave new world for the first time, to find chances to learn, stretch, and grow, or just do what they enjoy doing? Thankfully there is hope, and I’d like to share a few tips that have worked for me.
1. Hold yourself accountable
When most people get their first camera, or upgrade to a better one, they go through a similar process. Initially it seems like anything and everything is worthy of a photograph – kids, pets, food, cars, flowers, clouds, friends, skylines – nothing is off limits. There’s a newness and excitement to the whole endeavour that seems almost childlike. People in this early phase never seem to have an issue with finding time to indulge their new infatuation, and often they find it hard to stop taking pictures! But soon the veneer wears off, the pressures of life start to add up, and cameras often end up spending more time on shelves and dresser drawers.
If this sounds like you, one of the best things you can do is find a way to hold yourself accountable for keeping your photography passion alive. Some people decide to take a picture every day or each week. Others join an online photo community and start posting on a regular basis. Most cities have photography clubs where members gather to discuss techniques, photo opportunities, and gear. dPS, and plenty of other sites, have weekly assignments or challenges that are a great way to try something new, while also keeping your photography hobby alive.
When I was in this rut a while ago I started my own blog, Weekly Fifty, where I post one photo each week taken with a 50mm lens. Doing this has forced me not only stay active with my hobby, but to seek out new opportunities that I otherwise might have missed. Having some type of assignment or challenge that forces you to use your camera will often help rekindle the flame that was once burning so bright, and help you fall in love with photography all over again, even if you do have other things going on in your life.
If you do go this route it’s important to find a method that is fun and enjoyable, rather than a burden. Photography should not be a chore, and I have known some individuals who have grown to resent their accountability methods because they took on more than they could handle. If you already find yourself stretched too thin, signing up for a daily challenge will probably not help. But a weekly challenge, monthly assignment, or local club meeting might be just what you need to fit photography into your already busy life.
2. Bring your camera and keep your eyes open
Whether you decide to participate in a photo assignment or not, one thing you can do to fit photography into your packed schedule is simply bring your camera with you. Most of us have similar daily routines involving home, work, school, or other obligations and you might think that the photogenic moments in your daily life are few and far between. But if you keep your camera close at hand, and keep your eyes peeled, you might learn to turn the mundane into the magnificent. That might sound like hollow grandiosity, but it’s true: if you start looking for the beauty in your everyday life, you will likely find a whole new world of picture-taking possibilities that you never noticed before. It’s a great way to keep your love for photography alive without adding another burden to your already crowded lifestyle.
Case in point: the other day I walked up to the office building at work and saw a patch of mushrooms by the door. At first I thought it was nothing special at all:
But because I almost always have my DSLR with me I was able to take this picture of what might otherwise have been an entirely forgettable scene.
Circumstances like this are all around you, and finding them is not a matter of time but of observation. If you find your expensive camera spending more time gathering dust than taking photos, it wouldn’t hurt to simply start bringing it with you more often and keeping your eyes opened.
3. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new
It’s human nature to grow complacent and comfortable. We are creatures of habit, and change can be difficult, especially when it threatens to upset a careful balance we have achieved in our lives. But stepping away from your comfortable surroundings and trying something new is a fantastic way to inspire you to find photographic opportunities in your life. Whether it’s a new lens, a new filter, a new technique, a new piece of software, or even a new camera, trying something new is a great way to spice up your photography and help you get your camera off the shelf and into your hands again.
Here at dPS there are hundreds of articles with a myriad of tips, tricks, and techniques to try – and that’s just the start. There is no shortage of articles on the internet filled with new ideas, and doing so won’t add any more hours to your day. But it might help you find ways to squeeze more time in for photography than you might otherwise think. For example, when I found myself stuck in a rut several months ago I read some articles on a technique known as panning. Then my friend, (and photography mentor) Ryan, rode around on a bike while I practiced with my camera, and we ended up with this shot. While it’s not perfect, it gave me an idea of a whole new aspect of photography to explore.
One of the main selling points of DSLRs and mirrorless models is that they have interchangeable lenses. While the kit lens that comes standard with most cameras is fine for many situations, shooting with a different lens can radically alter your perception of what the camera can do. In the process, you will likely experience the same spark of inspiration and creativity that you had when you first got your camera.
Think of your camera body as a mobile device, and the lenses like applications. Every app on your phone or tablet has a different purpose and allows your device to do different things; in the same way every lens gives you different photographic possibilities for your camera. Using a camera with only one lens, especially the kit lens, would be like buying an expensive new smartphone or tablet but never downloading a single app. You might enjoy it, but you would be severely limiting the capabilities of what your device can actually do. If you want to inject a renewed sense of vitality into your photography, buying, renting, or just borrowing a new lens can do exactly that.
This simple shot of some books in a dimly-lit library would not have been possible with a kit lens, but switching to a 50mm prime lens with wider f/1.8 aperture opened up a whole new set of possibilities like this.
You are busy with plenty of demands on your time; it might seem impossible to fit photography in with everything else going on. But hopefully these tips give you a starting point, and if you have any others that have worked for you feel free to leave them in the comment section below.