3 Tips to Help Keep Your Photography Passion Alive

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Fountain rainbow

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.

Leaves rain

There is beauty all around, but sometimes you have to stop and look for it.

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.

Coneflower

I had to find a photograph for my blog, so I walked around a flower garden for a few minutes and got this shot of a coneflower. Without something to hold me accountable, I probably would never have gotten this shot.

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:

Mushrooms iphone

Shot with my iPhone

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.

Mushrooms d200

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.

Biking

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.

General index

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.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Simon Ringsmuth

is an educational technology specialist at Oklahoma State University and enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for photography on his website and podcast at Weekly Fifty. He and his brother host a monthly podcast called Camera Dads where they discuss photography and fatherhood, and Simon also posts regularly to Instagram where you can follow him as sringsmuth.

  • pi

    Thanks for this post – since around a week i also take my DSLM with me (mostly) and over lunchtime – on my daily walk – i use the time to shoot photos – this indeed helps alot, especially now as the days get shorter and shorter in europe =)

  • That’s definitely a key point that I follow meticulously: always carry the camera with you, so having a compact and small mirrorless camera might help a lot in this regard!

  • You’re absolutely right about having a small mirrorless camera. That is certainly a good way to make sure you have your camera on you as opposed to a big chunky DSLR.

  • Yes indeed, as the days get shorter it’s more difficult to find good lighting conditions but I like your idea about taking your camera on lunch walks.

  • Nancy de Flon

    In addition to my DSLR I have two high-end P&Ss, one of which is almost always with me. At lunchtime on workdays I take a walk around a townhome development near my office, always with a camera. Some days I may shoot something ordinary; other days, I may experiment with shooting ordinary things in an extraordinary way. Either way, it keeps me sharp. I like your posts a lot and certainly plan to put some of the coastal tips into use soon; thank you!

  • Nancy, I like how you said you sometimes shoot ordinary things, and sometimes try ordinary things in an extraordinary way. It’s so easy to get stuck in the rut of thinking there is nothing interesting to photograph, but honestly, not every picture has to be worthy of the Smithsonian or National Geographic. Just getting out and taking photos, even with a point-and-shoot, is a great way to keep the photography flame burning bright 🙂

  • donna hoff

    Sounds so basic, but since buying my more expensive dslr, i haven’t touched my p&s. Because my dslr is much bigger and bulkier than the p&s, i don’t take it with me on an every day basis. I now give myself permission to start using my p&s in addition to my dslr!

  • I know what you mean, Donna! I feel a little guilty leaving my expensive DSLR on the shelf sometimes and just taking my P&S with me, but to be honest there are times when I don’t want the bulk of a heavier camera. I’m sure you will get some fantastic shots with that pocket camera 🙂

  • Tom Wilde

    “I may experiment with shooting ordinary things in an extraordinary way.” A great quote, Nancy. Back in the old film days I would shoot a roll of 36 film, 30 normal shots and 6 experimental shots where I would try different techniques to see what might work. I found it a great way to learn the art and craft of photography.

  • Sherri Stone

    I love the Weekly Fifty idea:) I also do a digital scrapbook that keeps me inspired to explore and capture because I have to have a couple pages of photos each month. I enjoyed this post very much!

  • Thanks Sherri, and I’m glad you liked the post. I think it’s a great idea to do a digital scrapbook too! It’s a great way to keep up your photography hobby while also storing up some good memories 🙂

  • Not on my patch

    Hi new to photography and have recently got a bridge camera, i sometimes
    find all the different symbols confusing and not sure when to use which symbol for what situation. eg A,S,P mode etc. Before this i was using a second hand Dslr
    in automatic mode and want to improve my knowledge which is why i joined here.

  • Richard Keeling

    Really good advice. I make a point of carrying a camera with me all the time, with my EOS-M and its tiny 22mm lens as the smallest and most lightweight. These days, though, I am almost always carrying two cameras which might seem like overkill except one is black and white film and one is digital and I find myself actively seeking subjects to photograph that suit one or other – or both – photographic approaches. This really keeps my interest and fun levels up.

  • In A mode you set the aperture and the camera does the rest. S mode is where you set the shutter. In P mode you let the camera do most of the calculations, though you can tweak a few things like ISO. No one mode is better than the rest, it’s just a matter of learning how the settings affect your shot and knowing what to change in order to get the picture you want.

  • That EOS M is a fantastic little camera, and I like that you make a point to have a camera with you all the time. Smartphone cameras are certainly nice to have, but when you want a nice shot it’s hard to beat the quality you get from a big image sensor combined with a nice lens.

  • Becky

    Great article. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Thanks for this! This time of the year I do a lot of sports photography, enough that it starts feeling mundane and not very creative. It’s hard for me to take the DSLR with me everywhere and feel like a hack using my Galaxy S5 but it has higher megapixels than my P&S and as many as my D7000. hmmm….

  • Max Harper

    Enjoyed the article and agree with the many positive remarks below, but do have a pet grammar peeve. Next time you want to use the word “myriad” try substituting the word “many” to see how it sounds. You wouldn’t say, “with a many of tips.” You should say, “with myriad tips.”

  • Glad you liked the article, and thanks for the grammar tip! Though contrary to popular belief, myriad may be used as both a noun (“a myriad of tips”) and an adjective (“myriad tips”) http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/myriad

  • Max Harper

    Thanks Simon. One less irritation in my life is welcome.

  • John Carter

    Hi, Thanks for posting such a nice topic on importance of Digital Photography
    school to keep up the photographic spirit in yourselves. keep up the good work.

    http://www.wipicsmobile.com/

  • Cyndy Mayes

    Thank you:)

  • Maria R

    I recently bought a 50mm f1.8 lens for my Nikon D5300 and so far, I love it. Does great bokeh. See sample below. I took it from above and focused on her eyes. I should try to bring my dslr daily and post weekly. I usually have my iPhone with me but sometimes a moment calls for a dslr.

  • Shital Solankar

    your article really helps me to construct my first towards something that i like , something that really pleased me n i really convert it into my passion. will u just help me for startup?? just wanna ask few questions.

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